Intrinsic v extrinsic skin ageing

intrinsic and extrinsic skin ageing. Image courtesy of

We can’t do much about chronological ageing, but we sure can slow down extrinsic, or lifestyle, skin ageing.

It is a given that we will all age. However, whether we age gracefully or gracelessly often comes down to individual lifestyles.

Intrinsic ageing

Until science has worked out how to stop the clock, there is nothing we can do about intrinsic ageing. We are genetically programmed to age, and there is little we can do about it. Intrinsic skin ageing starts at around 60 years of age and accounts for about 10% of the ageing process.

Signs of intrinsic ageing include the thinning of the epidermis, shrinking of the dermis, fine wrinkles, decrease in facial fat leading to sagging, pigmented spots, and dry sensitive skin.

Extrinsic ageing

Often referred to as environmental or lifestyle ageing, extrinsic ageing starts around the age of 30 (but can be earlier) and accounts for 90% of the ageing process. If someone has been living it large – soaking up the sun, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and drinking in excess – they are likely to look older than a more mature person with a more moderate lifestyle.

Physical signs of extrinsic ageing include the thickening of the epidermis, actinic keratoses (skin growths), thinning of the dermis, coarse and deep wrinkles, and mottled, uneven pigmentation.

The role of free radicals in the ageing process

Free radicals are molecules or atoms with unpaired electrons and are one of the main mechanisms in the ageing process. They are either derived from normal essential metabolic processes, such as eating and breathing, or from external sources, such as exposure to UV, cigarette smoke, and pollution.

Free radicals are extremely reactive and will attack essential cells causing them to become damaged, known as oxidative damage.

Young cells have the ability to repair DNA damage caused by free radicals. However, as our cells age, they become less efficient. Cells that aren’t repaired are either dysfunctional or die.

The good news is, if we reduce free radicals or decrease their rate of production, we may be able to delay the ageing process. And antioxidants hold the key.

Antioxidants delay or inhibit cellular damage through free radical scavenging properties.

Some antioxidants are produced during normal metabolism in the body, while others are found in the diet. However, for effective defence of free radicals and to delay the ageing process, you also need to apply antioxidants topically to your skin.

Defending against free radical damage

  1. minimise exposure by protecting skin from the sun, smoke, and pollution.
  2. consume foods containing antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin C and B-carotene.
  3. applying antioxidants topically via skin care

 Popular antioxidant ingredients in skin care

  • Vitamin A (retinol)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Green & white tea
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Niacinamide (vitamin B3)
  • Beta carotene
  • Lycopene
  • Glutathione
  • Zinc
  • Pomegranate
  • Rosemary
  • Turmeric

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