Most people don’t associate their skin as being an organ. Well, not only is it an organ, it’s the largest organ we have and accounts for 8 pounds in weight and covers an average of 22 square feet. It’s composed of cells, nerves and glands that protect us. Skin starts out as soft, smooth and wrinkle free during infancy, but obviously it doesn’t stay that way over the course of a lifetime. People spend thousands of dollars trying to reverse or slow down the aging process, but understanding how the skin ages is important in determining what products or processes will work best for each individual.
The skin is composed of three layers – epidermis (protective outer layer), dermis (elastic and thick middle layer), and subcutaneous (base layer of fatty tissue). Within the layers are various blood vessels, hair follicles, nerve endings, muscles, and glands that perform many important functions.
During infancy and early childhood the epidermis is its thickest. During adolescence, the epidermis is still thick, but a surge in hormones stimulates a variety of glands that produce more sweat and oil. This can block hair follicles and cause acne. These glands settle down for most people when entering early adulthood. By this time, the epidermis has thinned slightly but skin should still appear soft and smooth.
As we travel through adulthood into middle age, skin loses the proteins collagen and elastin. Collagen protects the skin from fine lines and wrinkles, while elastin keeps skin from sagging. Glands also start to decline in number and output, leading to dry and broken skin. Age spots begin to appear because of sun exposure.
Genetics, environment and lifestyle all affect the skin aging timetable. It doesn’t happen overnight, but skin aging typically begins in our early 20s when collagen and elastin production start their slow decline. A proper skin care routine, diet, and avoidance of negative environmental and lifestyle factors can all play roles in keeping the skin soft and supple for a long time.
In fact, environmental and lifestyle factors such as sun exposure and smoking are the two biggest causes of premature aging. Sun exposure does all sorts of damage to the skin and will be discussed in a future post. Smoking depletes the body of vitamin C, which hampers collagen production. As a result, smokers develop wrinkles around the eyes and mouth well before middle age.
A proper skin care routine can delay the outward appearance of aging. Soy based moisturizers are a great choice because they are naturally full of antioxidants that stimulate collagen production.
Soy is naturally bountiful in other vitamins such as vitamin A and E. Vitamin A plays a pivotal role in cell renewal and has reparative effects on acne blemishes. Vitamin A is also one of a few vitamins that can be absorbed directly in the skin. Vitamin E protects skin cells from environmental elements that produce skin damage. It also reduces fine lines and wrinkles.