Collagen & Aging
Collagen is sometimes referred to as your skin's "fountain of youth," as this protein is responsible for fending off wrinkles, lines and other signs of aging. As you grow older, your skin slows down collagen production. Factor in external elements, such as the sun and smoking, and collagen reduction can lead to more pronounced signs of time-weathered skin.
More About Collagen
Your skin is actually made up of three layers, says the Cleveland Clinic. The epidermis, the skin's top, visible layer; the dermis, or middle layer; and the hypodermis; the deepest layer of the skin. Collagen is one protein, along with its companion component, elastin, that is found in the dermis. Collagen is also a component of your bones and connective tissues. The presence of collagen and elastin gives your skin structure, as well as a smooth, youthful face.
Collagen production begins to slow down as you grow older, a process known as intrinsic aging, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. This gradual, continuous process begins in your mid-20s, although signs of aging skin may not be evident until decades later. As you age and collagen becomes increasingly less bountiful, you begin to notice fine lines and transparent and/or dry, itchy skin, says the AAD.
Extrinsic aging--aging that's caused by environmental and lifestyle factors--is primarily caused by repeated sun exposure over the years. Ultraviolet rays not only break down your skin's collagen, they can prevent it from producing more, says the AAD. UV rays also weaken your skin's elastin, the protein that gives it stretch and spring. Smoking also causes collagen breakdown and encourages wrinkles, says the MayoClinic.Org.
Protect Your Collagen Reserve
Maintaining healthy, youthful skin starts with basic care. The Cleveland Clinic advises drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet, cleansing twice daily and applying moisturizer, regardless if your skin is oily or dry. MayoClinic.com lists adequate sun protection as a requisite to protecting your skin's collagen. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outdoors. Stay out of the sun when UV rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wear protective clothing that covers your arms and legs whenever you go outdoors, and throw on a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face and neck.
Your dermatologist can recommend and provide cosmetic treatments to reduce signs of aging, says the AAD. Many of these procedures, such as injectible fillers and Botox injections, require no downtime and may be recommended if you're always on the go. Dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, laser rejuvenation and prescription topical creams can also give your skin a more youthful appearance.
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