We won’t talk about “old” skin or “aging” skin; let’s refer to skin in later years of one’s life as “mature,” like good wine. In later life, the epidermis is what changes most to the naked eye. This is the outer layer of the skin and the body’s first defense against illness and injury.
Signs of Defense
Believe it or not, a blister, cut, or peeling skin is a sign that the body is doing its job. When faced with an assault by the sun, fire, a hot pan, a sharp object, or germs, the skin is there to prevent this from getting further to the dermis and potentially the subcutaneous layer.
With the deeper layers protected, one’s immune system might not have to respond to toxins but they can get past the first layer if one experiences injury; stepping on a nail or being cut by a sharp plant while gardening, for example.
Qualities of the Outer Layer
The epidermis on a healthy young body is elastic. Pull on or pinch it and the skin turns red before returning to its natural state and color. It is like a piece of red rubber which turns white when pulled but is restored to smoothness and its red color when you let go of the rubber. Skin tends to lose this quality as it matures. There is less elastin to supply flexibility and the ability to go back to its normal state. It is no longer as firm and plump either. Numbers of these cells diminish a little at a time.
Cells which allow skin to retain moisture also diminish. As we age, skin dries out, becomes flaky, and in very old people it can even pull away in one large sheet without much force.
Mature Skin and Cells
All the body’s systems and structures start to experience a period of decline in later life. This can be slowed down but not prevented as cells start to die away or their functionality decreases. Skin cells like elastin begin to disappear, but one can prevent the speed of these decline in a number of ways. Adopting poor choices will have the reverse effect which is why some individuals appear very old when they are only in their 30s.
Smoking, heavy drinking, and drug use kill healthy cells. With care and attention, these will be encouraged to come back, but some damage cannot be undone easily or not at all if one has led an unhealthy lifestyle for too long. Spending too much time in the sun causes sun spots and wrinkles. Bad skin is sometimes the result of eating fatty food and not drinking enough water. While enjoying life to the fullest is good for the body and mind on balance, moderation is a good idea and so is protection. Always wear a hat in the sun and a highly-rated SPF sunscreen. Cover up against the sun; don’t go looking for a tan. A tan is the sign of damage.
Illness and the Mature Epidermis
One cannot help becoming sick sometimes; it’s in our genes to be predisposed to acne, liver disease, or psoriasis. These will place a lot of strain on skin which tends to show up more in later years. Much of what our skin goes through in the teenage years can be hidden until our fifties and sixties when blotchiness and scarring stick out more. You recover more slowly from injury too.
Restore the Skin
Exfoliation encourages skin cells to raise the alarm and march to the spot of an “attack” in order to replicate. It will also cause an instant, short-lived period where skin seems to glow more than usual and appears plump, no longer sunken as skin will appear as we age.
There is nothing wrong with using an anti-aging cream although the active ingredients are unlikely to do any good; they can’t break through the outer layer of skin. Supplements such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E can help to restore skin at a nutritional level. Also, one might consider undergoing mild levels of treatment such as special masks for the face, steam, facial peels, laser treatment, or certain injections which encourage skin to look and feel younger. Plastic surgery is an extreme approach which places strain on other systems of a mature body such as the immune system. Recovery takes longer as we get older.