Skin is an excellent record keeper. Every moment of exposure to daylight adds up like money in the bank. The problem is the payoff known as sun damage (also known as photodamage). As the top cause of premature signs of skin aging, sun damage shows on skin in the form of wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, and can lead to a repressed immune system and the potential for skin cancer.
Even if exposure is limited to brief outdoor lunches or a 20-minute walk, cumulative exposure is enough to cause the signs of skin aging. The first line of daily defense against sun damage is daily use of SPF. Even on cloudy or overcast days, UV light can strike skin and cause damage, so simply wearing sunscreen on sunny days isn’t enough.
Fortunately, more sophisticated sunscreen formulations with skin health benefits (think less chalky, less greasy) have made SPF a convenient addition to our morning routine.
Exfoliation – how much is too much?
Exfoliation delivers a tighter, firmer, smoother look and feel of skin. Because of this result, many fall into the trap of over-exfoliation: an over-zealous approach that can actually reduce skin’s vitality and make it more susceptible to damage from UV light.
Over-exfoliation triggers the inflammatory response, leading to a compromised lipid barrier that won’t function properly, a sensitised skin condition, and accelerated premature aging.
Tell-tale signs of over-exfoliated skin include:
- noticeable dehydration
- patchy areas of dryness
- skin tautness
- redness and itchiness
- increased sensitivity
- inflammatory acne and irritation
If you’re showing the signs of over-exfoliation, speak with a professional skin therapist, who will most likely prescribe a calming cleanser and toner, and a protective moisturizer to start the recovery process. Sun protection is a must: wear a sunscreen with physical UV blockers Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide that won’t irritate skin.
After skin recovery, begin exfoliating with a gentle exfoliant designed for daily use. If you desire a more intense level of exfoliation, look to non-abrasive exfoliants containing chemicals like Salicylic or Lactic Acid. Pair a more gentle regimen with professional exfoliation treatments from your professional skin therapist to enjoy smoother skin without the undesirable side effects.
Understanding AGEs, MMPs and other causes of skin aging
In recent years, scientists have come to understand the actual biochemical triggers that manifest skin aging, such as wrinkles, altered pigmentation, and loss of skin tone. These triggers are known as:
- Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), also known as free radicals.
- Matrix Metalloproteinases (or MMPs).
- Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs).
Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are dangerous oxygen molecules generated by UV rays and pollution. ROS attack and react with stable skin cell molecules, causing cross-linking of collagen and elastin (the cause of wrinkles) while lessening skin’s ability to repair itself.
Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs) are enzymes activated by UV exposure or inflammation. MMPs contribute to the breakdown of collagen while inhibiting new collagen formation.
The same glucose (sugar) that provides energy for our cells can also react with proteins, including the skin’s collagen. This reaction results in the formation of Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs), which can contribute to loss of elasticity, wrinkles, inﬂammation, inhibited skin cell growth and accelerated aging.
Because we understand these triggers, skin care professionals are better equipped to effectively treat, and control, the signs of skin aging.
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