Is Sagging Skin Part of Our Destiny?

As we age, the cumulative effects of sun damage, weight fluctuations and genetics all may have a profound effect on the appearance of our skin. These changes effect the elasticity of our skin. Elastin fibers within our skin are similar to miniature rubber bands or coils contained within our connective tissue throughout our body. While collagen is an important part of the building blocks for our skin structure, elastin is also an important protein, produced by fibroblasts, that allows our skin to return to its original shape after stretching or contracting. Elastin also keeps skin smooth as it stretches to accommodate our daily activities, during flexion, extension and strenuous physical activities.

Posted on | Susan Evans, MD | Comments ()

As we age, the cumulative effects of sun damage, weight fluctuations and genetics all may have a profound effect on the appearance of our skin. These changes effect the elasticity of our skin. Elastin fibers within our skin are similar to miniature rubber bands or coils contained within our connective tissue throughout our body. While collagen is an important part of the building blocks for our skin structure, elastin is also an important protein, produced by fibroblasts, that allows our skin to return to its original shape after stretching or contracting. Elastin also keeps skin smooth as it stretches to accommodate our daily activities, during flexion, extension and strenuous physical activities.

Let’s begin with facial aging. The changes that we observe in the aging face are primarily the result of two components: extrinsic aging and loss of volume.

Extrinsic aging is primarily from sun damage and smoking, characterized by facial fine lines and wrinkles. Sun damage directly affects the DNA of our skin. UVA /UVB radiation alters the DNA of the skin, resulting in premature cellular death.

The loss of volume (either by rapid weight loss or advanced age) is demonstrated by a thinning of the underlying fatty layer and attenuation (stretching) of the supportive ligaments that attach the facial musculature. Clinically, the face will appear sunken and less full around the cheekbones, eyelid-cheek junction, along with hanging skin around the neck/jaw junction (jowl), along with increased laxity between the nose and corner of the mouth (marionette lines).

In addition to genetics, sagging skin around our torso and lower extremities is usually attributed to extreme weight fluctuations and diminished muscle mass. Excessive weight changes will break or weaken the supportive elastin fibers in our dermis, resulting in stretch marks. Once this occurs, the tensile strength within the dermis is lost and the skin cannot bounce back and restore its original shape. This is similar to when a rubber band is stretched beyond its limit and remains weakened. If the weight loss is accompanied with loss of muscle mass, there will be a concurrent loss of tone and your body will appear flaccid.

 

What are the best tips to prevent sagging skin?

1. Avoid sun damage. The #1 cause for premature aging is sun damage, almost 90%. Use sunblock when outdoors. Avoid sun exposure during peak hours (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Don’t smoke; smoking is the second most common cause of premature aging.

2. For your facial skin, incorporate a skincare regimen that includes exfoliation (salicylic and alpha hydroxy acids), hydration (hyaluronic acid), rejuvenation (retinol-based compounds) and nutrition (amino acids, vitamin C and E).

3. Lose weight slowly; do not exceed 1-2 pounds per week. While dieting, maintain your protein and nutritional needs (avoid starvation and dehydration). Preserve your muscle mass; incorporate strength training in your workout regimen.

4. Avoid fatty, processed foods that are high in sugars. Foods that have a high sugar content increase your circulating insulin levels. Elevated insulin leads to increased inflammation in your body. Elevated Inflammatory levels are linked to early cellular damage.

Ultimately, our skin will lose some of its tone as we age, but with simple preventative measures, we can age gracefully and preserve our youthful appearance for decades.

Blog written by Susan Evans, MD
Dr. Susan Evans is an internationally acclaimed, health and beauty expert one of Oprah's and Dr. Oz's healthy skin and beauty...