Environmental Causes of Skin Aging

September 20, 2023

Graphic showing results of environmental causes of aging

The environment around us, including our climate, pollution, sun exposure, and lifestyle, all impact our skin. According to Dr. Jennifer Holman of the Center for Aesthetic and Laser Medicine in Tyler, Texas, “You can’t avoid every effect the environment has on your skin, but knowing the potentially adverse impact can help you better understand your skin health and plan to prevent environmental damage. One of the most common ways that elements in the environment negatively impact skin health is by accelerating signs of aging.” In this blog, Dr. Holman discusses some of the most common environmental causes of skin aging as well as the steps you can take to prevent damage and keep your skin looking and feeling great.

Causes of Skin Aging

While numerous factors can lead to skin aging, the factors will fall into one of two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic factors are usually not something we have much control over. This is the natural process of biological aging our body goes through, leading to slower skin cell turnover and collagen and elastin production. Extrinsic skin aging is the type of skin aging we have the most control over. These are the environmental factors we’ll discuss in this blog. According to Dr. Holman, “As we gain a better understanding of how intrinsic and extrinsic factors impact skin aging, we are able to help our patients create skincare routines and dermatologic treatment plans designed to protect their skin and prevent damage before it ever begins. The hope is that we can help people age more gracefully and look and feel their best at any age.”

Sun Damage

Sun damage is by far the most common cause of accelerated skin aging. According to Dr. Holman, “Not only does the sun’s UVA and UVB rays cause sunburns and sun tanning, but UV rays also lead to accelerated signs of aging and skin cancer. 90% of all changes to the skin’s appearance relate to damage from the sun. For this reason, it’s essential to protect skin from sun damage.”

Other Forms of Light Damage

While most people are aware that UV rays from sunlight are damaging to skin, it’s less known that other forms of light like infrared and blue light can also cause accelerated skin aging and damage. While exposure to infrared rays is still relatively low for most people, blue light damage has become a serious concern. Blue light is emitted by our smartphones, computers, and televisions. Increased exposure to this form of light has been linked to the way our skin ages.

Pollutant Damage

Pollutants in the air can also cause premature aging. Particulate matter found in the air, especially in urban areas, brings the skin in contact with a variety of harmful contaminants that damage complexion, break down healthy skin cells, and leave skin looking less supple. Dark spots and pronounced smile lines (nasolabial lines) are commonly attributed to pollutant damage. The higher the levels of air pollution, the more likely skin is to show noticeably accelerated skin aging.

Lifestyle Factors

In addition to these common environmental factors that can accelerate the skin aging process for anyone, there are numerous lifestyle factors that impact your environment and the way your skin ages. Specifically, smoking, consuming excessive quantities of alcohol, and having a poor diet can all lead to accelerated skin aging. Additionally, lack of sleep is often a contributor to skin aging. Our cells regenerate during sleep, so when we don’t get adequate sleep, our cells don’t heal and replenish properly. This leaves skin looking dull and less healthy. Finally, stress can lead to serious skin health issues, including accelerated aging. Stress causes the body to release cortisol. This is a hormone that causes inflammation, skin discoloration, and a range of other issues. Cortisol also blocks the production of collagen, which keeps skin looking smooth, full, and youthful.

How to Prevent Accelerated Skin Aging

Almost all forms of environmental damage occur due to oxidation. This is a damaging process that occurs when free radicals from the sun, pollution, or other sources of environmental damage break through the skin’s natural protective barrier and lead to cellular damage. Other forms of oxidative damage that you may be familiar with include rust and food rotting. Based on this comparison, you can probably gather that oxidation is not good for your skin. In fact, oxidative damage can lead to fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, uneven skin tone, irregular skin texture, and other skin health concerns related to biological aging. To prevent oxidative damage, it’s important to use antioxidant products during the day, and soothing products to heal skin in the evening. The Revision Skincare C+ Correcting Complex is the perfect antioxidant to add to your skincare routine.

A dedication to wearing sunscreen every day is essential to prevent environmental skin aging. Dr. Holman says, “Everyone should apply a good sunscreen that protects skin from UVA and UVB rays every day. Find a sun protection product that is broad-spectrum. This means it protects against both forms of UV rays. Today, there are also sunscreens that keep skin safe from infrared and blue light. The Colorscience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield Flex SPF 50 is an ideal option. It’s safe, gentle, and effective for all skin types, and it protects against UVA and UVB rays, infrared and blue light, and pollution.”

In addition to wearing sunscreen daily and using the right combination of skincare products, you should do your utmost to minimize exposure to any environmental factors that are potentially damaging your skin. You may also want to wear protective hats, gloves, long sleeves, and other clothing to keep skin safe from environmental damage. If you smoke, drink alcohol to excess, or engage in any of the other lifestyle factors that may lead to accelerated skin aging, you should change these habits to reduce their impact on the skin.

Want to Learn More?

If you’re interested in learning more about the causes of skin aging and how to prevent them, you should schedule an appointment with a trusted dermatologist to evaluate your skincare plan and ensure you are keeping your skin healthy, so you can age gracefully. At U.S. Dermatology Partners, our trusted dermatologists are here to help you keep your skin looking youthful. When you’re ready to get started, just take a moment to complete our online scheduling request form. Once we hear from you, we’ll be in touch to finalize the details of your visit.

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