A Guide to Anti-Ageing

We can’t stop the ageing process. But we can lessen the effect it has on our skin.

We’ll never be able to completely eliminate things like wrinkles or sagging skin, but with a bit of effort and the right treatments we can keep our skin healthy enough to hold off some of these signs of ageing, and lessen their severity when they do arrive.


What are the effects of ageing?

‘Ageing’ can mean different things to different people, so let’s look at some of the more common signs of ageing skin.

Wrinkles

Wrinkles are probably the most common sign that we’re starting to get older. As we age our skin produces fewer collagen fibres, and the elastin that holds these fibres together begins to weaken. We also lose muscle mass and some skin thickness, and our skin can become dehydrated too1. These physiological processes cause skin to wrinkle over time. There are a few things that can speed this process up, like sun damage and cigarette smoking. Wrinkles can also be affected by things we can’t control, like genetics, our facial expressions, and gravity2.

Sagging skin

As we age our skin begins to sag. If you’ve ever wondered why your skin looks less plump than it did when you were younger, it’s due to your skin losing elasticity over time. Thinner lips, sunken cheeks, and a ‘double chin’ can be signs of sagging skin. Similar to wrinkles, this is caused by our bodies producing fewer collagen fibres as we age, and the weakening of the elastin that holds them together1. Other big factors are gravity and sun damage: the ‘weather beaten’ look of someone who spends a lot of time working outdoors is an example of sagging skin caused by sun damage7.

Sun damage

The sun is the number one thing that can damage your skin2. Sun damage contributes to virtually every sign of ageing, including wrinkles, sagging skin, dehydration, and skin discolouration. It can also cause skin cancer: in Australia, the majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun3. Make no mistake, the sun’s damaging effect on your skin is real, and can be very serious.

Pigmentation

As we get older we can sometimes notice changes in our skin’s pigmentation. Hyperpigmentation and melasma5 are common conditions in which parts of our skin become darker than normal due to an excess of melanin (the pigment that produces our normal skin colour). Hyperpigmentation often occurs due to trauma to the skin—for example, from acne scarring—while melasma can be a hormonal change. We can also notice ‘age spots’, freckles, new moles, and brown marks pop up. Many of these can be a result of sun damage6

Dry skin

It’s fairly common to notice our skin getting drier as we get older. Dehydration—from not drinking enough water—is a common cause of this, as are sun damage and cigarette smoking. But skin dryness can also be caused by hormonal changes, and our body losing oil and sweat glands as we age7. Dry skin can also cause itchiness and rough patches on the skin, which can be uncomfortable, and it can also lead to a general ‘dullness’ of the skin. This can occur due to a decrease in cell turnover which leaves us with more dead skin cells on the topmost layer of our skin8.

Can we restore aged skin?

Look in any magazine and you’d be forgiven for thinking that some of the skincare giants have already found the fountain of youth. We’re constantly advertised lotions and potions that promise to reverse all signs of ageing and keep us looking young long after our first few grey hairs have arrived—but how many of those products really work?

The naked truth is that we can’t completely restore aged skin. But we can work on reducing many of the symptoms of aged skin, and we can help our skin look fresher and healthier. There’s no one ‘miracle product’ that will do it—instead, there are a couple of smart, science-backed solutions.

Retinoids

Retinoids are in the skincare spotlight at the moment. These ingredients have been a favourite of dermatologists for years, but have recently become widely available over-the-counter as well. Retinoids work by increasing skin cell turnover, which promotes new cell growth and can give a ‘fresher’ appearance to the skin. They also slow the breakdown of collagen and thicken the skin, giving wrinkles less of a chance to take hold. If you have acne, or acne scarring, retinoids can help eliminate it too9

Studies have shown that prescription retinoid can vastly improve the appearance of mild to severely sun-damaged skin, specifically targeting fine and coarse wrinkles, skin laxity (sagging), hyperpigmentation, and roughness10,11. One paper even wrote, ‘Amongst various anti-ageing agents, retinoids are the most promising agents that are available for the treatment of ageing.’ (Mukherjee et. al. 2006). 

Prescription retinoid’s strength means that it can mildly irritate some sensitive skin, but this can be mitigated by using a lower-strength prescription or applying moisturiser before applying prescription retinoid. Because prescription retinoid—and all retinoids—increase skin cell turnover and make our skin sensitive, a sunscreen must be worn after using them. Take a look at our Guide to Prescription Retinoid.

Niacinamide

Niacinamide is available both over-the-counter and by prescription. It’s most commonly a topical treatment (a cream, gel, or serum) but it can also be prescribed orally, as a tablet. It has several properties that have made it an extremely popular ingredient in skincare: it boosts production of collagen, ceramides, and lipids, which improves skin elasticity and reduces fine lines and wrinkles13. It can also even out skin tone by reducing redness, blotchiness, and hyperpigmentation13; and it reduces sebum production while still retaining skin moisture which makes it a great choice for acne-prone skin as well14.

Niacinamide is a good option for anyone whose skin may be too sensitive for stronger treatments, as skin irritation after usage is very rare15. It’s also highly compatible with Prescription Retinoid and Azelaic Acid, as well as many other ingredients. Take a look at our Guide to Niacinamide.

Azelaic Acid

Facial acids act as chemical exfoliants, and Azelaic Acid is one of the most gentle yet effective facial acids out there. Azelaic Acid is a powerful treatment for acne, but it also clears up hyperpigmentation, inflammation, and redness left behind after trauma to the skin. It’s also frequently used to treat melasma and rosacea, with excellent results16,17, and it can prevent build-ups of dead skin cells which can contribute to skin dullness18.

Azelaic Acid is popular due to how compatible it is with sensitive skin. It’s unlikely to cause irritation after usage, and any irritation may be mild compared with other facial acids. It’s very compatible with other treatments as well, and can be used with Prescription Retinoid and Niacinamide as part of a full skin care routine. Take a look at our Guide to Azelaic Acid.

What else can I do to prevent ageing skin?

Skin treatments can play a big role in how quickly our skin ages, but there are many other things we should do to make sure our skin looks as healthy and young as possible.

  • Wear sunscreen. As we know, the sun is the number one thing that can damage our skin2 and can cause everything from wrinkles to cancer3. A quality sunscreen should be a part of your everyday skin care routine, not just something you do once in a while. A non-comedogenic, hypo-allergenic sunscreen will help prevent clogged pores and allergic reactions with the skin—and many moisturisers and foundations include sun protection these days, as well.
  • Quit smoking. Cigarettes are bad for our lungs, and they’re bad for our skin as well. Tobacco smoke reduces blood flow to the skin, damages collagen and elastin19, and puts the skin in a state of oxidative stress which can be highly damaging20. One study compared smoking and non-smoking identical twins and found that the twins who smoked had more visible signs of ageing than their non-smoking counterparts21. If you’ve been looking for one more reason to quit, this is it.
  • Get some sleep. Work, study, and family can often impact how much—or how little—sleep we get, but if you can manage to squeeze an extra hour in, you should. If we don’t get much sleep we can often wake up the next morning looking sleep deprived, with dark circles or bags under our eyes, but over time lack of sleep can contribute to skin dehydration22 and an increase in increased signs of intrinsic skin ageing23. When we sleep, our bodies repair and restore themselves, and if we get less sleep our bodies have less time to go through these processes.


The fact that getting older is such an inevitable process can make us think that there’s absolutely nothing we can do about the signs of ageing, but this isn’t the case. The actions we take to improve our skin’s health and appearance today can have a major affect in the future.

Whether you’re making some healthy changes in your life or investing in skincare—or both—it’s important to know that there is real science backing up the treatments that can help us look younger. Ageing is unavoidable, but with some time and effort, we can look our best while getting older.

References

  1. The International Dermal Institute, Structural changes associated with aging skin, <https://www.dermalinstitute.com/article/14/>, accessed 19th June 2020.
  2. The Australian College of Dermatologists, Ageing skin, <https://www.dermcoll.edu.au/atoz/ageing-skin/>, accessed 19th June 2020.
  3. Cancer Council Australia, Skin cancer, <https://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/skin-cancer.html>, accessed 19th June 2020.
  4. The Australian College of Dermatologists, Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, <https://www.dermcoll.edu.au/atoz/post-inflammatory-hyperpigmentation/>, accessed 19th June 2020.
  5. DermNet NZ, Melasma, <https://dermnetnz.org/topics/melasma/>, accessed 19th June 2020.
  6. DermNet NZ, Brown spots and freckles, <https://dermnetnz.org/topics/brown-spots-and-freckles/>, accessed 19th June 2020.
  7. Medline Plus, Aging changes in skin, <https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004014.htm>, accessed 20th June 2020.
  8. WebMD, Dry skin solutions for aging skin, <https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/age-dry-skin#1>, accessed 20th June 2020.
  9. WebMD, Retinoids for anti-aging skin, <https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/retinoids-for-aging-skin#1>, accessed 20th June 2020.
  10. Nyirady J, Bergfeld W, Ellis C, Levine N, Savin R, Shavin J, Voorhees JJ, Weiss J, Grossman R. 2001, ‘Tretinoin Cream 0.02% for the Treatment of Photodamaged Facial Skin: A Review of 2 Double-Blind Clinical Studies’, Cutis, vol. 68, no. 2, pp. 135—142. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11534915/>, accessed 20th June 2020.
  11. Weinstein GD, Nigra TP, Pochi PE, Savin RC, Allan A, Benik K, Jeffes E, Lufrano L, Thorne EG. 1991, ‘Topical tretinoin for treatment of photodamaged skin. A multicenter study’, Archives of Dermatology, vol. 127, no. 5, pp. 659—655. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2024983/>, accessed 20th June 2020.
  12. Mukherjee, Siddharth, Date, Abhijit, Patravale, Vandana, Korting, Hans Christian, Roeder, Alexander, and Weindl, Günther 2006, ‘Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety’, Clinical Interventions in Aging, vol. 1., no. 4., pp. 327—348. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699641/>, accessed 20th June 2020.
  13. Levin, Jacquelyn, and Momin, Saira B. 2010, ‘How much do we really know about our favourite cosmeceutical ingredients?’, The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 22—41. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921764/#B53>, accessed 14th June 2020.
  14. Shalita, A. R., Smith, J. G., Parish, L. C., Sofman, M. S., Chalker, D. K. 1995, ‘Topical nicotinamide compared with clindamycin gel in the treatment of inflammatory acne vulgaris’, International Journal of Dermatology, vol. 34, no. 6, pp. 434—437. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7657446/>, accessed 14th June 2020.
  15. Farris, Patricia K. 2013, Cosmeceuticals and cosmetic practice, John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey, USA.
  16. Breathnatch, A. S. 1996, ‘Melanin hyperpigmentation of skin: melasma, topical treatment with azelaic acid, and other therapies’, Cutis, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 36—45. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8654129/>, accessed 20th June 2020.
  17. Jones, David A. 2009, ‘Rosacea, reactive oxygen species, and azelaic acid’, The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 26—30. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2958186/>, accessed 16th June 2020.
  18. Graupe, K., Cunliffe, W. J., Gollnick, H. P., Zaumseil, R. P. 1996, ‘Efficacy and safety of topical azelaic acid (20 percent cream): an overview of results from European clinical trials and experimental reports’, Cutis, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 20—35. <http://europepmc.org/article/med/8654128>, accessed 16th June 2020.
  19. Mayo Clinic, ‘Is it true that smoking causes wrinkles?’, <https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/expert-answers/smoking/faq-20058153>, accessed 20th June 2020.
  20. DermNet NZ, ‘Smoking and its effects on the skin’, <https://dermnetnz.org/topics/smoking-and-its-effects-on-the-skin/>, accessed 20th June 2020.
  21. Okada, Haruko C., Alleyne, Brendan B.S., Varghai, Kaveh, Kinder, Kimberly, Guyuron, Bahman 2013, ‘Facial changes caused by smoking: a comparison between smoking and nonsmoking identical twins’, Plastic and reconstructive surgery, vol. 132, no. 5, pp. 1085—1092. <https://journals.lww.com/plasreconsurg/Abstract/2013/11000/Facial_Changes_Caused_by_Smoking__A_Comparison.10.aspx>, accessed 21st June 2020.
  22. Addor, Flavia Alvim Sant’Anna 2018, ‘Beyond photoaging: additional factors involved in the process of skin aging’, Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, vol. 11, pp. 437—443. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6159789/>, accessed 22nd June 2020.
  23. Oyetakin-White, P., Suggs, A., Koo, B., Matsui, MS., Yarosh, D., Cooper, K.D., Baron, E.D. 2015, ‘Does poor sleep quality affect skin ageing?’, Clinical and experimental dermatology, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 17—22. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25266053/>, accessed 22nd June 2020.

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