The Science of Skin

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Dr. Howard Murad, M.D., FAAD

Beauty /

When it comes to fine lines and wrinkles, who is more to blame—mommy dearest, or Mother Nature? Murad research says it’s not always that simple. There are three distinct ways in which our skin ages: genetic, environmental and hormonal. And while a very lucky few seem immune to all three, most of us, at some point, will see the effects of at least one. Following is a brief explanation the different kinds of aging, how they affect your skin…and how Murad can help.

Genetic Skin Aging

As its name suggests, genetic skin aging is based on our genetic makeup—so if your mother and grandmother had beautiful skin throughout their lives, you’re one of the lucky few. For most of us, genetic aging is a continuous process that begins to reveal visible signs as early as our 20s. A network of essential proteins, including collagen and elastin, supports the skin to give it that youthful firmness. As we age, however, our skin’s production of these proteins begins to slow down. Skin gradually loses density, and fine lines begin to form.

Environmental Skin Aging

Remember the old phrase “healthy tan”? We now know that repeated exposure to the sun and other environmental stressors (like extreme weather and pollution) can take a serious toll on our skin. Also referred to as extrinsic or external skin aging, environmental aging accelerates the breakdown of collagen and elastin, which can lead to fine lines, freckles, blotches and more. In addition, sun exposure causes DNA damage that inhibits the skin’s ability to repair itself; over time, the water content of the epidermis decreases, and skin appears dry and brittle.

Hormonal Skin Aging

Estrogen has such a dramatic effect on the body, we often forget how much it does for our skin. This essential hormone keeps skin soft, supple and firm by encouraging collagen production. Along with its connective partner elastin, collagen makes up our skin’s structural support system. Together, they’re responsible for the skin’s youthful resiliency.

During the years leading up to menopause (late 30s to mid-40s) the body continues to produce skin-enhancing estrogen—but in increasingly limited quantities. Studies show that skin loses up to 30% of its collagen in the first five years after menopause. The skin can become more fragile and thin, with increased wrinkling, sagging and the possibility of facial hair and acne breakouts. 

Menopause begins when your ovaries start to make significantly less estrogen and progesterone, typically between the ages of 45 and 55. Since the face has a high concentration of estrogen receptors, menopause may be at its most visible there—in the form of deep creases, dull tone and crepe-like texture. 

Categories: Skin Care
About The Author
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Howard Murad, M.D., FAAD, a world renowned skincare expert and founder of the Inclusive Health movement. Click here for more articles by Dr. Murad.

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