No one likes to discuss the aging process, if it were up to most of us we would completely remove it from our vocabulary!

The fact of the matter is, over 50 percent of the US population is over the age of fifty and so is their skin. The positive side is that the skin care industry has uniquely morphed into an anti-aging mastermind; mixing, blending and creating jubilant concoctions of miracles in jars!

The down side is, we have yet to discover the fountain of youth; and bottom line, Mother Nature is far more powerful than any miracle in a jar and yes, the aging process goes on.

Both internal and external factors influence the aging process, and understanding them, can help you prevent and improve them.

The Basic Components

There are three primary layers; the epidermis, dermis and sub-cutaneous layer; each layer distinct in shape, components and function. These layers work collectively to repair, protect and maintain the integrity of the skin as a whole.

The epidermis is a miraculous self-renewing entity that continuously renews itself by a process known as differentiation. In this process a single epidermal basal cell progresses from the lower basal layer, moves upward and becomes a keratinocytes and ends in the outermost layer of the skin as a corneocyte. The completion of this process provides the skin with unyielding protection (as long as it is not damaged in some way), while simultaneously creating a network of fatty acids, lipids, triglycerides and protective pH.

While quite impressive, this epidermal layer would be impossible without the activity of the dermis below. The efforts to renew the outermost layer of the skin can only be accomplished with inner workings of the dermal layer, the efforts of fibroblast cells, collagen, elastin, blood vessels and capillaries. The dermis also contains a unique packing material known as glycosaminoglycans. Glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans are polysaccharides, long chains of amino sugars that are naturally produced within the body and lubricate, protect and even influence cellular activity.

A Natural Progression

Aging, or “maturing”, really is a natural process. If the fountain of youth actually existed, the skin care business would certainly never exist. Regardless of environmental influences, there are aging factors that we simply have no control over that are a result of our genetic makeup and make us who we are.

It takes an average cell about 28 days to complete its journey to the surface of the skin to be sloughed off, depending upon, age, health and environmental influences. This process begins to decline “naturally” in our late twenties. By the age of twenty five the production of collagen and elastin begins to decline, resulting in the slow decrease in firmness and elasticity as well as a decrease in cell turnover.

Key cellular components all play a role in the health, and reproduction of all cells within the body. Take a moment and I will take you back to high school biology...yikes! Do you recall the energy source of the cell? Yes, the mitochondria. The mitochondria are responsible for providing the cells with energy. Interestingly enough, as a by-product of that energy, mitochondria also produce free radicals.

When we are young our body uses these free radicals for numerous critical functions including the health and development of muscle, bones and the nervous system. As we age, our body loses its ability to rid itself of excess free radicals, the mitochondria slow down, skin cell turnover is depleted, and internal free radical damage begins.

In addition, fibroblast cells, which are responsible for the production of collagen and elastin, no longer produce collagen and elastin once an individual becomes fully developed.

Dermal Changes

As we often refer to the dermis as the “true” skin, it only makes sense that the aging process must begin here.

Collagen and elastin levels begin to deplete. Free radicals cause a cross linking and hardening of the fibers, resulting in a lack of firm cushion for the layers above.

Due to both internal and external factors, circulation slows and depletes the level of nourishment via blood flow, to the lower layers of the epidermis.

Hormonal changes also play a key role in the “maturity” rate of the skin. At various stages of life, puberty, pregnancy and menopause, the hormones fluctuate drastically within the body, but a key role in the skin maturing process occurs during menopause when estrogen levels decrease. Low levels of estrogen produce a decrease in the glycosaminoglycans that are found and produced in the dermal layer of the skin. The decrease in glycosaminoglycans results in a decrease in the lubrication, suppleness, thickness and healthy glow of the skin.

Epidermal Changes

When cell turnover declines a variety of physiological changes are also affected, and these changes directly influence the visible appearance of the skin. The decrease in the natural shedding of the skin results in a dull and uneven appearance and rough texture. This decline also results in naturally drier skin. The key lipids within the top layers of the skin are created from the breakdown of skin cells in the process of keratinization, hence when this process slows; the epidermis becomes drier, more sensitive and thinner.

A lack of cell renewal contributes to increased visibility in skin pigmentation, a change in skin tone and an unevenness of natural color.

What to Do With What You Know

You cannot place a definitive definition on “mature”. Every one of us varies in age, activity, health, heredity, product use and behaviors. What we can agree on is that “mature” skin is skin that has a decrease in cell proliferation, suppleness, moisture, firmness and elasticity. It appears dull and presents with a range of visible aging signs that include hyperpigmentation, lines, wrinkles and uneven texture.

By understanding what these changes are and what caused them, you can choose products, ingredients and treatments will improve them.

The objective is first, to keep the skin as youthful and healthy as long as you can. The sooner you begin to care for the skin, the better. Second, promote healthy cell renewal, hydrate, nourish and protect. The market is flooded with amazing technological advances. Do your due diligence; research products and ingredients, learn the facts, talk with your professional’s. You KNOW how the skin works, their job is to prove to you HOW their products promote that healthy skin aging process.

Bottom line, “aging” skin is not a disease; it's simply a by-product of life. It’s something to take seriously in considering the plan of attack in treating your skin. Establishing the perfect treatment plan includes proper consultation and analysis; attention to daily activity, medications, illness, lifestyle, product use and proper use. You don’t have to look your age; or any for your skin, and start NOW!

Michelle is a licensed esthetician, CIDESCO Diplomat and the owner of Aesthetic Science Institute. She has spent over twenty years in the skin care business as an international educator and consultant, author and speaker.