updated 8 May 2012, 08:44
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Wed, Jan 04, 2012
The Star/Asia News Network
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Ageing gracefully
by Sandra Low

AS we grow older, the sebaceous glands in our skin produces less oil and this makes it harder to keep the skin moist. The result is dryness and itchiness.

Sebaceous glands are microscopic glands in the skin that secrete an oily or waxy matter, called sebum, that lubricates the skin and hair of mammals.

As men age, many enjoy being referred to as "distinguished". This privilege can be linked to the fact that men experience a minimal decrease in activity in their sebaceous glands, usually after they turn 80.In comparison, a woman's sebaceous glands start producing less oil after menopause, according to Medline Plus, a part of the National Institutes of Health (a service of the US National Library of Medicine).

So, women who enter the fifth decade of their life are besieged by menopausal symptoms, besides losing the lubrication they need for their skin to look its best.

For those who choose not to undergo invasive medical procedures to lift up saggy eyelids, erase pigmentation or inject away their wrinkles, the option is really to religiously observe a proper skincare routine and a healthy lifestyle to maintain their skin in the best possible condition, whatever their age.

Skin age and biological age are two different things, says Dr N. Sutina Nordin, a medical aesthetic practitioner and a certified cosmetic physician with her own practice in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Dr Sutina explains that our age depends on our genetic make-up, how we have been taking care of our skin, exposure to the sun, and environmental stress and lifestyle. "Some people may age faster than others of the same age, or may develop ageing signs later.

"Always use the right type of skincare for the right problem and read the ingredients in the product. Avoid falling for marketing hype, product packaging and smell. Basically, one should make informed decisions and sometimes the simplest solution may be the best."

The needs of older skin are different from that of younger skin, she adds. Usually by the age of 35, the skin is more dehydrated or drier, there is a reduction in collagen and elastin, but more keratosis (dead skin cells). So an older woman needs a different type of skincare from someone younger.

"An older woman should ensure that her skincare contains peptides which makes the product texture richer or creamier. Younger skin does not require much peptides as it contains lots of healthy collagen cells. Therefore, something that is too rich may clog up the skin."

Dr Sutina notes that the concerns of most of her patients above 50 include sagging skin, especially jowling; pigmentary disorders; dull, rough and uneven skin tone; deep dynamic lines (frown lines, crow's feet, lines on the forehead); deep nasolabial folds (smile lines); eye bags and under-eye lines; drooping brows and thinning of hair.

Pigmentation is a common phenomenon among women as they age, especially Asians and those living in tropical climates. What can they do then?

"Prevention is the key to it all, and then protection. Avoid the sun between 10am and 5pm, and oral contraceptives. Always use a sunblock, topical or oral, wear a hat and use an umbrella," she advises.

The same advice applies even if the pigments are already evident, but it's preferable to use a physical UVA and B blockers and to include super antioxidants, especially Vitamin C.

Dehydrated skin pigmentise more easily, so keep skin well nourished and hydrated. She recommends spring water sprays when it's hot, as well as including whitening agents to skincare such as kojic acid, arbutin, liquorice, peptides and lumixyl.

Dr Sutina says while prevention is important, there are several solutions for women who don't wish to go under the knife for problems such as age spots, fine lines, lines around the eyes, wrinkles on the forehead, droopy eyes and a saggy mouth.

"Some of the non-surgical approaches include prescription creams, iontophoresis (a technique using ionic transfer to deliver ionic substance like Vitamin C molecules into the deeper layer of skin), lasers, peeling, radio frequency, thermage, indermal injections, fillers, boto A injections (botolinium Toxin A injections to relax and reduce dynamic lines) and CO2 lasers (for skin resurfacing)," she explains.

Joselyn Lee, the education manager for Lancome, says the brand has a group of elite members who are in their 50s and above. These women are knowledgeable about their skin condition and issues, and know what they need to look good.

"However, most of them are also open to trying the latest technology that is able to give them healthier and younger looking skin."

Instead of buying a skincare product based on one's age, it is far better for skincare brands to recommend products according to customer's concerns and skin condition, she adds.

Lee explains that there are a number of prestige skincare brands that have an axis for specific age groups.

"For Lancome, we have the Absolue range which caters to all ages, but is also very suitable for older women who have concerns such as dryness, sagging skin, lack of radiance and hyper-pigmentation."

How about those women who have not been taking care of their skin since they were young and are only beginning to be concerned?

Well, late starters can take heart in what Lee has to say: "They just need to follow the correct basic skincare routine of using cleansers, treatment serums or essences, moisturisers and sun protection.

"Also, indulge in a weekly home treatment like exfoliation and a mask, as well as a monthly treat to the beauty spa. For older women, a facial massage, which improves circulation and absorption, is a good way to quickly improve the skin's condition."

What happens to the skin after 50 - Courtesy of Dr N. Sutina Nordin

> Accumulation of free radicals causing damage to collagen and reduction in elastin, resulting in reduced elasticity and sagging skin.

> External factors like cigarette smoke, exposure to the sun, and toxins ingested over the years cause skin inflammation and redness, swelling or irritation. This also leads to pigmentation and small skin growths.

> Loss of volume due to bone resorption, muscle shrinkage and fat shrinkage make the face look more gaunt and flattened, losing its three-dimensional appearance.

> Pores begin to appear due to the drop in collagen.

> Wrinkles and fine lines appear due to loss of hyaluronic acid content and drying out of skin.

> Lack of support and thinning of skin under the eyes causes the fat pad to bulge and eye bags to worsen.

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