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Aging Skin

According to the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) with aging, all skin cells begin to produce excess amounts of free radicals - unstable oxygen molecules - that, under ideal circumstances, are removed by naturally occurring antioxidants within the skin's cells.

Aging Process
In aging skin cells, antioxidants are in short supply. The free radicals generated are left unchecked and cause damage to cell membranes, proteins, and DNA. These free radicals eventually break down a protein substance in connective tissue (collagen) and release chemicals that cause inflammation in the skin. It is a combination of these cellular and molecular events that leads to skin aging and the formation of wrinkles,

As we get older, two components of our skin - collagen and elastin - degenerate, setting the stage for the appearance of wrinkles, creases, folds, and furrows. The breakdown of these components, accelerated by sun exposure and gravity, results in the sagging skin of old age.

Anti-aging Products
Considerable research has been done to understand the aging process, and studies now show that products containing bioactive ingredients - those that interact with living tissues or systems - can benefit sun-damaged, discolored, and aging skin, giving consumers new choices for restoring their overall appearance.

Drug or Cosmetic
Much confusion exists about the status of cosmetic products having medicinal or drug-like benefits. Although the Federal Drugs Administration (FDA) does not consider the term "cosmeceutical" to be a valid product class, it is used throughout the cosmetic industry to describe products that are marketed as cosmetics but that have drug-like effects.

For example, Tretinoin (retinoic acid), the biologically active form of vitamin A, is not prohibited from use in cosmetics. However, when it is used topically for treating mild to moderate acne, sun-damaged skin, and other skin conditions, it is recognized by the FDA as a drug. This is because it acts deep at the skin's cellular level by increasing collagen.

Professional Advice
Since it is often difficult for people to determine the validity of claims made about topical products and to decide among the overwhelming number of anti-aging procedures, how do people know what's right for them?

Well, a good place to start is with a dermatologist. Dermatologists are trained in the health, function and disease state of the skin, and people could save time, money and confusion by seeking the advice of a dermatologist rather than guessing what might work for them.

Buyer Beware
Anti-aging products that promise to diminish wrinkles and fine lines are found on many store shelves online and offline. However, dermatologists recommend that people consider only those procedures and products that have proven, over time, to be most effective at reversing the aging process. Most doctors agree that the leading product to prevent premature wrinkles and sun damage is sunscreen. A broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, can prevent the skin from looking older than it is.

It's important to realize that although certain products and procedures are effective, they are also limited by the skin's normal aging process. A product that has been deemed effective for erasing wrinkles doesn't necessarily erase wrinkles - there are lots of variables that determine its effectiveness.

For example, the active ingredient in a drug must be delivered to the skin at a therapeutic concentration and remain in the skin long enough to have an effect. Also, because the composition of a man's body differs from a woman's, products or procedures can have different effects. The facial area in men contains hair, for example, and their skin is thicker. This means the blood supply is greater - and so is the risk of bleeding - but it also could mean better healing.

For More Information: American Academy of Dermatology www.aad.org, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery www.aboutskinsurgery.com, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery www.surgery.com/public.

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