Aging Skin: Decade by Decade

Aging skin is more than a change in cosmetic appearance; it often coincides with various stages of a person's life, and changing priorities. “Youth is wasted on the young” said someone, surely when they were old. In skincare as well as in life, decisions that are made during our youth tend to carry consequences for how the skin appears later in life. The good news is that it's never too early or too late to adopt good skincare habits to improve the glow of your skin.

Teens

Good habits formed at youth make all the difference. --Aristotle

What it's like to be carefree, not fuss about makeup, and still have great skin. What a life, right? When it comes to skin health overall, teens do in fact have it good. Elastin and collagen are plentiful, making skin radiant and supple, and fat pads on the face ensure that the structure of the face exudes youth. Bad habits like not using sunscreen won't affect their appearance (yet), but unfortunately the damage is accumulating, invisibly, beneath the visible surface. This is the time to develop good skincare habits. If you are a parent with a teen, sun protection is going to be the best skincare advice that you can offer them that will make them thankful decades later.

A lot of parents often forget about the stresses of actually being a teen. Having no money, being severely limited in freedom, as well as coping with skin problems like acne or atopic dermatitis that are more common in teens. It's important for parents not to minimize a teen's skin concerns. Skin conditions like acne are NOT trivial--and they have been shown to have serious psycho-social effects regardless of age. If you suffered from acne as a teen, and the treatment options just didn't work well back then, acceptance may have been the only consolation. Treatments are far more safe and effective than they were even a decade ago, and almost all kinds of acne are now treatable with some patience, so there's no reason not to have your teen see a dermatologist.

  • Plump and smooth skin due to having plenty of collagen and elastin.
  • Skin tone is even, skin is youthful and radiant.
  • Sun damage won't be visible even if you abuse the skin, but the damage is still accumulating. Protect yourself for the future.
  • This is the best time to develop good skincare habits that will last a lifetime.
  • Acne and atopic dermatitis is very common; visit a dermatologist--these problems can and should be treated!

Twenties

When I was in my 20s, it felt like I was riding wild horses, and I was hoping I didn't go over a cliff. --Chaka Khan

In the twenties, the skin typically goes through a lot of environmental damage. A lot of people will take bad habits like sun exposure, lack of sleep, alcohol, and smoking to the extreme. The skin in the early twenties is still very regenerative, and good at hiding damage. However, as early as age 25, collagen production may begin to decline, starting the process of skin-aging. The exact age at which visible changes occur is very individual, and dependent on a combination of genetic and environmental factors. One of the most common symptoms of early aging is sunspots.

  • The skin is still smooth; skin tone is often still even.
  • For some people fine lines may begin to appear.
  • The skin may become drier as collagen and ceramides begin to slow down and the antioxidant protection begins to decline.
  • Although acne subsides for many men, women will often suffer from adult acne due to hormonal factors.
  • Lifestyle factors often have a major impact on the skin. While skin aging may not be that apparent, choices you make now will change how your skin ages later.

Thirties

30 is the new 20, unless you're 20, then it's the new 40. --Unknown

The thirties is a time where a lot of people dramatically change their lifestyles, usually for the better. It's probably not a coincidence that the thirties is also a time where biological forces conspire to make people more conscious of their age. Collagen and elastin fibers are beginning to become depleted, and the changes in the skin become more visible and harder to hide. Sun damage experienced during a person's teens or twenties can bite back in the form of brown spots in a person's thirties.

  • Collagen and elastin production decreases and the skin loses some smoothness and elasticity.
  • Sunspots and uneven skin tone become more common and visible as accumulated sun damage that was hiding beneath the skin come to the surface.
  • Fine lines often start around the eye area at this age group.
  • The skin may become drier in a woman’s late thirties as hormone levels begin to drop.
  • Lifestyle factors play an even more important role in how the skin ages as the skin cell’s regenerative powers slow down. Eating well, sleeping adequately, exercising, and sun protection all have an even greater impact on the wellness of your skin.
  • Soft procedures like soft-tissue fillers or Botox can often provide a temporary lift to areas affected by fine lines, and are relatively inexpensive procedures that can provide a soft, natural looking remedy to minor cosmetic concerns.

Forties

Life begins at 40. –-Walter. B. Pitkin

The forties can bring about a variety of changes to the skin. Fine lines and wrinkles may begin to become more noticeable and the skin may begin to sag. Although it seems hard to believe that gravity is responsible for saggy skin and wrinkles, if you think about it, by the time you see your 40th birthday, your skin has held up your facial skin up for more than 350,000 hours! At the surface of the skin, dryness and uneven skin tone become common. As the skin changes, your skincare routine is likely to need some adjustment. For both men and women, the forties often represent a major change, and the skincare industry even has a special name for this demographic: Mature Skin.

  • Collagen production decreases rapidly due to changing hormones for both men and women.
  • The skin often becomes dull, losing its smoothness and elasticity.
  • Hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone is often the most common complaint among this age group.
  • Gravity begins to take its toll on the skin. Fine lines may start to become etched deeper.
  • Menopause plays an important role in the skin’s transformation in women, and it may start as early as age 45. The effects of hormonal changes vary widely from individual to individual. The most common changes with the lowered estrogen levels include decreasing oil production, changes in body temperature, and mood.
  • Procedures like soft-tissue fillers or Botox are very popular among this age group. As the wrinkles become deeper, however, the cost of these procedures may rise as more product is needed to achieve the same effect.

Fifties+

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age. --Victor Hugo

The fifties is a time of transformation for many. For women, estrogen levels decrease dramatically, and with it a significant reduction in collagen occurs, having a major impact on the skin's elasticity and bounce. One of the most serious and common complaints is that of drying skin. Skincare routines will need to change to accommodate the drier skin. Lowering the temperature of your showers and baths, and moisturizing immediately afterwards can help the skin retain some of its natural moisture.

  • Dryness of the skin is one of the most common and irritating changes that can be felt at this age group.
  • Thinning skin, visible blood vessels, and spider veins may appear around the face.
  • Lines become deeper and the pores stretch.
  • Tackling dry skin starts with lifestyle modification—reduce your showers/baths and lower the temperature of the water. Apply moisturizers immediately after while your skin is still damp.
  • The changes that occur go beyond the skin. Fat pads drop and the bone recedes, changing the supporting structures.
  • The late forties and early fifties are often called “sweet spots” by cosmetic surgeons to get the most mileage out of cosmetic surgery procedures.

Prevention

The list above is a common observation, and reflects many people's experience. Does this mean that these changes are more or less fated? You've seen people in their 60s look like they are in their late 40s, and unfortunately, the opposite too. Are they genetic lottery winners? Evidence seems to suggest that while genetics certainly play a role, the vast majority of aging symptoms are a result of life choices—lifestyle and habits, with the majority of the damage coming from the sun.

Sun Protection: As much as 80% of "aging symptoms" may actually be sun damage. The sun emits a variety of rays, of which UVA and UVB have been identified as culprits in causing uneven skin tone, premature wrinkling, loose skin, rough irritated skin, hyperpigmentation, as well as medical conditions like actinic keratosis and skin cancer. New research suggests that the infrared and visible spectra of light from the sun may also play a role in causing damage. Complete sun avoidance isn't realistic, but it can't be emphasized enough--sun protection plays an enormous role in how quickly the skin ages.