Skin and Aging
Skin, your largest and most visible organ, tells the story of
All the organs in your body change over time. But because skin is
in plain view, so we see it age right in front of our eyes. Skin
that was once smooth and flawless begins to wrinkle. Healing may
take longer. Age spots appear - or moles. What to do? Begin by
sorting out the issues.
Natural vs. Environmental Changes
Many changes can be chalked up to the natural aging process.
Starting as early as the mid-20s, your skin begins to produce
less collagen, lose elasticity and become less efficient at
repairing itself. Eventual results include wrinkles, thinning of
the skin and dryness. But nature can't be blamed for all the
changes. Environmental conditions are often major factors.
Sun exposure is
the most significant external factor. Women who pursue perfect
tans in their youth often pay dearly later in life with wrinkled,
blotchy skin or even skin cancer. Prevent further damage by
covering up when you go outside, using sunscreen with an SPF of
15 or higher and avoiding tanning beds and sunlamps.
another enemy of your skin, contributing to wrinkles. The longer
you smoke and the greater the number of cigarettes, the more
severe the affect on your skin - another good reason to kick the
Medical vs. Cosmetic Concerns
Some changes that show up in aging skin may endanger your health,
not just to your appearance. It's important to be on the alert
for skin conditions that require medical attention.
Skin cancers are
very common, with more than a million new cases diagnosed each
year. Fortunately, the majority falls into the least lethal
categories: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. The
third category, melanoma, is more dangerous, because it's more
likely to spread to other parts of the body, causing serious
illness or death. Early detection is your best defense. If you
discover new or unusual spots on your skin, changes in existing
spots or sores that never quite heal, have them checked by your
can also pose serious health threats. Diabetes, especially if
it's uncontrolled, may result in skin sores or ulcers, often on
the feet, that won't heal. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) may
also cause chronic sores on the skin of the legs or feet. In both
cases, the wounds as well as the underlying conditions should be
treated by a doctor.
Cosmetic Skin Care
There's nothing frivolous about wanting to look your best. It's a
significant aspect of emotional wellbeing - significant enough to
generate billions of dollars in skin care product sales each
year. Do they work? The answer depends on your expectations and
on the what's actually inside those pretty bottles.
Most products designed to repair skin damage and fight wrinkles
base their claims on ingredients called antioxidants.
Antioxidants absorbed into the skin help protect it from free
radicals that can damage DNA and increase susceptibility to
wrinkles and other signs of aging. When you shop for skin care
products, check for antioxidant ingredients such as:
Products formulated to exfoliate skin, removing dead cells to
minimize imperfections and improve appearance, often include:
In recent years, green tea has found its way into skin care
products, because it contains polyphenols that ward off free
radicals much the way antioxidants do.
Many women would rather not rely on over-the-counter skin care
products and choose instead to see a dermatologist who can
evaluate skin conditions and prescribe medications to treat them.
The term "cosmetic procedure" covers a lot of ground - from
collagen injections done in the dermatologist's office to
multi-hour surgical procedures performed in hospital operating
Some of the most common and least invasive procedures include:
Chemical peels, dermabrasion or laser resurfacing to remove the
top layers of skin, reducing wrinkles, minor scars and
Injections of botulinum toxin (Botox) to minimize wrinkles for
three to four months
Collagen and other filler injections to reduce the appearance of
pitting or wrinkles
Sclerotherapy or chemical injections to remove small varicose
Electrolysis and laser treatments remove unwanted hair at the
More invasive cosmetic surgeries include:
Facelifts to minimize sagging around the jaw and neck
Eyelid surgery to reduce bags, excess skin and drooping
Nose surgery to reshape the nose by adjusting bones and cartilage
Breast enlargement or reduction
Liposuction to reshape body contours and remove stubborn fat
bulges unaffected by dieting and exercise
Abdominoplasty (tummy tucks) to remove excess tissue, tighten
muscles and flatten the abdominal area
Varicose vein surgery to remove large varicose veins
Although millions of women undergo cosmetic surgery each year,
it's a decision that requires careful consideration. There are
risks involved, and even if all goes well, no one can guarantee
that you'll be happy with the results. Here are a few simple
precautions to take before you decide:
Ask yourself why you want cosmetic surgery. It's easy to confuse
wanting to change your appearance with wanting to change your
life. One doesn't necessarily affect the other.
Make sure your expectations of the results and the recovery
process are realistic.
Know your surgeon's credentials and track record.
Talk to others who've had the same procedure.
Last but not least, keep this in mind: Beauty truly is in the eye
of the beholder. If you're dissatisfied with the reflection you
see in the mirror, try the reflection in your family's eyes.