Two Basic Types of Aging – Intrinsic and Extrinsic Aging

October 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Skin Care

When, exactly, did it all start? Where did our carefree youth dis­appear to, the time when only the occasional blemish could ruin our day? It’s sneaky, I know, and even potentially distress­ing, but there’s no way around the fact that aging will happen to each and every one of us. We might not be able to completely dodge the effects of aging, but understanding how and why it happens can teach us a lot about slow­ing the process down.

There are two basic types of aging: intrinsic (or chronological) and extrinsic (or environ­mental). The first type, intrinsic aging, has to do with the inevitable passage of time and the conditions that arise because of it. In the 1960s, scientists discovered that the root cause of aging lay deep within our skin cells’ DNA, which is why it’s a good idea to glance at your parents to see what the future holds for you. Some of the conditions that come with intrinsic aging will happen no matter how well-intentioned you are. The good news—and anyone who is devoted to reading at least the occasional beauty magazine has certainly heard this before—is that there is plenty you can do to lessen their appearance. In fact, an entire industry is devoted to it!

The second type of aging is more sinister, if only because it falls within our control. Extrinsic aging is responsible for most of the harm that we view as aged skin, and it is brought on by external factors like smoking, pollution, sleep depriva­tion, poor nutrition, and of course the big one: exposure to the sun. Because this process is avoidable and usually self-inflicted, it is often referred to as premature aging. It’s also important to note that skin cancer occurs almost exclusively in prematurely aged skin.

Intrinsic Aging—Signs Include:

• Dry skin: As we age, the skin’s oil glands produce signif­icantly less oil, resulting in pronounced dehydration that makes wrinkles more apparent.

• Wrinkles: The natural loss of those little worker bees, collagen and elastin, is largely to blame for the appear­ance of wrinkles. Years of dynamic expressions, in the form of smiling, laughing, frowning, and squinting, also contribute to wrinkles.

• Large pores: They’re the bane of our existence, since they can make the complexion look rough and uneven. Some people are predisposed to enlarged pores (thanks, Mom!) while others are blessed with skin like glass. As we age, the loss of the skin’s underlying support system prompts the pores to become even larger.

• Redness: A cluster of fine red lines appear most frequently on the cheeks and nose, and they’re due to the prolifera­tion of tiny broken capillaries underneath the skin.

• Decreased healing capability: Starting in our thirties, the turnover rate of epidermal cells slows down remarkably, resulting in both a dulled complexion and a decreased ability to heal wounds.

Extrinsic Aging—Signs Include: In addition to the natural signs of aging, many people experience the following:

• Increased roughness: As free radicals, mainly from sun­light, destroy the skin’s collagen and elastin, the skin cells start to turn over in an irregular fashion resulting in scaly patches of rough skin.

• Spots everywhere: Constant exposure to the sun’s ultra­violet rays makes our skin pigment act abnormally, result­ing in spots throughout the face, upper chest, and hands—basically, anywhere the sun has shone on.

• Excessive wrinkling: Even more pronounced wrinkling, particularly on the cheeks, neck, and forehead, is usu­ally seen only in individuals who have been exposed to the sun.

• Sagging skin: Think of our elastin as rubber bands and the sun as a scissor. Now imagine that scissor (the sun) cutting the rubber band (elastin) into tiny pieces. How much bounce will those tiny rubber fragments now have? Not much, and that’s exactly what happens with environmental damage.

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