5 Things That Happen to Our Skin As We Age

antiaging skin care products to reduce wrinkles and fine lines

Just when we start feeling comfortable in our own skin, it starts to change.

If you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it’s going to happen anyhow.

-- Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

Aging is a positive thing, especially compared to the alternative. A cliché, I know, but true.  We gain more wisdom and experience and a better perspective, plus a more interesting face. Our wrinkles tell the story of our lives. They are our badges of honor.

Normal. Expected. Unavoidable.

But it can be unsettling when the face that has been looking back at you in the mirror for 40+ years is now different.

With the idea that knowledge is power, let’s talk about what actually happens to your skin with the passing years. Some things we have the ability to affect and others we really don’t. Just like life in general.

It’s actually pretty cool.

When we’re in our twenties, our skin is smooth and plump. We may suffer from some acne or other skin condition, but overall our skin is resilient and we can weather a short term lack of sleep or poor diet without too much effect.

By the time, we’re 35 or so, we might notice that our skin is starting to change and might not bounce back from occasional insults quite as quickly.

By the time we’re in our late 40’s, 50’s, and beyond, we’re noticing big changes in tone, texture, and look of our skin.

Here are 5 Things That Happen to Our Skin as We Age

1. It takes longer to grow new skin.  

In dermatology, we call that cell loss and shrinking tissue.

When we are in our 20’s,  it takes 28 days for a new skin cell to reach the outer surface of the skin.  By the time we are in our 40’s and 50’s, that number jumps to 45 to 60 days. By age 60 and beyond, it can take up to 60 to 90 days for new skin cells to reach the surface.  

Think of these new skin cells as a skin renewal.  In your 20s, you were getting a refresh every month.  Now that you’re 60, you’re only getting a refresh quarterly.

Why? As we age our telomere length shortens.  Telomeres are the protective caps on our chromosomes. They naturally shorten with each cell division, and over time that causes our skin cells to turn over more slowly.

What you can do:

Gently exfoliate and use retinol or retinoid products to help encourage faster cell turnover.  This is normal aging (just the way the cookie crumbles).

  • 2.  Your skin’s just not what it used to be.
  • AKA, your mitochondrial DNA mutates.

    Just like those blueberries ripening in your fridge, our skin deteriorates over time.  

    Why?  Because our cells’ mitochondria (the energy productuction plants) is oxidative, which causes damage to our mitochondrial DNA over time.

    Fun fact:  Oxidative stress  = free radicals. Fighting oxidants is fighting free radicals, which is why antioxidants are so good for you.

    What you can do:  

    Fight free radicals by putting antioxidants both on your skin and in your body through your diet. Eat lots of green leafies, of course, and every color and type of vegetable and fruit you can get into yourself.

  • 3.  Your skin is tired.
  • As we get older, our skin cells get tired and influence their neighboring cells to get tired, too.  Remind you of anyone?

    Scientifically, this is called cellular senescence.  Senescence means aging.

    Senescent cells (your skin’s aging skin cells) stop dividing and become dormant. They are not cleaned up by the immune system because they are not dead.  But, they can damage cells and tissue around them by secreting inflammatory substances. Senescent cells can reduce the skin’s ability to withstand wear and tear.

    What you can do:  

    Fight inflammation with herbs like reishi, gotu kola, and green tea. Protect the skin’s barrier with sunscreen and moisturizers.


  • 4.  Your skin has a hangover.

  • But in dermatology, we call it cross-linking of protein.

    How does this happen?  It comes from poor diet choices (think sugar and processed foods), too much sun, and free radicals.  These things damage protein and cause them to link to one another in an abnormal way.

    These lumpy proteins in our skin cause stiffness and inflexibility.  It also prevents the skin from absorbing nutrients and water, which leads to wrinkles, sagging, discoloration.

    The good news is that this is one area we have a lot of control over.

    What you can do:

    Limit your intake of sugar and processed foods.  Eat a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables -- especially the darkest, leafiest greens. Reduce sun exposure with daily sunscreen and protective clothing. Use skin care rich in antioxidants and adaptogenic herbs.

  • 5.  Your skin’s self-cleaning feature is clogged.

  • Call it extracellular and intracellular toxicity if you want to impress someone.

    Our cells do a lot of clean up work. Cellular garbage (from normal cellular processes) and toxins from outside the cells are cleansed by your body’s amazing detox system. Over time, this system slows down and all that gross stuff can build up.  It shows on your skin in the form of liver spots and yellow spots.

    What you can do:

    You can cut down on some of the toxins we are exposed to but not all of them. Try to be aware of what you are using to clean, cook, and put on your skin.

    Spend time away from screens and blue light.  

    Go outdoors and breathe fresh air. Exercise is great for detox, and any form of exercise, especially walking, will do.

    Drink plenty of water and address any digestive issues. And be sure to load up on antioxidant-rich veggies and fruits in both your diet and skin care.

    To sum it all up...

    10% of skin aging is biological.  It’s a simple fact of life that we age.  Our bodies age. And our skin ages. We should celebrate it!  We’re here -- breathing, living, enjoying ourselves!

    The other 90% of aging skin is due to lifestyle and environmental factors.

    That’s why our lifestyle choices are more important than ever -- because through them, we have the ability to have some control over how we look and feel.  

    There are steps you can take to help your skin look and feel great while it undergoes the natural aging process.  Here are our suggestions:

    • Stay active
    • Spend time in nature
    • Eat a diet rich in antioxidants and colorful fruits and veggies
    • Get enough rest so your body has time to repair damage

    We also recommend wearing sunscreen every day and having a good skin care routine that protects, nourishes and restores your skin.  


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