In contrast to the taut, supple appearance your skin has when you're younger, aging skin thins out and loses its elasticity. You notice the signs when your skin starts to sag in areas such as your face, neck and breasts. Just a few small changes in your lifestyle -- and a little help from cosmetics and technology -- can help to preserve your skin's elasticity.
Your skin consists mainly of two proteins -- collagen and elastin. Collagen gives skin its structure, and elastin allows your skin to stretch. As you age, your body produces less of these proteins, and they begin to break down, which reduces elasticity. Both external and intrinsic factors determine how your skin ages, says the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). While you can't do much about intrinsic causes such as your genetic makeup, you do have control over other factors that can cause your skin to sag.
Just a small amount of daily sun exposure without protection year after year can cause premature aging, according to the AAD. Sun-related aging or photoaging breaks down collagen and inhibits your body from producing new collagen, explains the AAD. When this happens, your skin loses its elasticity, develops wrinkles and starts to sag.
The Sins of Smoking
Smoking is linked to several skin problems, including yellow stains, lip lines and thinning skin. A study published in the journal Archives of Dermatology revealed that smoking causes more extreme skin aging. Whenever you light up, you're inhibiting collagen synthesis and increasing enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases that can degrade proteins such as collagen in your skin. The researchers found that these changes occurred even in skin that was protected from the sun.
Your skin needs about 10 to 15 percent water content to remain full and supple, according to the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. When your skin is dehydrated, it starts to thin out and is more at risk for wrinkles and sagging. Dehydration may be caused by not drinking enough water, exposure to harsh weather, drinking too many dehydrating drinks such as alcohol, or a disease.
Simple lifestyle changes you can make helps to keep your skin's elasticity as it ages. Practicing proper sun protection such as wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 and avoiding the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. will minimize skin damage. Drink more fluids -- including juices rich in vitamin C, which help to build collagen -- and use moisturizers to keep your skin hydrated.
Some skin creams with alpha-lipoic acid, co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and selenium can replace antioxidant compounds that are lost from the skin through sun exposure or smoking, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). If these options do not improve your skin's appearance, you may need to consider options such as radiofrequency or laser resurfacing.