Whether we like it or not, aging skin is as certain as death and taxes. It’s a natural part of the aging process caused by skin becoming thinner, drier, and less elastic than it once was. But though it is natural, we don’t exactly welcome it into our lives with open arms and a hot cup of cocoa.
We may not be able to turn back the clock, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t research aging skin a little deeper. Because some lifestyle factors can greatly contribute to speeding up, or slowing down, the rate at which skin visibly ages.
To begin with, there are different types of skin aging, each unique in it’s own way. Let’s take a look at the difference between two of the most obvious – wrinkles and crepey skin.
What are wrinkles?
Wrinkles first arrive as creases in the skin and, over time, they can appear more like deep crevices. Some of the most common types of wrinkles form on our face around our daily facial expressions (like smiling, frowning, or squinting). When we’re young and we use our facial muscles, our skin springs back, but with age, the skin doesn’t spring back as quickly – so a groove begins to form in that spot. That groove eventually becomes a full fledged wrinkle.
The types of wrinkles that we can control a little better are those caused by prolonged exposure to environmental factors, like UV sunlight or smoking. Ultraviolet radiation speeds up the natural aging process by breaking down your skin’s natural collagen and elastin fibers, which lie in the deep dermis layer of your skin. Smoking constricts the blood flow, and therefore the oxygen supply, to your skin – which also degrades theses collagen and elastin fibers.
What is crepey skin?
Crepey skin is related to the thinning of larger areas of the skin, both the top epidermis layer and the deeper dermis layer, as well as a drop in production of collagen and elastin. The skin begins to appear more saggy, crinkly and thin, like a piece of tissue paper or a crêpe – and hence the term “crepey” was born.
Crepey skin can take years to appear, but it often starts to appear in your 40s – though other triggers can cause it to show up earlier or even later.
Genetics may also play a part in when you first start to notice the signs of crepey skin. People may joke about you getting those good genes from your mother, but there’s actually a whole lot of potential for you if your mother did age well.
What causes crepey skin?
Age is the biggest, most unavoidable “intrinsic” factor involved in crepey-looking skin. Genetics is another.
Crepey skin can be caused by several factors, including a slowing down in production of the super proteins elastin and collagen. These once allowed the skin to stretch and bounce back with a youthful suppleness that we likely took for granted. But when the body slows down its production of these proteins, the skin begins to sag and wrinkle.
Skin also becomes much drier with age, as less oil is produced. Additionally, fewer new skin cells are made. Dehydrated skin is another big catalyst when it comes to crepey skin.
Finally, crepey skin is thinner skin, caused by a loss of fat. And, loss of fat is due to aging.
However, there is some good news.
On the flipside, there are other “extrinsic” triggers to crepey skin that we can control.
Crepey skin can also be brought on, or made worse, by:
- Drastic weight loss
- UV Exposure
- Cigarette smoke
- A high sugar diet
- Dehydrated skin
All of these factors play havoc with the very sensitive collagen and elastin proteins which we now know are critical to maintaining a youthful appearance.
Though everyone is ultimately susceptible to crepey skin, some skin tones fare better than others. Fairer skin tones, which are also the most prone to sun damage, tend to see signs of crepey skin faster. African American skin is thought to offer more protection against “photo-aging” from UV light. This is often seen in not only a lower incidence of sun-related skin disease, but also in visible signs of aging.
Unfortunately for women, a decrease in female hormones also leads to drier skin, and therefore a predisposition to crepey skin.
Wrinkles Vs. Crepey Skin
Wrinkles are usually caused by repeated motions over one area of skin. This may result in a single wrinkle or several wrinkles, but they are triggered by the workings of that muscle. Examples of this include the wrinkles we often see between people’s eyes (the worry crease), on the outside of eyes (squinting creases), on the forehead (frowning creases) or around the mouth (smiling creases).
Crepey skin instead affects the skin texture, resulting in saggy, crinkly areas, as opposed to a furrowed crease or line. Crepey skin is most often recognizable around the very fragile neck area, on a woman’s decolletage, on the face, and on the hands.
Getting Sun Smart
It’s been said before and it can’t be said enough, UV radiation really is everything when it comes to the speed of your aging process.
Though genetics and health will play a part, the most effective way to slow down aging is to use an effective SPF 30 (or higher) daily sunscreen, and to cover up in the sun. And, you need to be doing this NOW. If you need to see solid proof that the sun can seriously age your skin, try this simple comparison on your own body. Take a look at the skin on an oft covered part of your body – like your inner thighs or backside. No doubt the skin here will appear plumper, smoother, less freckled, younger and with zero sunspots – because the sun has never had the chance to damage it. Now take a look at your shoulders, arms, or the part of your chest that’s always exposed above your t-shirt. It’s a rather surprising difference, no?
Making Some Changes
It can feel like we have zero control when it comes to the aging process – and the life of Benjamin Button suddenly looks quite appealing. But age we must. However, understanding the different types of aging, and their causes, can also give us back a little more control. Wrinkles and crepey skin may both be scary changes to stare down, but if we do so with a face full of sunscreen and free of cigarette smoke; we may just give ourselves a bit of a head start.
For more health and wellness tips, keep reading:
1. A, Morita. “Tobacco Smoke Causes Premature Skin Aging. – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
2. Vashi, Neelam A. “Aging Differences In Ethnic Skin.” N.p., 2016. Web. 7 July 2017.