How does skin age?
The skin is a barrier between our body and the outside world, protecting us from aggressors, retaining water and controlling our temperature. The skin has three layers: the epidermis, the dermis and the subcutaneous tissue.
As the skin ages, these three components undergo changes. Some changes are obvious: wrinkles appear and elasticity decreases. Indeed, our skin cells are no longer as efficient, the fibres (collagen and elastin) that give structure and elasticity to our skin are less numerous, melanomas fill up with melanin creating dark spots… The causes are numerous: internal, such as genetics, cell metabolism and hormonal changes (e.g. at menopause), but also external, including sun exposure (UV), pollution, chemicals, oxidative stress, regular sugar consumption, smoking, skin care, UV for example promotes the destruction of extracellular matrix fibres (collagen, hyaluronic acid) and damages mitochondria (part of the cell responsible for reducing oxidative stress, cell survival and energy production).1-3
What about hair and nails?
Our hair and nails also age. Their growth, structure and colour change. In the hair, the fibres in the roots are weaker, the melanocytes responsible for colour function less well, and the follicle cells decrease in hair production. The nails are more fragile, thin and discoloured, the morphology of the nail plate (which grows the nail) changes and their lipid content varies with age.
This is a normal process, as the cells degenerate progressively, but oxidative stress and the environment (care, pollution, sun…) have a long-term effect. It is important to take care of oneself, from an aesthetic point of view, but also to avoid some of the problems that can impact on the quality of life.4-8
What can be done to maintain beauty?
As the famous quote goes “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”, so every day is important in the quest for healthy ageing in general and skin ageing in particular.
We can act to avoid external factors that make us age ‘faster’, as the best way to counteract the effect of these external factors is prevention: a healthy lifestyle can limit the harmful effects of this oxidative stress, notably through physical exercise, a low-stress environment (which also has a positive effect on cardiovascular disease, the immune system and neuropsychiatric functions), appropriate sun exposure, good sleep and a healthy diet including plenty of plants.3,9
This article is intended to summarise the basics of how a part of the human body works, but is in no way a substitute for medical diagnosis and treatment.
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- Shin, J. W. et al. Molecular mechanisms of dermal aging and antiaging approaches. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 20, (2019).
- Cao, C., Xiao, Z., Wu, Y. & Ge, C. Diet and skin aging—from the perspective of food nutrition. Nutrients vol. 12 (2020).
- Schagen, S. K., Zampeli, V. A., Makrantonaki, E. & Zouboulis, C. C. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermato-Endocrinology vol. 4 298 (2012).
- Mandt, N. & Blume-Peytavi, U. Alterung von haaren und nägeln. Mögliche präventive und supportive ansatzpunkte. Hautarzt vol. 56 340–346 (2005).
- Maddy, A. J. & Tosti, A. Hair and nail diseases in the mature patient. Clinics in Dermatology 36, 159–166 (2018).
- Abdullah, L. & Abbas, O. Common nail changes and disorders in older people: Diagnosis and management. Canadian Family Physician vol. 57 173–181 (2011).
- Goodier, M. & Hordinsky, M. Normal and aging hair biology and structure “Aging and Hair.” Current Problems in Dermatology (Switzerland) 47, 1–9 (2015).
- Trüeb, R. M. Oxidative stress in ageing of hair. International Journal of Trichology vol. 1 6–14 (2009).
- Clatici, V. G. et al. Perceived Age and Life Style. The Specific Contributions of Seven Factors Involved in Health and Beauty. Maedica 12, 191–201 (2017).