Have you been looking for the ultimate guide to face aging skin head-on? Do you want to know just about everything there is to know about combating the signs of aging? Well, look no further than this super informative guide that will cover things such as the stages of aging to how to eliminate dark spots. When it comes to aging skin and skincare routines, it’s best to be as proactive as possible.
Whether you’re looking to erase the visible traces of life’s wear and tear or for skincare products to prevent aging skin, don’t fret – it’s not too late to restore youthfulness to your skin’s tone, texture, and elasticity. Whatever stage your skin is in, this is the only guide you’ll ever need to combat aging skin, giving you the skin you deserve.
While environmental factors and lifestyle choices certainly affect how your skin ages, there’s also a biological timeline your skin follows. For some, they might notice regular changes, while others tend to go into panic mode at the sign of the smallest wrinkle or dullest dark spot. No matter how you perceive it, there’s no way around it—everyone’s skin ages. From the time you’re born, through adolescence, and into your 20s, you reap the benefit of ‘baby skin.’
You might be saying to yourself, “wait, wait, wait, what about that terrible time I had with acne during my teen years?” Don’t worry, we’ll cover that a bit later, but until your mid-20s, you will have the best skin of your life. Your skin is in its most vital, supple, and radiant condition. Unfortunately, after about two decades, the baby fat will be nothing but a distant memory, and you’ll start to see the signs of aging in your once youthful complexion.
Here’s what you can expect during the various stages of your skin’s development:
[Side bar, we’re going to skip the birth to 12-year-old stages only because we’re pretty sure if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already been through those stages in your life.]
As teenagers go through puberty, their hormones are changing rapidly and can cause temporary skin irregularities. These hormonal shifts can dramatically affect the skin, especially on the face, shoulders, chest, and back. More oil is being produced by the sebaceous gland, leading to the skin becoming oily and acne-prone. Generally, this gets better with age, but acne can stretch into middle age and beyond for some, mostly women. Luckily there are many solutions for treating acne.
Related Article: Preventing Pimples
Genetics, lifestyle, and environment are three contributing factors that determine the stage in which your skin starts to thin. Still, generally, around the age of 25, you will begin to notice the first signs of aging. Fine lines are usually the first things to appear; however, other things you may experience during this time are:
Facial hair growth, usually on the upper lip, chin, and around the perimeter of the face. Some people refer to these as ‘baby hairs,’ as they are very fine and soft. They can easily be taken care of with a quick trip to your favorite esthetician who will wax them right off.
The production of collagen and elastin slows down. Collagen and elastin are responsible for your keeping your skin supple and firm. As their output slows, your skin’s natural elasticity decreases.
Early signs of ‘motor wrinkles’ (lines and creases related to movement). Usually, motor wrinkles will appear around the brow area.
Crow’s feet (the tiny lines around the eyes) may begin to take hold, especially if you spend a lot of time staring or squinting at a computer.
Skin becomes thinner, and its natural protection against UV rays begins to reduce. If you spent a lot of time in the sun as a child, aging signs would be more noticeable.
Nasolabial folds (from the nose to the corner of your lips) begin to appear.
Your complexion starts to lose its shine and radiance.
Melasma (brownish discoloration that appears on the cheeks and forehead) This condition is usually caused by sun exposure, pregnancy, hormones, and certain antibiotics.
The skin’s barrier function weakens
The metabolic process of the cells begin to slow
Collagen continues to degrade at 1%/year, and more fine lines and wrinkles appear.
You may begin to look more ‘tired’ even if you’re getting the proper amount of sleep.
Under-eye bags start to develop.
Pores become more visible, especially along the bridge of your nose.
Previous sun damage may begin to increase the appearance of small brown spots or freckles.
The “dreaded 11’s” (the pair of lines that pop up between the brows) will start to take a toe-hold on your face.
Lines around the upper lip begin to appear. If you’re a smoker, these lines will come in hot like Vin Diesel in the fast and furious.
The skin around the cheekbones becomes less plump, and adding insult to injury, the temples start to deepen as your cheeks sag due to loss of fat volume.
Marionette lines (vertical wrinkles appear at the outer edge of the lips) appear.
Because natural oil and collagen production have decreased, skin can become dry and patchy.
Hyperpigmentation or age spots start to appear.
The lower layer of fatty tissue reduces, contributing to a decrease in volume, leading to deep wrinkles.
This is the first time your skin will make the most noticeable changes. Fewer cells are forming, and existing cells shrink, causing the skin to become thinner. Your skin is at an increased risk for infection, so staying out of the sun is critical.
Skin regeneration slows down and becomes increasingly thin, which can result in the loss of elasticity.
As menopause rears its ugly head, estrogen levels drop, resulting in a decline of the skin’s natural ability to produce lipids, hyaluronic acid, and collagen. This can cause the skin to appear dry, dehydrated, and extremely wrinkly.
Thinner skin makes it appear more translucent, which makes hyperpigmentation increasingly noticeable.
The skin on your face and neck starts to thicken, giving it a leathery look. This appearance is most noticeable in the skin of smokers.
Sun damage is at its most noticeable.
The appearance of crisscross wrinkles in the neck may occur, and moisturizer becomes critical due to fewer fat cells and fewer sebaceous glands.
Skin aging accelerates around age 65.
Deep marionette lines cause the skin to sag around the cheeks and neck.
Your skin is at its thinnest, which makes the signs of aging most prevalent.
Crisscross wrinkles appear in areas of your face that are most active.
Very deep, prominent lines will collect around your eyes and forehead.
The skin’s immune function has reduced, making it more susceptible to infection.
Reduced blood circulation will lead to lower skin sensitivity.
There are a variety of things that cause your skin to age. Sadly, what causes the skin to age is a bunch of different factors, both internal and external. Fortunately, once you understand how these factors affect the skin’s structure and function, you may be able to make more informed skin care choices that help prevent premature skin aging.
Like we talked about in the aging skin stages section, your biological age is a significant contributor to the structural changes in the skin. Internal factors are sadly inevitable and can include:
Poor blood circulation and supply means that less oxygen and nutrients travel to your skin’s surface, which causes the skin to look less radiant.
Sebaceous and sweat gland activity decreases with age, which reduces the skin’s ability to produce Hyaluronic Acid, leading to the skin appearing dry and wrinkles deepening.
Estrogen reduction post-menopause in tandem with decreasing cell regeneration affects a woman’s skin structure, resulting in volume and elasticity loss.
It is also worth mentioning that genetics play a significant role in how your skin ages. Your ethnicity, gender, and skin type all contribute to how quickly signs of aging become noticeable (more on this later).
After reading all this depressing info, you’re probably ready for some good news, right? Well, here it is! More than 80% of how your skin ages are caused by external factors. And, guess what? External factors are usually easily preventable and treatable!!
Environmental factors, such as UV exposure and air pollution
Lifestyle factors, like smoking, alcohol and drug use, diet, stress, exercise, and lack of an appropriate skincare routine.
Research has shown that areas of the skin that remain out of the sun maintain their tone, bounciness, and regeneration ability. It is the exposure, especially overexposure, that causes premature aging. It is always a good idea to use sunscreen when you know you’re going to be exposed to the sun, especially for those with lighter skin tones.
Cleansing your skin on a daily basis and using skincare products that go along with the particular needs of your skin type, condition, and age may help keep your skin feeling and looking its best. It could also reduce the signs of aging.
It’s safe to say that there’s no silver bullet routine that works for everyone when it comes to taking care of your skin. Skin care is a personal matter and depends a lot on three things; your skin type, your genetics, and your lifestyle. For example, suppose you have oily skin, are an occasional smoker, and your mom had terrible acne growing up. Your daily skin care regimen will be completely different from your best friend’s routine when she has dry skin, leads an uber-healthy lifestyle, and has no genetic mutations to worry about.
Regardless of the three keys to choosing the products that are right for you, there are three basic steps to any skincare routine:
It’s important to keep in mind that it takes time to adapt like anything new that you incorporate into your life. In other words, it will take a little time to see the benefits because, sadly, there’s no instant fix. Not even the best products can promise all your skin care woes will go away right away. You will want to plan to use each new product consistently (once, but ideally twice a day) for at least six weeks. After that, you can make your assessment, then move on from there. It is also wise to consult your doctor or dermatologist before using any product with ingredients you’re unaware of. There’s no need to go at this alone when there are so many great resources, such as the online doctors at Musely. Each is either a licensed dermatologist or board-certified doctor that has experience in caring for skin.
Besides using SPF each day, washing your face is the most critical step of any skincare routine. Your skin comes into contact with tons of gross stuff each day, even if you never leave your house. Washing your face twice a day is most ideal, but try your best to cleanse at least once to avoid clogged pores, acne, and dullness.
Oily/acne-prone skin - Foaming liquid is best to help break down dirt and excess oils from the pores.
Dry, patchy, or eczema-prone skin - Cream-based cleansers with glycerin or shea butter will wash away impurities and be super moisturizing.
Sensitive and aging skin - Oil-based cleansers with argan are lightweight, hydrating, and will have your face feeling baby bottom smooth while still washing away the day’s toxins.
ALL skin types - Micellar water is used all over Europe and is a soap-free option that attracts debris and oil like a magnet. It won’t dry out your skin and can be used by just about everyone.
If you’re anything like us, when we hear the word toner, we have stinging flashbacks to getting ready for middle-school as we splashed that alcohol-based toner onto a cotton ball before screaming at the top of our lungs -- Thank goodness skincare products have evolved since then! Toners are now more like vitamins that deliver an extra shot of nutrients to help your moisturizer absorb better all while helping to make your complexion as brilliant as can be.
When you’re shopping for your next toner, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for products with the following ingredients:
Alpha and beta hydroxy acids
Vitamin E and C
Rosewater and green tea
Each of these ingredients will gently remove grime and dead skin cells that clog pores, boost hydration, reduce redness, and plump skin to treat fine lines and wrinkles. What could be better than that?!
It is vital to allow your skin time to replenish from the day you just had at the end of the day. This is where moisturizer comes in. Moisturizer essentially prevents the natural oils and water from escaping through the outer layers of your skin. You can think of it as a shield of armor for your face, and this shield becomes that much more important to use as you age and the skin loses the ability to retain moisture. Bottom line; the younger you incorporate moisturizer into your daily routine, the younger your skin will appear.
Oily skin - Gel-based moisturizers are best, as they are lightweight and tend to absorb faster than any other type of moisturizer available.
Normal/Combination skin - Lotion-based is the classic choice for those that have been #blessed with normal skin.
Dry skin - Cream or oil-based moisturizers are generally heavier and will lock-in any moisture that tries to escape throughout the day.
Besides the obvious of when to use them, day creams usually contain antioxidants and sunscreen to protect your skin from any free-radicals and UV rays. They are lightweight and allow you to put any makeup over them without looking greasy. Night creams focus more on repairing your skin from any daily damage, replenishing any moisture that escaped. They usually contain retinol and have a rich and creamy feel.
Related Article: Skin Care For Beginners
The natural timeline of aging progression will vary from person to person, as several factors can contribute to the formation of wrinkles. Among other causes, the top three sources that will impact the presence of fine lines and wrinkles include:
There are five main skin types: normal, oily, dry, combination, and sensitive. Knowing which skin type you have will help you understand the way your skin will develop wrinkles.
Normal skin will usually exhibit few lines and wrinkles.
Oily skin ages more slowly and will develop fewer-than-average wrinkles, but the wrinkles will have deeper lines.
Dry skin is thinner and prone to premature wrinkling as it will display finer, superficial lines.
Combination skin that’s both oily and dry will likely develop wrinkles around the corners of the mouth before the brow.
Sensitive skin may experience an early onset of wrinkles due to regular irritation.
The genes you inherit can play a role in how you age, and looking towards your mother could be a great point of reference for how wrinkles will later develop in your complexion. A recent study has shown how gene expression patterns and their mutations are associated with chronologic and photoaging. They found individuals with:
Isolated growth hormone deficiency
Multiple pituitary hormone deficiencies
Insulin-like growth factor deficiency
These genetic mutations present signs of early skin aging, including dry, thin, and wrinkled skin. People who carry these genetic deficiencies might pass them on to their children, which then, in turn, affects how and when they begin to show signs of aging. If you notice someone in your family who seemed to age too quickly, be sure to take preventive measures to avoid the same fate.
Photoaging (which was coined by the skin care industry) refers to the skin’s premature wrinkling, sunspots’ growth, and loss of skin elasticity. It’s caused by the damaging UVA and UVB rays cast off by the sun. UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis (your skin’s outer layers), while UVB rays typically burn your skin’s superficial layer (epidermis). The harmful effect of sun exposure on skin is one of the most researched, well-documented understandings in dermatology. Science explains that sun exposure damages the skin in the following ways:
UVA rays penetrate the dermis and cause abnormal production of collagen and elastin.
The abnormality results in the production of an enzyme that attempts to rebuild the damaged collagen and elastin.
The enzyme often malfunctions in its attempt and instead initiates a breakdown reaction.
Repeated damage to collagen and elastin from malfunctioning enzymes causes wrinkly skin.
Sun exposure quickly depletes the skin’s supply of antioxidants that maintain its healthy complexion.
The ultraviolet (UV) light in the sunshine is responsible for 80% of the skin’s visible aging signs. In addition to skin type and genetics, many other sources contribute to the formation of wrinkles, including smoking, pollution, wind, dry air, changes in temperature or humidity, dietary imbalance, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses, stress, changes in hormonal balances and gravity.
Fine lines and wrinkles are a telltale sign of aging. They are one of the first things to show up on your face that indicate your skin may need some extra attention. There are several ways for you to keep those wrinkles at bay. Some may want to explore more homeopathic, natural remedies, and others may choose to consult a medical expert to talk through possible treatment options.
There are a ton of natural remedies to achieve the glowing and smooth face that you’ve always wanted. We will highlight some of the most beneficial below.
Not only is the aloe plant beautiful, but it also has tons of healing benefits. It’s great for everyday use and can be used as an alternative to sunscreen. During a study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH), scientists found that when people applied aloe vera to their skin, it significantly reduced the appearance of wrinkles, added collagen, and hydrated the skin.
Hold the phone! Did we just say to put a banana on your face?! Well, you’ll want to mash it up first, but yes, we did! Bananas contain oils and vitamins that have been proven to support skin health. Experts recommend applying a thin layer of mashed banana pasts on your skin for about 20 minutes. You could take those 20 minutes to lie down and relax before rinsing that delicious paste off with warm water.
Supplements are a great way to get to pack a whole bunch of good stuff into one, easy to ingest capsule or powder. Many companies have popped up in the last decade or so, promising the best skin results that shine bright like a diamond. After reviewing many popular skin care and supplement companies, our favorites are Musely, Rae, and Strut. These online companies have proven time and time again that they are dedicated to the health and well-being of all humans and want everyone to shine brightly from the inside out!
Probably one of the most accessible items on the list, olive oil is most likely sitting on a shelf or in a cabinet in your very own kitchen. Research suggests that consuming olive oil regularly may protect the skin from developing wrinkles. Said researchers have also found that foods like broccoli, tomatoes, and legumes have a similar protective effect against fighting wrinkles -- It sounds like if you combine the two, you’ll have less noticeable fine lines in no time.
Probiotics and yogurt
Use silk or copper-oxide pillowcases
Add some Zinc to your diet
Eat more egg whites
Use essential oils
Incorporate superfoods like artichokes, salmon, and walnuts into your diet
Suppose you’re overly concerned about your appearance and are looking for a quicker fix than what the above natural remedies can handle. In that case, you may want to consider talking to your doctor, dermatologist, or online doctor that specializes in skin care and conditions of the skin.
Any of these medical professionals will be able to pinpoint anything going on by simply examining your skin. They will ask you a few questions regarding your general health, lifestyle habits, and medical history. Some of the treatments they might recommend to stave off wrinkles could include:
Prescription topical creams
Prescription creams with antioxidants or collagen
Laser skin resurfacing
Botox or other fillers
Cosmetic surgery, such as a facelift
If your skin has been bothering you, but you’re either not ready to leave the house or feel uncomfortable walking into a doctor’s office, we have a great list of pre-vetted and reviewed online doctors that you can schedule a virtual appointment with and best of all, get prescription-strength creams to help you with any skin condition or issue you might be experiencing. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we can do just about anything from the comfort of our couches, including see licensed and board-certified medical professionals.
Aging signs can be classified into four main categories:
Lack of firm cutaneous tissues (ptosis)
Vascular disorders, such as Atherosclerosis, deep vein thrombosis, and Carotid Artery Disease
Pigmentation heterogeneities, AKA skin tone
How can you tell when your skin begins to age? Studying your complexion can be quite revealing and will tip you off to any premature signs of age. When searching for signs of skin aging, look out for:
Saggy eyelids and skin
Dark undereye circles
RELATED ARTICLE: Everything You Need to Know About Premature Aging
Although the signs of aging are impossible to escape, they are possible to slow down. The best way to avoid symptoms of aging is to prevent them proactively. Follow these steps diligently to prevent premature aging and maintain a youthful, radiant complexion:
This is perhaps the most prominent and most important skin care tip. If you’re concerned about premature aging, never walk out the door in daylight without at least SPF 15 (SPF 30 is most ideal) applied. Remember that your skin is still susceptible to UV rays even through cloud coverage. The more sun exposure you have had, even as a child, the earlier your wrinkles will appear. Next time you’re sun tanning at the beach, recall that today’s freckles become tomorrow’s melasma (dark spots) and age spots.
As we’ve mentioned, dark spots are mostly caused by the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays. The easiest way to prevent these nasty spots from surfacing is to stay out of the sun. However, if being in the sun just makes you the happiest person alive, then there are other ways to eliminate the harmful effects of being the sun-loving person that you are.
There are a few OTC products that have correcting abilities that are found in natural ingredients. The next time you’re at the drug store or your favorite beauty store, be sure to pick out products that have the following vitamins or minerals as the main ingredients:
Please keep in mind that even though these are more natural products, your skin could still have an adverse reaction, especially if your skin is on the more sensitive side.
Products containing retinoids, like Retin-A, work to increase cell turnover, speed up exfoliation, and promote new, healthy skin growth. One telemedicine company cleverly named Dear Brightly specializes in offering people prescription-strength retinoid cream to help combat dark spots. They are so sure this product is the silver bullet for treating dark spots; it’s all they offer.
Cigarettes are only second to sun exposure as the leading cause of skin damage. As mentioned, inhaling a cigarette uses the strength of the face’s purse string muscle (think of your mouth clenching around the cigarette). When the purse-string muscle is overused, it will cause wrinkles around the mouth from constant tension and flexion. Besides, the nicotine in cigarettes causes the narrowing of blood vessels in the skin’s outermost layers and impairs blood flow. With less blood flow, the skin doesn’t receive as much oxygen and essential nutrients, such as Vitamin A. There are a gross number of chemicals in tobacco, and many of them can be damaging to collagen and elastin. As if you needed another reason to quit, cigarettes will make you age faster, and they’re bad for your general health. So, maybe think about putting down the pack and stop smoking.
If it’s bad for your waist, it’s terrible for your face. Aging is basically a chronic inflammatory state, and poor-quality foods, like trans fats, induce inflammation. Eating too much sugar or processed carbohydrates can damage the skin’s collagen, reducing its springiness and resistance to wrinkles. Nutrition can have a considerable impact not only on how you feel but on how you look.
Anything deep-fried, such as potato chips and french fries. These things can cause inflammation in your body.
Processed meats, like hot dogs, bacon, and pepperoni. These are high in saturated fat and nitrates.
White sugar. It’s been linked to the formation of wrinkles. Foods to look out for include pastries, “healthy” cereal, juices, and soda
Caffeine: this beverage has a dehydrating property that can dry out your skin and make it more likely to display the fine lines on its surface.
Alcohol: moderate drinking may be good for your heart, but heavy drinking can accelerate the aging process.
Leafy greens, like romaine lettuce, broccoli, and spinach. These are all high in vitamins A and C, which reduce inflammation.
Fish, such as salmon or tuna. These are both high in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation.
Raw fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, guavas, asparagus, and red cabbage. They are all rich in a nutrient called lycopene, which benefits the skin.
Legumes, such as lentils, black beans, split peas, limas, pintos, chickpeas, and cannellini beans, are good sources of protein loaded with fiber and nutrients.
Whole grains, like oatmeal, whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, and quinoa help reduce inflammation.
Vitamins A, C, and E and minerals zinc and selenium: look for foods rich in these nutrients, as research suggests they help keep wrinkles at bay by reducing the amount of potentially damaging free radicals produced by skin cells.
Exercise not only prevents wrinkles but can also reverse aging signs for those later in life. A study performed on mice and replicated on humans showed that participants who exercised regularly had visibly younger-looking skin. The dermis was markedly thicker, and the stratum corneum (the outer layer of the epidermis) was healthier. Scientists theorize that aerobic exercise promotes blood flow to the skin, which helps increase the rate of new cell growth and natural oils and moisture production. Exercising regularly will help the skin stay flexible and supple, thereby preventing wrinkle formation. Be wary of facial exercises, though – they can lead to expression lines.
You might be practicing a good skincare routine, but if you’re doing it wrong, you could be giving yourself wrinkles. A clean face allows your skin to breathe, rest, and regenerate. Remember that the goal is to cleanse your face, not wash it. Vigorous scrubbing should be avoided due to the stress it imposes on the facial tissue. Be sure to gently remove your makeup before washing your face with a simple cleansing wipe to avoid harsh scrubbing gestures. Apply your cleanser softly, in smooth circular motions, and always pat – not rub – it dry with a clean towel.
Not washing your face at the end of your day could eventually cause wrinkles. When you sleep in your makeup, the layers of dirt, grime, dust, and environmental pollutants seep into your pores. From there, they break down collagen and elastin, which can induce premature aging. By not washing your face regularly, you’re likely making your skin dull or lackluster in appearance, not to mention clogging your pores. Be sure to take off all that gunk by washing your face before heading to bed.
You’re sure to see heavy creams and serums lining the shelves from drugstores to department stores, promising the erasure of wrinkles. While some of these products might actually deliver a punch, the best course of action is to avoid them altogether by preventing wrinkles in the first place. It’s crucial to apply moisturizer every day to keep your skin hydrated both in and out. Without proper hydration, skin cells will dry out and make your complexion appear dull or more wrinkled. For the most advanced anti-aging moisturizer, look for creams and serums containing retinoid – a derivative of vitamin A that boosts collagen to reduce fine lines and increases cell turnover speed to even out discoloration.
If you’ve been looking for a top-notch moisturizer, look no further than Musely’s Skin Regeneration Set. As one of their best selling products, this line includes a daily cleanser, everyday moisturizer, which is full of retinol, collagen boosting, Vitamin C, and SPF, and a night cream that will protect and revitalize your skin as you sleep.
You might think your face is squeaky clean, but harsh products can actually strip the skin of its natural barrier oils and moisture that protect against wrinkles. Without the skin's natural oils, it can’t retain its hydration, causing it to dry out and allowing fine lines to creep in. Common ingredients listed in harsh skincare products include alcohol, fragrance, lanolin, and other astringent chemicals. It is ideal to use only natural, organic products when possible, and remember that less is always more. If you’re using gentle products and still experiencing skin sensitivities, it might be best to contact your doctor, as you could be allergic to the product's ingredients.
Try your best not to spend too much time in the sun
Eat a balanced diet
Use SPF 30 every day
Incorporate a skincare routine that works for your skin type
Drink plenty of water
Drink alcohol excessively
Spend an excessive amount of time in the sun
Scrub your face too hard
Bottom line - The better you treat yourself, the better your skin will look. We haven’t discovered the fountain of you yet, but there are things you can do each day to keep your skin looking fresh, plump, and brilliant. Your skin is the largest organ you have. Maybe it’s time to treat it with the respect it deserves. We hope this guide is everything you’ve been looking for and more!
Sarah covers mental health, parenting, and women's health-related issues at ReliefSeeker. As a mother of two wonderful kids with a long career in marketing & media, Sarah's perspective on access to world-class healthcare connects to both heart and mind.
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