For thousands of years, humans have been searching for some kind of “Fountain of Youth”. The search began as a hunt for a real fountain, but the term has been used in the last century to refer to a product that can reverse the aging process and make people appear younger. Tight, healthy skin is a sought-after commodity within the aging population. With hundreds of advertisements, TV shows, and movies portraying actors with beautiful skin, it’s no wonder the public is seeking a similar look.
The natural process of getting old comes with many side effects that we may not anticipate. A major part of aging that is often overlooked is the emotional toll that a changing body can take on someone’s psyche. Skin becomes looser, and the body doesn’t quite perform as well as it used to. Feeling uncomfortable in one’s skin is normal during the aging process, but some individuals choose to be more proactive about fighting this process through the use of diet, exercise, and thousands of home remedies and products that promise to fight aging. Read on to learn more about what is happening to the body as it ages, how people are fighting it, and new therapies that seek to regenerate cells that have diminished over time.
What Happens During the Aging Process
Every fully-formed adult cell in the body has a specific job to do. Everything from blood cells to nerve cells to muscle cells has a purpose. What happens to these cells over time is that they begin to break down – they have a limited life span. All cells in the body go through this deterioration naturally, but there are some outside factors that will influence the speed at which this occurs. More on that later.
In the face, skin’s tightness and “youthful glow” is supported by cells such as collagen and elastin. Collagen is associated with connective tissue, so when it begins to break down it reduces the elasticity of skin as the surface layer becomes less connected to other similar tissues.
Elastin is a protein that is also associated with connective tissue. It allows the skin (and other cells throughout the body) to “bounce back” to its original position once it’s been stretched. Wrinkles form when elastin counts are lower, because the skin is less capable of returning to its former state.
Parts of the face where wrinkles are common are also parts of the face we use the most. Consider someone who smiles a lot – the skin around their mouth is more likely to develop wrinkles because it’s being held in the same position often.
The breakdown of structural and other cells is a natural process that is experienced by everyone who is fortunate enough to have a long life. But just because the process is natural, does not mean it is always welcomed with open arms. Many individuals, men and women alike, seek treatments that promise to “rejuvenate” skin, or combat this occurrence.
Popular Anti-Aging Treatments
Individuals who are uncomfortable with the way their aging skin looks have, quite literally, thousands of options for fighting it. Everywhere from beauty salons to drug stores offer creams, pills, and other products that make claims to even out skin and even remove wrinkles.
Anti-aging creams are some of the most popular ways to fight wrinkles, as they are widely available and relatively affordable. There are many ingredients that may be included which promise to smooth out skin. The most popular of these creams include:
- Retinoid Cream: retinol in the body is used to monitor cell growth. When used as a face cream, it is thought to stop wrinkles from forming by stimulating cells like elastin.
- Peptide Cream: peptides are able to call to collagen cells in the face and promote new growth. Using a peptide cream is often an attempt to stimulate collagen in the face or elsewhere.
- Collagen Cream: these creams work only on the surface of the skin. They function by keeping water in the skin so that it looks smoother and younger.
Finding a skin cream that works is often a process of trial-and-error. Oftentimes, individuals will use a product that is recommended by a friend or that they saw in a promising advertisement. It is important to remember that everyone’s body is different – so a product that works for one person may not work for everybody.
Though there is nothing wrong with using anti-aging creams, some individuals are looking for a more intense treatment that produces visible results in a short period of time. Many of these more invasive treatments are expensive, but the results are more noticeable than something like a cream. These treatments include:
- Chemical Peel: there are many types of chemical peels available to treat skin conditions. They work by killing and removing the top layer of skin so that the next layer can grow, and when it does grow back it is thought to be smoother and less spotty than before. Chemical peels are used not only to smooth out the appearance of wrinkles, but also to get rid of acne and problematic spots. In this way, it is used by people of all ages who are looking to improve their skin.
- Fillers: hyaluronic acid, or HA, is most often used via injection into wrinkles. HA is thought to stop the aging process by freezing muscles, while the filler itself reduces the appearance of wrinkles by “plumping” them up. Collagen fillers may also be used, though HA has gained more popularity in recent years.
- Collagen Therapy: collagen injections can be used to replace the damaged or minimally-functioning collagen in the skin that is contributing to wrinkles.
- Botox: a popular way to fight aging is through the use of botox fillers. The botulinum toxin is able to stop muscles from contracting in the area where it is injected. In this way, it stops the aging process from going any further because muscles can no longer contract in such a way that results in wrinkles.
- Laser Resurfacing: similar to chemical peels in the sense that it is removing the dead layers of skin to allow for new growth. A major difference between chemical peels and lasers is that lasers are extremely precise and often only used on the particular wrinkle or problem area, rather than the entire face all at once.
And many, many more. Some at-home treatments are often used as a budget-friendly way to help skin as well. Common household foods that are used to fight wrinkles include banana, honey, lemon, avocado, and coconut oil. Many food combinations exist that can be applied topically, but it is also important to be aware that eating certain foods can help the body fight wrinkles on its own.
Risks of Anti-aging Treatments
Any operation comes with a set of risks and potential complications to keep in mind when making a decision. Risks can be anything from a mild rash to a reaction that can put someone in the hospital.
Most face creams found on the shelves are safe to be used on the face – otherwise they wouldn’t be there – but there is always the risk of an allergic reaction. A rash can also form for some people. It’s best to do what is called a blot rest, which involves testing a small amount somewhere other than the face (many use the back of their hand or wrist) and waiting 48 hours to see if a reaction occurs.
The more invasive a procedure is, the more risk there is. One of the most common risks of anti-aging treatments comes from operations that are performed by unlicensed and uncertified practitioners. Make sure that the practitioner you are considering has the necessary qualifications to be performing whichever treatment.
You may have heard stories of “botched surgeries” or illness and infection that occurred due to bad medical practices. Be wary of procedures that advertise very low prices. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
A final risk to be aware of is that sometimes the treatment simply doesn’t work. With modern technology, we are able to read product reviews and ensure that what we are receiving is legitimate. But we can’t always predict certain reactions, as every body is different.
Aging Prevention from the Inside Out
We’ve discussed how to treat wrinkles that have already formed, but what about preventing them from forming at all? There are many ways to help skin become as healthy as it can be, which in turn slows the progression of wrinkles.
Let’s start with diet – a crucial aspect of getting, and maintaining, healthy skin. Antioxidants are necessary to eliminate free radicals in the body. Lucky for us, many fresh fruits and vegetables are densely packed with antioxidants:
- Olive Oil
- Green Tea
- Chili Peppers
- Dark Chocolate
Maintaining a healthy diet can be difficult, but it’s important to include fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible, especially if you hope to slow down aging. These are some popular examples of foods that many individuals already enjoy, but there are many, many more each with individual health benefits. Antioxidants are an important aspect of skin health, but other components like healthy fats, vitamins, omega-3s, and lycopene are other components that can result in healthy skin.
It may seem daunting to change up the way you grocery shop and cook, but there are many ways to make small adjustments. For example, using olive oil to cook instead of butter, adding fish to the menu, and substituting coffee or soda for tea (even if it is only one cup – no one is asking that you cut out coffee completely!) can result in dietary changes that will provide health benefits for years to come.
Oxidative stress is what occurs when the body is not able to fight free radicals faster than they are entering the body. This can not only result in generally poor health, but it is also associated with serious conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, some types of cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Some foods that contribute to this and should be limited in consumption include:
- Fried Food: food that has been deep fried can possess large amounts of free radicals that get released into the body.
- Processed Meat: processed meat can contain nitrates that cause wrinkles by increasing inflammation. This includes meat like sausage and bacon.
- White Bread: switching from white bread to whole grain bread can be beneficial in many ways, including that white bread can contribute to inflammation in the body that might lead to premature aging and development of wrinkles.
- White Sugar: sugary and processed foods work in the same way as white bread (which is processed by the body in almost the exact same way as sugar) in that it contributed to inflammation.
- Alcohol: alcohol causes dehydration, which can prematurely age skin.
A third way to prevent wrinkles from forming, and arguably the most important, involves some minor lifestyle changes. Certain behaviors can lead to further cell damage and cause more, deeper wrinkles. Some behaviors to avoid:
- Smoking: blood vessels narrow due to the contents of cigarettes, which results in less blood flow to the face and therefore less oxygen and nutrients in skin cells.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: an active lifestyle – or even a short workout several times per week – can contribute to a healthier life overall. Exercising helps blood flow throughout the body, which delivers the essential components for keeping skin healthy over time.
- Sun Exposure: UV rays are one of the biggest culprits of aging skin. UV rays damage the melanin meant to protect our skin, and can cause damage to many different components of the face. The good news is that it’s very easy to combat this by simply wearing sunscreen. Many moisturizers and anti-aging creams now contain sunscreen and are easy to find and affordable.
- Dehydration: long-term dehydration can lead to all kinds of problems in the body, because all cells need it to function properly. Staying hydrated throughout a busy day can be a challenge, but there are many reusable water bottles on the market. If the thought of drinking plain water is unappealing, you don’t need plain water to stay hydrated, either – drinks such as Gatorade and green tea can hydrate the body with a little flavor.
- Lack of Sleep: drinking highly caffeinated or sugary foods can lead to sleep disruptions. Other factors such as stress or uncomfortable bedding can lead to a lack of sleep. If you’re not getting enough, talk to a doctor about what adjustments you can make to combat this. Sleep is one of the most essential activities for healing and repairing cells. Without it, damaged cells are less likely to bounce back, leading to wrinkles and under-eye bags.
A generally healthy lifestyle can not only prevent wrinkles from forming, it can also result in a myriad of general benefits. Some changes are easier to make than others, so some individuals start with small adjustments and work their way up to a new lifestyle.
For those who are looking to manage wrinkles that have already formed, there is a new type of treatment that focuses on both prevention of wrinkles and improving the appearance of old ones.
How Regenerative Cells Can Fight the Aging Process
The emerging field of regenerative medicine is being used by thousands of Americans to ease chronic pain and treat many medical conditions. These treatments use a patient’s own regenerative cells to speed up the healing process.
Two of the major types of regenerative therapy are Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy and Stem Cell Therapy. Each has its own unique benefits, though the procedures are similar. Unlike other cosmetic injections, which often seek to plump wrinkles and stop more from forming, regenerative therapies seek to repair damaged cells – including collagen and elastin.
Platelets are a component of the blood that are used to repair damage by supporting cell growth. When an injury occurs, the body sends platelets to the area to heal it. Using these regenerative abilities in a layer of skin on the face can address the degeneration at a cellular level.
Stem cells are useful because they have the ability to “differentiate,” or become different types of cells. They are able to attach to a cell structure that has become old or damaged and use its information to imitate the structure. Doing so can stimulate the growth of many of the cells that keep skin looking fresh.
These regenerative facials are administered via injection during an outpatient procedure. The solution that is injected comes from the patient’s own cells. PRP is derived from the patient’s blood sample, and stem cells can come from bone marrow, fat, or blood.
The risks of stem cell and PRP facials are relatively low, considering that both treatments use the patient’s own cells. The risk of developing a reaction is significantly lower because of this. With all injections, there is a small risk of infection which can be mostly prevented with clean practices. Some patients experience soreness or pain at the injection site, which typically goes away in a matter of days.
Stimulating and increasing the amount of regenerative cells in the face can be a good way to stop the spread of wrinkles while making the skin feel and appear younger.
The aging process is inevitable, but there are some aspects of it that are under our control. Keeping a healthy diet and lifestyle are useful ways to age gracefully. Many individuals choose to undergo treatments that can be risky. It’s important to be well informed when deciding which treatment to use – there are some that pose much less of a risk than others.