Ageing of the skin is a gradual process that is associated with changes to the appearance, characteristics and function of the skin. A combination of genetic, lifestyle, dietary and environmental factors contribute to skin ageing.

Intrinsic Ageing

Intrinsic ageing, also known as the natural ageing process, is a continuous process that normally begins in our mid-20s. Within the skin, collagen production slows and elastin, the substance that enables skin to snap back into place, has a bit less spring. Dead skin cells do not shed as quickly and the turnover of new skin cells decreases between the ages of 20 and 60. While these changes usually begin in our 20s, the signs of intrinsic ageing are typically not visible for decades. Our genetic makeup controls how quickly the normal ageing process happens.

Extrinsic Ageing

A number of extrinsic or external factors can act individually or together on the normal ageing process to age our skin prematurely. Most premature skin ageing is caused by sun exposure. Other external factors that prematurely age our skin are repetitive facial expressions, gravity, sleeping positions, diet and smoking.

Changes below the skin also become evident as we age:

  • Loss of fat below the skin in the cheeks, temples, chin, nose and eye area may result in loosening skin, sunken eyes and a “skeletal” appearance
  • Loss of underlying fat, resulting in hollowed cheeks and eye sockets as well as noticeable loss of firmness on the hands and neck
  • Bone loss, mostly around the mouth and chin, may become evident after age 60 and cause puckering of the skin around the mouth
  • Cartilage loss in the nose causes drooping of the nasal tip and accentuation of the bony structures in the nose
  • Bones shrink away from the skin due to bone loss, which also causes sagging skin.
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In conclusion, ageing is a complex process involving intrinsic factors (genetics) and extrinsic factors (especially sun exposure). Ageing is not a disease but a normal process that happens to everyone.