Your Skin and Aging

Written by: Katharine Ehresman

Who’s this old lady in the mirror??

We all know the songs, we’ve heard them over and over for years; Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days”, Toby Keith’s “As Good As I Once Was”, and Five for Fighting’s “ 100 Years” or of course Garth Brook’s “ Much Too Young (to feel this damn old)”. For those of us who are closer to the end than the beginning each of these songs brings back memories, mental movies of reckless abandon, youthful ideology and that feeling of being invincible. Part of what spurs that on is that image of ourselves, not just in the mirror but in how others react to us. If you are over 50 you know what I am talking about.

There were days when I walked into a room and heads turned, a gentleman would rush to open my door and I rarely, if ever waited in line. Those days are gone now. No longer do a feel a man’s lingering eye or does anyone go out of their way to assist me. I recognize it and to be honest, it is like a dagger to my heart. Not because I am vain or elitist, but because it is an ice-cold bucket of ice water on my youth. And, a reminder of how indestructible I felt and treated myself accordingly.

Oh, when we are young we hear our mother’s say “Don’t forget your sunscreen” and reminding you to get enough sleep, stay hydrated and for the ladies the mantra of our mother’s telling us to take our make-up off every night. Well, I don’t think I am alone when I say that rarely did I follow my mother’s admonitions. Normally, quite to the contrary. I was young, indestructible and just knew that her warning didn’t pertain to me. Damn, I wish I had paid attention and obeyed my mother!

These days the mirror is not my friend and every time I look in it I see the effects of those silver tanning blankets strategically placed to follow the tracking of the sun coupled with the bottle of baby oil with just a few drops of iodine in it to really help turn your skin dark. I also see all those thousands of nights I went to bed with my make-up on, eyelashes sticking together and an eerily macabre mask of eyeshadow, blush and lipstick leftover on my pillow. Yes, Mom was right, and my skin paid the price.

If you think about it, your skin is at the mercy of your every action or lack thereof and combine that with the natural forces of weather, gravity, and heredity and your skin is really something that should not be dismissed. If you think your knees, shoulders and lower back suffer from the wear and tear of life just imagine what your skin goes through. To understand these effects, you need to understand the anatomy of your skin.

You were taught in school about your skin’s epidermis and maybe even the deeper dermis and that your skin is an organ. Odd as it seems it is true; your skin is an integral part of your integumentary system designed to provide your body overall protection. Not to get too deep into anatomy, but just picture your skin made up of multiple layers containing cells and tissues which are held together by a fiber meshwork of collagen and elastin both of which are proteins designed to keep your skin firm and strong. In your youth you stretch it and it bounced right back. Just like when your Aunt Milly used to pinch your cheek and pull it, your skin blushed and smarted a little but perkily bounced right back. However, as you age, the fiber network weakens and loses its support structure. Think of that old rubber band that just breaks off when you stretch it. Yep, it’s pretty close to what happens.

As we age our skin becomes thinner, we lose the fat we once loathed, and it becomes rougher in texture. Our old friend gravity takes its toll by incessantly tugging on us and our now weakened skin cries uncle giving way to sagging droopy jowls and hollow eyes. Add to this our individual genetics which contributes behind the scenes and we have a recipe for disaster. Well, ok, maybe not disaster but certainly a confidence wrecking gut punch. By now you must be thinking, stop the world I want to get off! Let not your heart be troubled, there are things you can do to stop the steamroller effect of aging and even turn back the hands of time. We will get to that soon, but for now relax, drink your water, put on your sunscreen , take off your makeup and go take a nap!

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