It’s easy to blame your appearance on something that is out of your control. “Oh the lighting in here is bad, my allergies are really intense today, this makeup makes me look exhausted”. When in reality there are a variety of factors that do affect how your skin looks, but there are also personal factors that you can have control over. Many people are unfamiliar with what ages our skin aside from actually aging. These factors can be broken down into two categories: extrinsic and intrinsic skin aging factors. Knowing which factors are affecting your skin can help you create a better defense system to keep it looking as you wish.
Extrinsic aging factors are those that are present in our environment, which we can use certain products to manage better. Extrinsic factors include sun exposure, smoke & pollution exposure, and reactive oxygen species (ROS). The number one culprit of extrinsic aging is – yep you guessed it, sun exposure! Not only does sun exposure damage skin cells, induce wrinkles and increase pigmentation but it puts you at risk for developing skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70” which in my opinion is too high of a stat to ignore. Just wear sunscreen – all over – every day – and reapply. Other extrinsic skin aging factors can be decreased with the continual use of antioxidants, deep cleansing, and exfoliation. A deep cleansing and regular exfoliation can help keep your skin clean and decongested from all the smoke and pollution that surrounds us in our daily lives. Antioxidants are the golden ticket to keeping us clear of reactive oxygen species, which are harmful species that can damage cells. Maintaining a healthy skin lifestyle and using an antioxidant serum daily can help ward off these ROS.
Now onto the skin aging factors that are a bit more personal. Intrinsic aging factors are those that take place within our bodies, some of which we have control over, and others that we don’t. These factors include our age (can’t stop time), health, fitness level, diet, stress level, sleep, heredity traits, and genetics. No matter how many facials, laser treatments, and injections the human skin undergoes, age will always shine through at some point. The goal for most is to age gracefully, manage their new traits, and make peace with the process. Accepting how we look is an extremely important part of life and learning to cope with intrinsic aging factors can help make this process easier.
Leading an all-around healthy lifestyle makes an essential influence on your skin. Consuming foods that are high in nutrients, working out regularly, and visiting all our doctors & dentists annually can ensure that our body is on the right track. While taking care of physical health is extremely important, monitoring our internal health is just as important. The field of dermatology is an interesting one because our mental state will be reflected in the condition of hair, skin, and nails. Stress out? Breakouts. Nervous? Raw skin around the nails. Anxiety disorder such as trichotillomania? Hair breakage. Taking care of your mental health by visiting a therapist, journaling, meditation, and practicing mindfulness can help keep your mind in sync with yourself.
One important intrinsic aging factor to always consider is genetics. For example, your tendency to burn is demonstrated through the Fitzpatrick Scale. This dermatology tool is used to measure one’s tendency to burn based on their eye, hair and skin color – all of which are genetically determined. Being conscious of all the intrinsic aging factors that affect you can help you trace what is really happening in your epidermis and below.
As I come closer to earning my esthetician license I have begun to think of the skin as more than just what appears surface level. Searching deeper into yourself, your lifestyle and environment can help you develop a better sense of what’s truly going on in hope that we can all age gracefully.