By Heidi Gibbon, Aesthetician
As much as we would like to stay young forever, ageing is inevitable. There are many different factors that contribute to ageing, and if we understand how they all work together within the body, we can accept these changes gracefully and sail into our golden years comfortable in our skin.
To understand these inevitable changes, we need to look at what happens naturally to the fat, bones, and muscles on the face and neck as we age.
Our evenly distributed fat pockets in the face around the forehead, temples, cheeks and areas around the eyes and mouth begin to diminish with time. These thinning fat pads, coupled with fat gain on the lower half of the face and the effects of gravity, cause smile lines, jowls, and a double chin.
We also experience facial bone loss which causes our tissues to become too large for their underlying bones therefore wrinkles and folds become more evident.
Our muscles also start losing their volume, strength, and elasticity. Muscle weakness causes droopiness around the brow and upper eyelids and neck.
We also get wrinkles from repeated muscle movements (frowning, squinting) that gradually break down our collagen and elastin. The youthful energy we once had in our cells starts to wane and our skin loses its youthful texture and brightness.
Besides these physical changes for women, the biggest changes typically occur in their 40s and 50s. This is caused by a natural drop in the hormone estrogen. Estrogen boosts skin thickness and helps maintain collagen and skin hydration. Doctors have devised ways to reposition fat on the skin, even paralyse our muscles to keep the skin smooth, but aestheticians focus on helping our skin’s support system by keeping our collagen healthy.
Collagen fibres create the infrastructure for elastin and hyaluronic acid, which are responsible for skin’s elasticity and hydration.
Collagen makes up about 70 per cent of the total mass of our skin. After the age of 25, we start to lose collagen at a rate of about 1 per cent per year, but this decrease accelerates around the age of 50 with approximately 30 per cent of skin collagen lost in the first five years after menopause.
As a result, skin becomes thinner, dryer, and eventually develops wrinkles as the collagen and elastin become less firmly connected. Skin cell growth also slows down, which means that dead cells do not shed themselves away quickly and the skin will become dull in colour.
Note that ageing is not the sole determinant of collagen loss—some environmental factors, such as smoking and unprotected sun exposure contribute heavily to collagen loss and the formation of wrinkles.
While collagen loss is completely natural, there are many lifestyle choices and treatments the beauty industry offers to help you steal back your youthful appearance.
Two of the biggest myths about boosting collagen levels is firstly, you can apply it directly to the skin. Collagen molecules are too big to cross into the lower layers of the skin and are of no real use. Secondly, consuming collagen might not be effective in boosting collagen as our body breaks down collagen into amino acids and then assembles them into proteins therefore taking supplemental collagen probably isn’t any better than eating protein-rich foods.
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Tips to keep your collagen intact: