Want to know the secret to slowing down the aging process? Don’t we all?! I thought so – that’s why I sat down with my friend Navid Malakouti (who just so happens to be a dermatology resident) and asked him to let us all in on the secrets to staying young. Now, he’s not officially a dermatologist yet, but I’ll take advice from a resident any day. FILL ME IN.
I want to preface this by saying that the info I’m sharing in this post is provided strictly for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for any specific medical condition. Any information gathered here should not replace any recommendations provided to you by a physician or qualified health professional!
First, let’s review what ACTUALLY happens to your skin as you age…
the aging process…decoded.
Navid kindly broke down the different components of the aging process, and how they impact our skin. To understand how we can slow down the aging process, we really should understand what happens to begin with!
“First, fat is lost. The face has pockets of fat that when full give the appearance of a youthful face. The cheeks and temples are two areas of the face that lose fat with time.
Second, collagen and other important materials that make up the extracellular matrix are decreased. Collagen is a protein that exists underneath the top layers of skin (epidermis) and resides in the dermis. Its purpose is to provide a groundwork for blood vessels, nerves, and even some level of cushion for the epidermal cells. Elastin is another component of the extracellular matrix. As the name implies, it allows for the skin to be stretchy. When elastin is lost, the skin becomes saggy and loses its ability to “snap back” into place. Both of these components are decreased with age, leading to less cushiony, less resilient skin. Loss of cushion ultimately leads to wrinkles.
Third, the epidermis thins. The thickness of the epidermis ultimately depends on body location. The epidermis of the palms and back are far thicker than the eyelids, for example. Thinning epidermis with age leads to more delicate skin that is susceptible to trauma and less lively appearing.”
Soooo…that’s depressing. BUT, though there isn’t a way to completely stop this process (come on modern medicine – can’t we figure this one out?!), there are things we can do that can slow it down. Are you ready to hear this?!!
how can we slow down the aging process?
There are two MAJOR factors that influence how quickly you age, and two others that can help keep your skin as healthy as possible.
1. stay out of the sun. ya, I know. all the good things in life are bad for you.
In Navid’s words…
Ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, is a major contributor to aging skin. Simply avoiding excessive sun exposure, diligently using sunscreen, and avoiding any tanning activities can greatly reduce the rate at which one ages.
There was a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine which showed a striking image of a half aged face on the left side of long-haul drivers, the side of sun exposure while driving a truck or car. Check it out here. If that doesn’t keep us out of the sun, I don’t know what will. A small part of my soul just died – I love sunshine oh so much. Sigh.
2. don’t smoke. simple as that.
We all know smoking is terrible for many reasons – but it actually has a direct impact on skin as well. For one thing, every time you purse your lips to take a drag, you contract the muscles around your mouth. Contacting muscles = wrinkles. Also, another fun fact…
Additionally , less oxygen is delivered to all the skin cells in smokers, which leads to less efficient production of those all important components of the extracellular matrix.
OMG. Put down that cigg, flush the pack down the toilet. You’re pretty much starving your skin.
3. make sure key anti-aging ingredients are in your skin care routine.
With SO many products out there on the market, it’s hard to know where to even start. Here are a few ingredients to start rotating in ASAP.
Retinol & Retinal: “One of the best ingredients that are sold over the counter are in the class of retinoids (retinol and retinal). These are ingredients which are chemically similar to Vitamin A and help fight fine lines and wrinkles by promoting collagen growth. There are prescription strength retinoids (retinoic acids), which are more potent and are usually indicated for various skin conditions, like acne and psoriasis, but are frequently used off-label for skin rejuvenation.”
FYI – If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, be sure to talk with your doctor, as retinoids can be harmful to fetuses!
Vitamin C: I’m sure you’ve already read my post all about serums, but if not, add it to your list because it’s a good one! Vitamin C protects your skin from environmental pollutants, including exposure to the sun’s rays. It also boosts collagen production, making skin appear plumper while reducing signs of wrinkles and fine lines.
Hyaluronic Acid: “HA is a normal component of the extracellular matrix and can actually hold one-thousand times its weight in water molecules. Classically, HA has been the key filler ingredient in many of the injectable products, like Juvederm and Restylane. More recently, companies have been putting HA in topical formulations with the idea that application in the morning will lead to hydrated skin throughout the day.”
4. consider medical treatments with your dermatologist.
There are various procedures & treatments you can do, and they will all vary based on your individual skin care needs. Treatment of aging skin is unique and specific to each person. Here are a few common procedures/treatments –
Injectable fillers: help reduce appearance of fat & extracellular matrix that is lost over time.
Botox: paralyzes muscles using toxins from the botulinum bacteria, reducing appearance of wrinkles.
Collagen stimulation: there are various ways to do this, including lasers, chemical peels, and microneedling. All are built on the same principle, if you cause damage to your skin layer, the cells around it will try to repair it with new, healthy collagen.
Navid also mentioned that there has been one treatment that is gaining momentum – the “vampire facial”. I’m pretty sure Kim Kardashian does this regularly (didn’t they feature it on an episode of once?!). It’s microneedling, using Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). PRP is obtained from your own blood. A technician will draw blood, usually from your arm, into a tube. The tube is then spun in a centrifuge and separated into components based off weight (FANCY). The lighter, top half is your plasma and it contains important nutrients, proteins, hormones, amongst other things that, in theory, should stimulate growth of healthy cells. The plasma is squirted onto the face and the microneedling is performed over it. Sometimes the PRP has a red tinge from the blood, and the microneedling itself can cause bleeding, which is why it is affectionately called the “vampire facial.”
Okay, I feel like I need to do this facial?! The only drawback is that it is on the pricier side (~$1000 a treatment). And sometimes, several treatments are required to get optimal results (this obvi varies by person). BUT, something I should consider saving for…
I’d love to get your take on this post & whether or not you want to see more like this! Also, fill me in if you’ve done any of the treatments mentioned and/or have a favorite skin product you can’t live without. Drop me a comment below!
Navid Malakouti, M.D. is The Chief Resident in The Department of Dermatology at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. He treats patients of all skin types and ages. His personal interests include the diagnosis and management of skin cancers, dermatological surgery, and cosmetic dermatology.