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Know Your Skin: The Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Ageing

As we age, it’s inevitable that our skin will age too. However, the rate at which our skin ages can be determined by more than just the passage of time. There are other things that can speed up the development of fine lines, slackness and dark spots, whether you are 35 or 65, known as intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Here’s what you need to know…

What is Intrinsic Ageing?

Let’s start with the bad news. Intrinsic or chronological ageing happens because your body is genetically determined to age that way. In other words, it’s in your genes. It happens naturally and is mainly affected by things inside the body that you can’t see such as hormone levels and the makeup of your cells and proteins. For example, the rate at which your skin cells turnover will be different from the person sitting next to you on the bus and the rate at which this renewal process slows down as you age (which happens to us all) will also differ. The classic signs of intrinsic ageing? Thinning, slack skin, fine lines and dryness.

While intrinsic ageing is hard to stop or alter, it can be worsened by external factors or what is known as extrinsic ageing.

What is Extrinsic Ageing?

From the air you breathe to the food you eat, extrinsic ageing is the result of environmental factors and lifestyle choices that occur to the skin instead of within it. That means your skin could look ten years older than your genetic age due to poor skin maintenance such as skipping sunscreen or not drinking enough water; but extrinsic ageing is easier to prevent and repair.

The most common forms of extrinsic ageing are caused by unprotected UV exposure, free radical damage, smoking and a poor diet, which are all things that can be controlled and improved with a few lifestyle changes. The most common signs of extrinsic ageing include dark spots and discolouration, loss of skin volume and, of course, wrinkles. External factors can also exacerbate intrinsic ageing, such as UV exposure and consuming too much sugar, which can lead to an imbalance within the skin where harmful substances like free radicals and processes like glycation are more common, both of which have an effect on the production of collagen.

What Can You Do?

In terms of your genes, it’s hard to make any real changes, so you need to rely on fixing extrinsic ageing by making sure you are including key products in your daily skin care routine and are minimising your skin’s exposure to pollution and UV rays. By reducing extrinsic ageing, you can have a positive effect on intrinsic ageing that will result in you enjoying a more youthful and healthy complexion for longer.

First, make sure you are using an antioxidant serum as part of your morning routine. Something with a high concentration of Vitamins C and E is a great place to start, like the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic or Phloretin CF, which will protect your skin against free radicals found in the atmosphere.

Next, you need to make sure you apply sunscreen every morning before leaving the house. Look for SPF30 or higher and choose a texture that suits your skin type for the most comfortable application. Try the Heliocare 360° Mineral Tolerance Fluid SPF50 if you have sensitive skin, the Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Ultra-Sheer Daily Defense SPF30 if you have oily skin, or the SENSAI Silky Bronze Cellular Protective Cream for Face SPF30 if you have dry skin.

Finally, make some lifestyle changes to help support your skin’s regeneration processes. Try to cut down on alcohol, sugar and processed foods, drink more water, minimise the amount of stress in your life and stop smoking (if you do). This means your skin will have fewer obstacles to overcome as you age and have a better chance of looking younger for longer.

Image from iStockphoto   

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