Ever watched an old black-and-white movie? Notice how the actors looked so, er, mature compared to their similar-in-age counterpart from a modern movie?
And also check out French sex bomb Brigitte Bardot in her 60s heyday compared to a picture of her from the 90s – amazing what a difference a couple of decades can make.
This exercise is only to show how differently we can age. Our generation is a lot more youthful because we have the advantage of health knowledge, better nutrition, excellent skin care, as well as an attitude that values youth very highly.
How we age
Some of our less-healthy habits can counteract the good things we do. Chief among them is sun worship. As Bardot shows us, too much sun can leave our skin looking wrinkly, leathery and aged well before its time.
Unfortunately, living hard – smoking, drinking, regular late nights and stress are also not good for our skin (not to mention the rest of us!) This kind of skin ageing is called extrinsic ageing – ageing that is caused by external factors.
Intrinsic (our natural ageing) is thought to account for only about 20% of the ageing we see on our skins. So, essentially, how we age comes down to a large extent to how we choose to do it these days.
Young skins, generally, are smooth, even in tone and texture and feel firm and springy.
From our thirties, we may start seeing the first signs of ageing in the fine lines around the eyes, the skin starting to show uneven pigmentation and loss of radiance.
As we creep into our forties and beyond, wrinkles may become deeper and the texture starts a loss of volume, sagging and wrinkles.
While many factors, including our hormones, contribute to the ageing process, collagen plays a very important role. And luckily for us, this trajectory is not entirely unavoidable.
Collagen is the most abundant protein occurring naturally in our bodies. Think of it as the body’s ‘glue’ (colla means glue in Latin). It provides structure to the skin, ligaments, tendons and the body and, in the skin, it plays an important role in providing elasticity and firmness.
When we’re young, we have plenty of collagen – which explains why the skin of kids, teens and those in their early twenties bounces back from expressions such as frowning or laughter.
But from our mid to late twenties, we start producing less of this good stuff and the quality of our collagen also starts deteriorating.
This is why we start seeing those first lines, and as we age further, frown and laughter lines appear, which can turn into deeper wrinkles over time.
This is also why aesthetic doctors and skin professionals strive to preserve our existing collagen and to stimulate production of new collagen as part of their efforts to keep skin youthful.
Prevention, prevention, prevention
Dr Maureen Allem, founder and medical director at Skin Renewal, would like people to understand that the ‘magic wand’ of aesthetic medical treatments is prevention. Preventative measures yield better results on how your skin ages in the long run, and they make things more cost-effective.
How does this work?
Easy. If you make the choice to invest in skin-maintenance treatments – that means using good-quality skin care and having professional treatments such as facials, peels, etc., from a young age – you will maintain a fresh and glowing complexion, and your skin should not need intensive and costly interventions.
Someone who neglects their skin and spends a lot of time in the sun will find themselves with saggy skin, deep lines and wrinkles. Unfortunately, they will need an intensive treatment plan, which will repair some of the damage. However, it will be costly, and the results will probably never be the same as someone who has maintained their skin from an early age.
Having said that, as with any investment, it is never too late to start.
We explore the options in our next story.
To find out more about Skin Renewal and how we can help you increase your skin’s collagen content, visit www.skinrenewal.co.za. It’s one of the many ways we can help you enjoy firmer, more youthful-looking skin for longer.
Take the quick Beyond Beauty Survey and you could win a R2 000 Skin Renewal voucher to spend in our online store, with free delivery within South Africa. T&Cs apply.