Aging is a process. It is inevitable and unidirectional. How quickly we manifest the appearances and signs of aging is determined by genetic factors that we have little or no control over and environmental factors that we can control to some extent.

Most of today’s research indicates that aging is due to gradually increasing damage to our DNA produced by oxidation reactions in the cells of our bodies. The damaged genetic material is less capable of maintaining the youthful integrity of cell structures and functions and we show this by the signs of aging. It is generally understood that the sun’s ultraviolet rays, poor diet, pollutants and mental stress hasten the signs of aging. A good diet which includes the prudent use of anti-oxidants, intelligent exercise (over-exercising increases the production of free radicals and oxidation), the avoidance of dietary and air pollutants and the mitigation of undue mental stress all contribute to a slowing of the aging process.

Normal Facial Aging

As we age, the collagen and elastic fibers (large proteins in our skin and other tissue) gradually lose their youthful integrity and this results in a relaxation of our skin as well as our deeper tissue. There is a cross linking of these proteins due to a process not unlike the tanning of leather. This contributes to the lines (rhytides) we see in the aging face. These lines are more prominent in fair skinned individuals because the sun’s rays produce more free radicals in skin unprotected by melanin (pigment that darkens skin) or sun screens, resulting in the cross-linking of collagen and elastin to produce lines in the skin.

There are two kinds of lines seen in the aging face. The first are the fine lines (and pigmentary changes) which are the result of long term exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. These changes in the skin are not seen in areas of the body that are never or rarely exposed to the sun. As our skin relaxes, these fine lines become deeper as the skin folds along these lines of weakness. As time goes by, the collagen and elastin fibers re-align themselves to become parallel with the lines, further accentuating these depressions in the skin.

The second category of facial lines are the lines of expression. Even in our twenties and early thirties, many of us develop horizontal lines at the corner of our eyes and foreheads as well as vertical lines between our eyebrows. These lines of facial expression can be seen even in more darkly pigmented skin. Once again however, the deterioration of the skin’s proteins by sun exposure and even diet, hasten the deepening of these lines. Needless to say, minimizing sun exposure by the use of sun screens and a diet that includes anti-oxidant will slow down the production and worsening of facial lines.

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