Premature aging of the skin is a natural process that happens to everyone. The protective caps at the end of DNA strands — called telomeres — get shorter and shorter over time. This exposure is the No. 1 cause of genetic material damage, equating to aging.
In addition, internal bodily processes get slower due to our DNA strands growing shorter, and these changes eventually manifest on our skin’s surface. Sunspots, wrinkles, and thinner skin are some of the hallmarks of old age.
However, if you see these signs long before you can consider yourself part of the silver circle, then you might be experiencing “premature” aging. This condition can be surprising, at best, as you probably expected to spend your early to mid-30s ramping up your career or traveling the world not looking like an elderly.
The good news is that it’s avoidable. Now, if you want to rewind the biological clock, read on about premature aging of the skin — its causes, and what you can do to prevent it.
Top 6 Causes of Premature Aging of the Skin
1. Sun Exposure and Tanning
Repeated exposure to UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds damage the skin and cause up to 90% of skin aging. Also known as “photoaging,” sun exposure is a well-documented cause of premature aging of the skin.
It damages the collagen and elastin fibers in the skin (which give it structure and elasticity), leading to hyperpigmentation, age spots, and wrinkles.
In more severe cases, it can even lead to skin cancer. Fair skin is more susceptible to sun damage because of the low levels of the protective pigment melanin.
Several studies have linked smoking with premature aging. Nicotine — the primary component of cigarettes — causes blood vessels to constrict, thus reducing the flow of oxygen and other nutrients to your skin cells and accelerating the skin aging process.
The thousands of toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke also contribute to the degradation of collagen, elastin, and proteoglycans — all of which are important in keeping the skin’s elasticity and youthful appearance.
High toxicity levels in your body will lead to deeper and more pronounced wrinkles, particularly around the most used facial muscles in the forehead and around the eyes and mouth.
How lucky (or unlucky) you are with the genetic lottery can play a big part in your skin’s aging. Hereditary conditions like Werner syndrome and Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome can cause signs of premature aging like wrinkled skin and gray hair in individuals as young as 13 years old.
Fortunately, these conditions are sporadic — affecting as little as 1 in 8 million. Still, your body’s internal processes, skin color, stress response, and even how much you wrinkle are encoded in your DNA, so you better hope your ancestors passed down their best assets to you.
4. Sleep Deprivation
We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping — and for a good reason. Even though you are unconscious, your body is hard at work to recharge and restore itself during sleep. This process of cell repair and regeneration is essential to skin health.
It is no surprise that chronic sleep loss is correlated with the acceleration of skin aging. Getting less than seven hours of shut-eye also makes you more vulnerable to heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. So make sure that you take your sleep seriously.
If you don’t give your body the nourishment to stay healthy, your skin will suffer. Research has shown that diets high in refined sugars and fats can increase the rate of skin aging. Eating junk food also messes with your sleep and can lead to other severe health conditions that affect your youthful appearance.
The skin is 64% water. Dehydration weakens the skin’s defense barriers, causing irritation, increased sensitivity, and premature aging in the long run.
You can also observe dryness, roughness, flaking, and cracking when dehydrated. These conditions make your skin look older than it is. Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption also exacerbates dehydration, making your skin sag and wrinkle faster.
Top 6 Premature Aging of the Skin Preventions
1. Injectable Hyaluronic Acid
Wrinkles and sagging skin are signs of premature aging that can be easily remedied by getting dermal fillers. With injectable hyaluronic acid, you can smooth out wrinkles and loose skin filled in instantly. An injectable hyaluronic acid is a form of the already naturally-occurring compound in your body, which decreases with age.
This non-invasive procedure involves injecting the fillers into the skin to plump up the skin, where fat and collagen have been lost, to create a more youthful appearance.
You can get different types of dermal fillers depending on your desired results, from removing crow’s feet to adding lip volume. The effects of using injectable hyaluronic acid are more subtle and will last for years with proper care (some even lasting for over five years). Dermal fillers can prevent further premature aging of the skin — so the earlier you get them, the better.
2. Premature Aging Skincare
Sunspots, skin discoloration, roughness, and dryness can be prevented and treated using the proper premature aging skin-care regimen. Products containing vitamin C, retinol, and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) exfoliate the skin to remove the signs of aging while increasing cell turnover to keep your skin looking younger.
Make sure to get a moisturizer suitable to your skin type to lock in moisture on the skin surface and hydrate the deeper layers. Using moisturizers as part of your daily premature aging skin-care routine will make your skin more plump and healthy and slow down skin aging. You can further supplement this with cleansers, toners, eye creams, serums, masks, or anything else you fancy, as long as it’s manageable — consistency is key with skincare.
3. Clinical Treatments
Several cosmetic treatments are available in the market to help you combat premature skin aging. Chemical peels and facials remove dead skin cells on the epidermis to bring out your inner glow. Intense pulsed light therapy, cryotherapy, and Botox also help reduce the appearance of fine lines and saggy skin.
4. Minimize Sun Exposure
Sun exposure is the most significant external factor that causes premature aging of the skin. That is why you should discontinue any intentional sunbathing or tanning.
This is especially true if you have fair skin and thus are more susceptible to sunburn. Regardless of skin color, dermatologists recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
Apply it on frequently exposed surfaces such as your face, neck, and hands. Avoid being in the sun, especially at its strongest, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you can’t avoid being out in the sun due to work, use protective garments like a wide-brimmed hat and long-sleeved tops.
5. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Proteins that fuel cell growth and repair increase in production during sleep significantly. Collagen — the most abundant protein in the body — contributes to skin elasticity to maintain its proper shape. Sleeping properly also promotes overall health — so make sure to create a sleep schedule you can follow. Remove distractions from your bedroom, and get comfortable under the covers.
6. Lead a Healthy Lifestyle (Diet, Exercise, Hydrate)
The ultimate way to slow down the effects of aging is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet ensures a steady supply of nutrients is available for cells to grow and mend, so make sure to check that your portions have enough sources of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
Taking supplements also doesn’t hurt! Wash it all down with eight glasses of water each day to stay hydrated. Reducing stressors in your environment also helps to stave off the effects of stress hormones inflammation — another contributor to premature aging.
Regular exercise not only promotes good quality sleep — it also triggers the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins to help you manage stress and minimize its effects on your skin.
Skin Aging Summary
First impressions are important at any stage of life. That is why we should keep our skin looking young and healthy as much as possible. While aging gracefully may not come naturally to all of us, there are some ways to slow down the biological clock. You may not be able to change the genes we are born with, but less is more when it comes to:
- Sun exposure and tanning
- Unhealthy food, and
- Sleep deprivation
Of course, all the best efforts may not be enough — you can’t possibly stay out of the sun your whole life, for example. It’s a good thing that you can always try these tips and tricks to prevent premature skin aging.
- Injectable hyaluronic acid
- Premature aging skincare
- Clinical treatments
- Minimizing sun exposure
- Sticking to a sleep schedule, and
- Leading a healthy lifestyle
You may only accumulate wisdom and experience with time, but so are wrinkles and skin folds. Growing old is a process everyone must face in due course — but not until it is due and not one minute earlier if anyone can help it!
So it’s understandable that it feels good not to be entirely defenseless against premature aging of the skin. And although nobody holds the secret to stopping aging altogether, just remember these steps, and you will surely keep people guessing your age wrong for years to come.