An in-depth report on the treatment and prevention of skin wrinkles and blemishes.
Aging causes the skin to undergo changes:
- Cells divide more slowly and the inner layer of skin starts to thin. The thinning skin is prone to injuries and damage.
- The deeper layer of the skin, which provides the framework for the surface skin layers, loosens and unravels. Older skin sags and forms furrows.
- Oil-secreting glands shrink, leaving the skin without a protective layer of oil. The skin's ability to stay moisturized then decreases, becoming dry and scaly.
- Exposure to sunlight is the most important cause of prematurely aging skin (a process called photoaging) and skin cancers.
- Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight accounts for most of the symptoms of premature skin aging.
Sunlight, Ultraviolet Radiation, and Photoaging
Long-term repeated exposure to sunlight adds up. This is responsible for the problems of aging skin, including basal cell and squamous cell cancers.
Intense exposure to sunlight in early life is an important cause of melanoma, an aggressive type of skin cancer.
Processes Leading to Wrinkles. Wrinkles form in the following way:
- Sunlight damages collagen fibers. Collagen is the main protein that gives structure to the skin. Sunlight also damages elastin. This is another protein in the skin that helps it and the tissue below stay springy and strong.
- In response to sun-induced elastin damage, the body produces large amounts of enzymes called metalloproteinases.
- Some of these enzymes break down collagen. The result is an uneven formation of disorganized collagen fibers called
solar scars. Repetition of this abnormal skin rebuilding causes wrinkles.
- An important event in this process is the over-production of oxidants, also called free radicals. Excessive amounts of oxidants damage the body's cells. They can even alter the genetic material of cells. Oxidation may lead to wrinkling by activating the specific metalloproteinases that degrade connective tissue.
Other Factors Responsible for Wrinkles
In addition to sunlight, other factors can speed the formation of wrinkles.
Cigarette Smoke. Smoking produces free radicals in the body. These cause wrinkles and age-related skin problems to develop sooner. Free radicals also increase the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers. Studies suggest that smoking and resulting oxidation produce higher levels of metalloproteinases.
Air Pollution. Ozone is a common air pollutant. It may reduce the body's vitamin E level. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that protects cells against the effects of free radicals.
Three common types of blemishes are liver spots, purpura, and seborrheic keratoses.
Liver spots are also known as lentigos or sun-induced pigmented lesions. They are flat brown spots on the skin. Despite the name, these blemishes have nothing to do with the liver. Instead, they are common signs of aging. Liver spots are most noticeable on the hands and face. They often get larger and darker over time. Their number, sizes, and brownness are determined by skin type, sun exposure, and age. Liver spots are harmless, but they should be distinguished from lentigo maligna, which is an early sign of melanoma.
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Treatment. Liver spots do not require treatment, although some people are bothered by their appearance. Treatments may include the following:
Trichloroacetic acid (a chemical peel).