Well the short answer is, your skin starts to age at birth. In utero when surgery has been performed, amazingly when the baby is born it does not carry a scar.
This because in utero there are certain types of stem cells present that fabulously correct and heal imperfections. Even after the child is born she'll still have an extraordinary affinity to heal but not quite as powerful as before birth. Infants and young children heal remarkably well, and quickly too. Amazing how many scraped knees have healed with little or no trace of scars.
Young people's skin stays fit because everything is working at peak performance. They have active stem cells which are the coordinators of repair when damage happens. These cells are in pristine shape. The lack of damage to their DNA means the repair mechanisms are working precisely. Stem cells are properly communicating with peptides, growth factors, and cytokines, so any necessary changes are easily made. There is plenty of fat that plumps up the skin and cushions it against trauma. There is also plenty of collagen and elastin protein fibers to keep the skin strong and resilient. Last but definitely not least, children have plenty of energy. The mitochondria within their cells produces plenty of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the fuel that gives the body energy and increases metabolism. Metabolism consists of anabolism (the creating or building up of cells) and catabolism (the breaking down of damaged cells). Look at how much energy a three year old has in comparison to you. Your three year old granddaughter is running around in circles while you are asking yourself, "When can I take a nap?"
Over time, skin cells change due to the continuous assaults made on the skin These changes are caused by free radicals or oxidative damage from the environment. The damage to DNA mounts and accumulates. This is what we mean when we say the skin cell has aged. It no longer functions as well as it once did. The mutated cells can be cause for concern as they age. Accumulated damage means the cell cannot function the way it once did. These mutations are also a concern that can possibly lead to skin cancer.
When cell damage gets to a certain point the cell is supposed to self destruct, a process known as apoptosis. As we age, sometimes apoptosis doesn't happen. The non functioning cell just hangs around. These mutated cells, known as zombie cells, can affect surrounding cells, causing more free radical damage and disrupting neighboring cells in a domino like effect. You may have heard of autophagy. Autophagy literally means self (auto) eating (phagy). Autophagy stimulates ATP to energize the skin for a more efficient metabolism as well as encourages the removal of waste particles. There are ways to activate autophagy that stimulate apoptosis in a way that not only breaks down the old senescent cells but recycles important proteins as needed components in the manufacture of new cells. Autophagy can be stimulated in a few ways. The most documented method is calorie restriction. By reducing your caloric intake by 30% you are giving a boost to the process of autophagy. Some studies suggest that calorie restriction also increases lifespan by 30%, although this has only been proven in mice. More tolerable methods to boost autophagy are intermittent fasting, exercise, stress reduction, and strongly restricting sugar and alcohol consumption to limit insulin production.
When you are young and everything is going right, you may not think about DNA damage because all the repair factors are present and in high gear with optimal energy. As you examine the different decades of life you will see a slowdown in your skin's ability to repair itself. Being proactive helps counteract many of these changes.
IN YOUR TEENS
You may be annoyed by oily skin or breakouts at this time but, this is a time in your life when you are able to withstand many assaults on your skin. Teens often spend too much time out in the sun. The damage seems temporary, but beware the accumulation of DNA damage (especially from sun burns) may be imperceivable right now... but the future is coming.
The damage from the sun or sunburns can be so extensive that the effects will follow you throughout your life. The biggest anti-aging habit you can adopt at this time is the regular use of sunscreen. Sunscreens that are zinc oxide based are a good choice for you because zinc also has antibacterial effect on skin that might breakout easily. Still, sun avoidance is most important. Although many teens are either oblivious to this fact or they just don't care. My children didn't seem to worry about being in the sun when they were teens, even with an esthetician as their mother. By the time they were in their twenties they were anxious to hear any anti-aging strategies I could offer.
A great anti-aging tip for teens, especially those with breakout issues, is to limit your intake of sugar. Sugar has a double whammy. It ages your skin by causing cross linking of collagen fibers that makes for inflexible skin that eventually causes wrinkles, and it encourages increased bacteria which feed off the sugar. P-acne bacteria love increased sugar levels, causing more inflammation and a propensity for breaking out. So do yourself the short term and long term favor of lowering your sugar intake.
IN YOUR TWENTIES
Some of that DNA damage becomes noticeable in your twenties. Along with sunscreen, this is the time you should start boosting your antioxidant protection. Antioxidants help prevent and repair damage done by free radicals caused by sun, pollution and poor food choices. Studies show that when sunscreen is combined with vitamins C and E sun protection can be increased up to four times. Look for an antioxidant serum you can wear under your sunscreen. Apply during the day, because this is when you are exposed to the sun. It works at night, just not as well. You should be using a light, no sting formula of Vitamin C. Versions that are too acidic will increase inflammation, heating up your skin, which leads to increased reactions and inflamed blemishes. A great side benefit of Vitamin C is that it reduces blackhead formation and brightens pigmentation for a nice even color.
You may love that you are finally producing less oil as you enter your 20's, but don't skip your moisturizer. If you still have oily skin you can choose an oil free moisturizer. Moisturizers hold in water that is vital for keeping skin cells alive and healthy.
Just because you are in your twenties don't go hog wild by adding all the anti-aging formulas you can think of. In your twenties the metabolism part of cell regeneration is working just fine. Many anti-aging formulations are designed to boost metabolism and cell energy. This can be a problem for twenty somethings as it can supply too much stimulation leading to over active sebaceous glands and breakouts.
IN YOUR THIRTIES
In your thirties exfoliation is key. Your cell metabolism has slowed down a bit and that layer of dead cells can change the surface texture of your skin from bright and fresh to dull and tired. Dead cell buildup increases the tendency for blackheads and clogged pores can interfere with the penetration of that Vitamin C serum that does so much for your skin.
If you could only choose one exfoliant to remove dead cells I would choose an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) over a scrub any day. Scrubs are great and many clients use them religiously but alpha hydroxy acids penetrate deeper into the skin to remove old cells and clean out the pores while brightening the skin. AHAs are better for brightening and undoing sun damage than a scrub alone. They are also better at stimulating repair. Meaning cells with slightly slower metabolism need a jump start and AHAs can provide this for you.
You may want to increase the antioxidants you use. Skin in their thirties tends to show the signs of stress. This may be because they have the responsibilities of job, home and children. Try drinking antioxidant rich green tea daily or eat blueberries in the morning. Both contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that also calms inflammation. Inflammation caused free radicals speed up aging. You may want to add a calming serum with niacinamide. Niacinamide is a derivative of B3 whose main benefit is that it helps build cellular energy. This encourages repair while protecting skin from environmental stresses, such as sunlight, pollution, and toxins. Niacinamide may be helpful for inflammatory acne like papules and pustules. As it calms inflammation it lessens pigmentation and is also antibacterial.
Increased stress and slower metabolism along with environmental damage means little lines may start to appear. Crows feet and lines between your brows may become more apparent. Choosing to use a Vitamin C serum, AHAs and niacinamide along with fastidious use of sunscreen is your ticket to younger looking skin as you pass through this decade.
IN YOUR FORTIES
This is the time of life when you start to notice deeper lines on your face; especially crows feet, lines between your brows, and that nasolabial fold appearing from the corners of your nose down the sides of your mouth. These changes are mostly associated with a change in hormone levels. You may have hit perimenopause. As early as ten years before you actually go through menopause, estrogen fluctuates and declines. A drop in estrogen is like letting the air out of a mattress. The mattress becomes loose and starts to wrinkle.
The most important skin care step to adopt in your forties is the regular use of retinoids. This potent Vitamin A derivative is truly a miracle ingredient that works in two ways. First, understand that retinol (the non prescription version) is considered an exfoliant, but it is much more than an exfoliant and works differently from your alpha hydroxy acid. Alpha hydroxy acids are top down exfoliants. That means they work by dissolving the bonds that hold surface skin cells together. When they dissolve the bonds the dead cells fall off. Retinol is a bottom up exfoliant, it works by filtering down through the skin to the basil (basement) cell layer. There it jump starts production of newer cells in the epidermis. When the newer cells rise to the surface they are more organized and more efficient at boosting the barrier layer of the skin. Think of your epidermis like a brick wall. Forty year old skin, without retinol, have a wall where the bricks are disorganized and out of place. Some bricks have fallen out and the mortar has eroded. Retinol steps up the production and organizes these cells to create a fresher, more youthful surface. And that's not all, retinol sends a message down below the epidermis to the dermis. There, the retinol stimulates fibroblasts which in turn build collagen and the intercellular materials that plump and firm the dermis.
Just about everyone will benefit from using retinol once they reach forty, but not all retinol formulas are equal. The key here is to bypass the inflammation stages which leave skin vulnerable to outside agers and inflammation. If you're new to retinol start with a mild formula. If your skin has no problems with the milder version you should increase the levels of retinol in the serum you are using. Overuse of retinol leaves skin with an unnatural cellophane looking surface. Wrinkles may be less noticeable but your skin may wrinkle more easily down the road because it is thinner and more fragile. A good formula of retinol will smooth the skin's surface, make lines less apparent, firm the skin, even pigmentation and reduce blemishing, all without irritation.
Because the effects of gravity become more apparent in your forties it's a good time to introduce peptides into your skincare routine. What are peptides? Peptides are short chains of amino acids that act as building blocks for proteins such as collagen, elastin and keratin. These proteins are the foundations of your skin and are responsible for its texture, strength and resilience.
Peptides are particularly important as cell signaling molecules. If your skin is aging prematurely these architectural peptides signal your skin to boost its production of collagen and even hyaluronic acid, plumping up your skin and restoring a healthy skin barrier. The best known and studied for efficacy of these signaling peptides is Matrixyl (Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4). When you introduce Matrixyl onto the skin it tricks skin into thinking there’s been an injury or wound, and stimulates the collagen-boosting processes. A 2013 study found that you can double the levels of collagen in the skin using architectural peptides.
There are many other types of peptides useful for the skin. Here are a few examples:
Acetyl tetrapeptide-2 triggers reparative processes and cellular reactions usually seen in younger skin.
Caprooyl tetrapeptide-3 is an anti-gravity peptide which enhance the natural elements that maintain collagen and elastin fibers. When these fibers are correctly assembled they facilitate the union between the proteins and the extracellular matrix, firming the skin.
Palmitoyl Pentapeptide - creates a response in the dermis that stimulates collagen and elastin fibroblasts, developing fibronectin (FN) and glycosaminoglycans (GAG), according to research. Dipeptide-2 reduces water retention that accumulates in the eye area, having a relaxing effect to minimize movement and the formation of wrinkles. It's a bit like a watered down version of Botox.
Clients recently have been commenting that their dermatologist is now recommending they use peptide formulations for anti-aging. That's great, but we've been recommending them for decades.
IN YOUR FIFTIES
When you ask our mature clients which decade they observed the most changes to their skin regarding aging, the unequivocal answer would be in their fifties. Exactly when in their fifties usually boils down to what age they reached menopause. Those that reached menopause late in their fifties tend to enjoy younger looking skin longer. Estrogen is an important component for youthful looking skin. Here lies an argument for bioidentical hormone replacement which some of you are taking advantage of. Otherwise, as hormones drop you may become more sensitive. Estrogen is a natural anti inflammatory so without it you may all of a sudden be experiencing reactions, rashes and rosacea like symptoms. You might notice more pigmentation which was also suppressed by estrogen. Lactic Acid is a great AHA that is gentle, hydrating and brightens pigmentation.
As oil glands slow down your skin becomes drier and lines and wrinkles are more apparent. This is the age where your anti-aging arsenal should include the gold standard anti-aging formulas like sunscreen, Vitamin C and Retinol. But you should also reexamine your maintenance products because your cleanser, toner and moisturizer might not be emollient enough for the changes that have occurred in your skin.
IN YOUR SIXTIES AND ABOVE
It's time again to check those maintenance products to make sure they have sufficient emollients and barrier repair ingredients to protect your more fragile and drier skin. Proper sleep might be harder to obtain, so adopt new habits like keeping a regular sleep routine and avoiding extra technology at night which makes your body think its daytime (or awake time). Circulation tends to slow in your sixties. This is when self massage is vital. Spend that extra minute massaging your cleanser into your skin just to activate your circulation. All in all, energy (or the lack thereof) is the the biggest culprit right now. By the time you are sixty you are only producing about half the energy that you did at age thirty. Energy boosters are essential at this time. Powerful energy boosters are extremophiles. Plants that have learned to withstand harsh environmental conditions by activating energy can encourage your skin to do so as well. The other big problem at this age that you need to pay attention to is when cell to cell communication breaks down. Stem cells stay dormant because they are not getting the messages they need to get into action and step up repair and replace measures in the skin. The newest technology resides in exosomes. These are information packed liposome-like molecules that contain the right combination of growth factors, peptides and anti-inflammatory cytokines to jumpstart repair. When energy and information is restored your skin stays younger acting and younger looking as well.
So, as time marches on there are lots of things you can do to keep your skin functioning at its best. Establishing a skincare routine is probably the most important, with products and techniques based on your age and skin type. Consistent use of this routine is what will have the most positive impact on your skin.