Epidermis aging: the biology of skin changes

The Epidermis aging - what happens. The main function of this layer of your skin is to shed old, dead skin cells that rise to the surface of your skin.

  1. As we grow older the rate at which old cells are sloughed off and replaced by newer cells begins to slow down. As a result older skin can appear a bit rougher than younger skin. There is an adage among those who 'guess ages' at amusement parks, that the backs of hands are the truest sign of a person's age. EXPERIMENT: Look at the backs of your hands. Since this part of your skin has been exposed to sun and weather is 'old skin' and it looks like old skin. Now look at the skin on the inside of your wrists or the skin on your belly. This skin is has not been so exposed. It is less weathered and less 'old looking'. Notice the differences and you understand the effects of 'aging' on your epidermis. If you had protected the back of your hands with gloves or other coverings so they only received as much exposure to sun, drying winds or rain as the insides of your wrists or the skin on your belly have received, the backs of your hands would not look weathered and old. And if you never used tobacco and were never exposed to tobacco smoke during your lifetime, the back of your hands would look less weathered, wrinkled and old than the skin of those who have been exposed to tobacco.
  2. A second change to the epidermis that occurs in aging is that new cells coming to the epidermis are a bit more irregular or uneven. Result? Older skin is not so smooth. It often develops small creases and wrinkles.
  3. Epidermis aging produces another change. There is a decrease in the number of Melanocyters. Melanocyters decrease by about 10- 20% each decade. So by the time you are 75, you may have lost half the number of these important cells in your skin. If you recall Melanocyters are the cells that produce the melatonin that gives pigmentation or color to your skin. Each Meanocyter gives pigmentation to about 36 skin cells. As you age and have lost 40 or 50% of these cells, those that remain try to try to make up for the loss and they increase the amount of pigmentation that they produce. This makes for 'darker' areas on your skin. But there are areas of the skin that no longer have any Melanocyter cells. As a result there are areas where the pigmentation becomes lighter. This epidermis aging is the cause of the change in skin tone that makes for a rather blotchy appearance.
  4. As you age there are also fewer Langerhans cells in your epidermis and so there is often an increase in the number of skin infections since the immune response is not triggered as quickly. Some believe that this decrease in Langerhans cells is the reason why skin cancer becomes more common with age.
  5. Finally, this outer layer becomes a bit thinner. It still can protect the lower layers of skin and keep moisture in but there may be more frequent scrapes or skin breakage because of epidermis aging.

What can be done for epidermis aging. How can it appear younger?

First and foremost, if you smoke, stop! It is not too late to stop smoking. And if you are subject to second hand smoke at home or work, speak up and ask the smokers to please not light up around you. Ask them to step outside or go into a special smoking room that you equip with an air filter.

Second, you want to protect all exposed skin with sun block. Use SPF 30 or higher. Make it part of your morning routine. Keep a containers of SPF 30 or higher in your car...in the office...in the kitchen, by the door. Do not go out without putting it on AND renew it several times during the day. This will less the damage that sun does to your outer layer of skin.

Third, exfoliate your skin on a regular basis to remove dead skin cells and smooth the appearance of epidermis aging. A loofah sponge or rough wash cloth is good for most of you body BUT NOT your face. The skin on your face is too delicate for a loofah. Some find that a dry wash cloth will do the job but there are many reputable exfoliates on the market.

The Murad company was founded by a dermatologist who has been one of the leaders in skin care. Do take a look at products. I am impressed with Murad's program for anti-aging skin care. Epidermis aging: Murad - Where skincare meets health care.

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To read more articles about the care of this outer layer of your skin, go to the Complete skin care Index page

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