Skin Care Excerpt: 'You: Being Beautiful'

When it comes to skin, most of us can spot the good kind a mile away. -That's because we can instantly identify all the characteristics of healthy and beautiful skin—it's well hydrated, tight and elastic, not overly oily, has clean pores, and all that. But -here's the big myth about skin—that you can stop your skin from aging. No matter what products you use or procedures you undergo, you -can't stop time from pulling, tugging, and tearing at your skin. What you can do, however, is slow it down considerably and encourage all of those things that make your skin appear and be healthier.

Skin aging can happen in the matrix between cells, within the dermis, or on the surface. -Here's how: In the matrix: Skin aging happens when your collagen becomes damaged and loses its tight weave, and your elastin loses its zing. The fibroblasts (and their DNA) that produce both collagen and elastin are prone to damage from UV radiation, and as they falter, that DNA, which makes collagen and elastin, makes less and/or defective collagen or elastin. Also, glycosaminoglycans (say that three times fast) are large sugarlike molecules that plump up a bit and fill the skin when they bind with water. As you get older, they become more like an old sponge and -don't suck up water as efficiently. The decrease in water content means that the skin becomes like a bad keynote speaker—dull and dry. And those old glycosaminoglycans can link up with proteins and cause yellowing (or browning) of your skin (that's called glycation, and though it happens to all of us, -it's especially visible in diabetics).

On the surface: Your skin secretes fat (the technical term is lipids). Fatty acids called ceramides help protect an outer layer of your skin called the stratum corneum, so that you have better skin hydration and are less susceptible to irritation. Think of these fatty acids as a coating on you, like the slimy coating fish have on them; they serve as an extra buffer layer between you and the outside world. Ceramide concentrations decrease with aging and with washing with fat emulsifiers like soap and alcohol—our mantra -isn't "use just water" if you touch people and dirty objects, but using just water helps save those ceramides to help you.

Thinner, duller, less vibrant is what you can expect from your skin as you age, but you can control how fast those changes occur in your skin.

In your 40s, your skin becomes thinner and more translucent so capillaries show through. And those capillaries increase in number as a response to years of inflammation from sun damage. Signs of photoaging—such as wrinkles, age spots, and uneven pigmentation—may show up, especially if your parents or you -weren't diligent about sun protection during childhood and in your 20s and 30s. Your skin will produce less oil naturally in your 40s, leading to increased dryness. Cell turnover also is slower, which can cause skin to appear dull.

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