Radical Changes

A year and a half ago, I took the plunge and married my best friend. Since then, there have been some radical changes in both my life and my skin! Whether you are married or not, I guarantee that you have experienced a milestone marked by one of the few things that make my skin crawl, pictures. Our big day was wonderful, fabulous, oh-so-very cold (Indiana in the middle of January is quite comparable to the Arctic's frozen tundra! What was I thinking?!), and filled with pictures.  Lots and lots (and lots) of pictures. For the record, the magic of Photoshop is amazing! A little tweak here, a little softening there, and bam! My skin was absolutely flawless. But in reality, I do not walk around looking like that every day. (Or any day for that matter!) I scrutinize the lines around my mouth and between my eyes, the uneven markings of my skin tone, and the unsightly breakouts that occur like clockwork every month, and I wonder how in the world the woman found in those memorable pictures is the same woman staring back at me in the bathroom mirror.

And so begins the blame game. Curse you dreadful dermis! You are the source of my problems. If only I had known to care for you years earlier, you might have not turned your back on me. But alas, I mistreated you, even abused you, and so understandably, you are a little more stretched, quite a bit saggier, and not a smooth as I once remember. But there is good news! I have learned there is hope and not all is lost. While UV damage is irreversible, the signs of aging caused by sun damage, the environment, unhealthy habits and general lifestyle can not only be treated but also reduced. Here is a crash course in important-to-know dermis details and how to protect and revive the health of your skin:

The dermis, the live layer of connective tissues twenty-five times thicker than the epidermis, houses many important structures such as sebaceous (oil) glands, capillaries, sudoriferous (sweat) glands, nerves, additional receptors, and the arrector pili muscles. This portion of the skin is further subdivided into the papillary dermis and the reticular dermis. The papillary dermis connects the dermis to the epidermis, forming the epidermal-junction. Below this layer is the reticular dermis, considered to be the major layer responsible for the strength and elasticity of the skin. It is also crucial to the continued health of the integumentary system, as it supplies oxygen and nourishment to the first layer of skin via a network of blood and lymph vessels. Collagen, produced by fibroblasts, makes up 70% of the dermis, while elastin is only one-fifteenth of the amount of collagen. But make no mistake””elastin, or the lack thereof, can cause sagging, wrinkles, and major signs of aging. Case in point: stretch marks are caused by damaged elastin fibers. (Darn you, elastin! Can I get a witness?) Other beneficial substances such as hyaluronic acid can be found in the dermis as well. With so much happening in this second layer of skin, it is vitally important to protect it!

UV rays break down collagen and elastin. Furthermore, harmful UV rays generate free radicals (atoms or molecules with unpaired electrons), which in turn attack cell membranes. These free radicals cause a damaging oxidation reaction, weakening and destroying DNA. Antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C, and E both ingested and applied topically can ward against this detrimental chain-reaction process. However, the best method of protection is to stay out of the sun! Understandably, this is not always possible, so it is key to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.  Seeing as 80-85% of our aging is caused by harmful UV rays, we have great motivation to stay informed and protected during the hot summer months! Stay tuned for age-appropriate recommendations in my next blog, as I specifically discuss beneficial products, treatments, and healthy habits for your 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's and beyond. Until then, please send in your specific skin care questions. You can “Ask the Expert”

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This page was last updated: July 15, 2013

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