The Truth About Ageing Skin: Plus The Skincare Products You Need
Dermatologist Katherine Armour talks ageing skin and better still – how to reverse it
Here’s the deal. We all grow up and as we do, our skin changes. It’s called ageing. It’s absolutely natural and 100 per cent okay, but if you want to get back some of your former glow and youthful, dewy freshness the brilliant truth is you can. Yes! You can put ageing skin on the back burner and for some time too.
To do that though you need to first understand a couple of things about ageing skin in general. We had some questions of our own and so we went to Dermatologist Dr Katherine Armour and asked her to break it down for us. And she did! Read and learn exactly how skin ages and why. And then, you can move onto the truly good stuff – how to reverse it.
Q: I’m 47 and I feel like I went to bed last night and woke up old! What the hell happened?
Firstly, at 47, you are not old! However, you are quite right; a lot of us do acutely notice the signs of skin ageing in our early to mid-40s. Skin quality deteriorates due to a complex interplay of a number of factors. These include intrinsic (chronologic aging), photo ageing (related to sun exposure), and our exposure to environmental factors such as smoking, pollution, and the effects of hormonal decline. I like to think about the skin and its supporting structures as a tablecloth (the skin) laid over a table (the supporting structures).
The tablecloth size stays fairly stable with time. However, the table unfortunately shrinks. The “table” is made up of many layers – muscle, the fatty layer under the skin, and bone. These all shrink with time. Even the supports, which keep the tablecloth nice and stiff, decline with age –the supporting structures within our dermis (collagen, elastin hyaluronic acid, glycoaminoglycans).
One thing we know is that as women, our oestrogen levels drop off in the premenopausal period. They drop off far more steeply post menopause. Oestrogen has an important role in women in controlling function of the fibroblasts in our dermis. Fibroblasts are the powerhouses, which produce our skin’s plumping and dermal supporting fibres such as collagen. If they get lazy, then the skin looses its plump appearance, and we look old! The skin looks sallow and fine wrinkles form.
The time at which we start to look old will be dependent on a number of factors. Sun exposure over our lifetime, our genes, a history of smoking, and bodyweight. Slim women often feel like their skin is sagging earlier due to loss of the subcutaneous fat pads (part of the “table”). A recent study which I was involved in has also shown that Australian women, on average age 15-20 years earlier than women in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom and Asia.
Q: How can I fight the inevitable in terms of skincare habits?
As a 43 year old, I strongly believe that we can fight “the inevitable” in terms of our skincare regime.
The pillars that I feel are crucial to do the best for our skin are:
• Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF15 every day. Non-negotiable. So simple, not exciting, but all-important.
• Cleanse your skin at least nightly (if you don’t want to cleanse in the morning, it’s not really a problem). It is important to use a gentle cleanser at the end of the day to remove make-up, sunscreen and environmental debris to avoid blocking pores. It is also crucial to remove pollutants that you may have encountered during the day. Environmental pollutants can contribute to skin ageing through activation of inflammatory pathways and enzymes that degrade our skin –plumping fibres.
• Use scientifically evidenced cosmeceutical ingredients, which protect and repair the skin’s essential elements. This can be either through the use of multiple products, or for me, preferably, by choosing clever products which contain a suite of clever multi-tasking ingredients.
Q: My girlfriends in their 20s and 30s are wondering whether it is too early to start fighting the clock? What do you suggest they do?
Protect what you’ve got. I know it’s an old adage….. but, prevention really is better than cure. To protect your skin from the sun and other environmental aggressors, and ward off the signs of skin ageing, I would focus on protection and repair. In this age group, I would make a broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen, DNA repair enzymes, and clever antioxidants part of your daily skincare regime. It does not have to be complicated. It is possible to do this with one skincare product in the morning and one at night.
Q: My grown-up girlfriends (50s, 60s and beyond) are concerned they may have left it too late. To that, you say … and you recommend …
It is never too late for your skin to benefit from scientifically evidenced cosmeceutical skincare. In Australia and New Zealand, our skin is bombarded by UV radiation on a daily basis. It is never too late to benefit from using cosmeceutical ingredients that will protect and repair, and well as transform the appearance of aged skin. We need to have realistic expectations about the timeline to see benefit from skincare. With elegant, scientifically valid skincare you will likely discern benefit after a month or so of usage. However, I’d expect 3-6 months to pass before striking results would be seen with any skincare.
My approach to treating my patients is always very individualised. In addition to clever skincare, some women in their 50s and 60s can significantly benefit from collagen -stimulating and skin-tightening procedures such as high-frequency ultrasound, and non-ablative fractionated laser and thermal-based therapies. Intradermal fillers can also be very beneficial to replace the volume loss seen from loss of our skin’s own collagen and elastin and other skin plumping fibres.
Q: What does your daily skincare routine look like?
I’m a little biased! Like many of your readers, I am a working Mum in my 40’s who wants to optimise the appearance of my skin and prevent ageing, but is short on time. So, I use the range that Associate Professor Greg Goodman and I have created to provide focused, scientifically-evidenced products that deliver all you need to protect, repair, moisturise and transform your skin with one product in the morning Complete Daily Armour, $240. and one product at night Complete Night Shield, $260. Our range is called Bespoke Skin Technology. We’ve formulated this after a combined 40 years of listening to women and what they want from their skincare. I tend to remove my make up at night with a micellar water, and cleanse with a gentle, non-foaming cleanser such as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser.
At weekends, or on days off, I love our Active Combat Zinc Stick, $65. It’s my favourite for running and surfing. This is an elegant zinc oxide based sun defence product that comes in five shades to provide buildable coverage with a really luminous glow. It’s perfect for the beach or weekend, when you need sun protection, and don’t to look too “done” in terms of make up. I use the “Biscuit” colour as my base. If I’m feeling particularly motivated I’ll use the “Light” shade to highlight, and “Rich” to contour. This is the only sun defence product that I’ve used that doesn’t move when you sweat or when you’re in the water. It’s light, so doesn’t block your pores.