Let’s face it (yeah, it’s a pun), the skin is a dynamic organ. It is continuously in a process of self-repair and replacement.
Normal skin can replace itself in 28 days, which means every month or so you have completely new skin. That’s how long it takes for a cell to be born in the deep stem cell layer of the skin, then be carried layer by new layer outwards until it reaches the outside layer of the skin. But let’s be clear: that is the process when you’re about 25 years old. Unfortunately, starting in your mid-20s, this process gradually slows, and that’s why older people look their age.
And when people enjoy the sun a little too much without proper skin protection in their younger years, this process accelerates, and wrinkles start at an earlier age. That is one of the reasons why any good dermatologist will urge you to start with Botox® in your mid-20s, and always – always – wear sunscreen, starting as early as the day you graduate from your potty training.
FACING THE FACTS: WHY OUR SKIN AGES
The reason for aging skin is twofold. There are intrinsic factors and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic factors (meaning “from within”) are genetic factors. You are coded this way, and there is not much you can do about it. But extrinsic factors (meaning “from the outside”) are another story. These factors include UVA damage due to sun exposure and tanning beds (called photoaging), gravity, alcohol, smoking, air pollutants, and so on.
No matter what, your skin slows its 28-day replacement cycle of cells from your mid-20s on, and it’s all downhill from there. More cells die or flake off than are made, and the skin begins to thin out (atrophy) gradually over the years. The cells responsible for elasticity (elastin) get older and worn out before being replaced, and the skin gradually loses elasticity and begins to sag (think of jowls and “turkey wattle”). Collagen fibres, which are the framework of the skin, also get older, harder and stretch a little, much like a worn-out elastic band. Between the old elastin and collagen fibres, another new condition emerges: the dreaded and ever-increasing wrinkles. Because the skin does not replace and auto-condition itself fast enough anymore, the pigment cells have a longer time to bloom, and blemishes start to manifest. This is called dyschromia. Other processes slow down too, like sebum production, and the skin becomes dry. What a mess.
SAVING FACE: THERE’S PLENTY WE CAN DO
Before you bury your face in your hands in despair, chin up: there is a great deal we can do to combat the effects of time and aging.
We all know that prevention is the best medicine. We have only one skin, and it is the largest organ of the body. It is essential for life, every bit as much as the brain, liver, heart and kidneys, so we need to appreciate its protective function and keep it in the best condition we can. Mindful cleansing, moisturizing, conditioning and protection against UVA should be the foundation of any good skincare program. Botox® is also excellent for wrinkle prevention – but that’s a topic that deserves a discussion of its own.
Mother Nature’s Cure
A welcome trend is to utilize more of what Mother Nature has on the menu for skin treatment and conditioning purposes, instead of what chemical compounds can be artificially concocted in a pharmaceutical lab. From various plants, we can extract active agents like azelaic acid, lactic acid, kojic acid, licorice root extract, resveratrol, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, vitamin C, and much more. It is interesting that many of these applications are not new, but a re-emergence from ancient uses by the Japanese, Romans, Greeks and civilizations before them. We simply have the means nowadays to scientifically prove that these agents work.
An absolute game changer in skincare is called Beauty Next®, a Canadian company that focusses on formulating the most responsible and safest applications with the least number of stabilizers, to minimize irritation or harm to the skin. This is of utmost importance to skincare specialists and aesthetic medicine providers, as skincare ingredients are our business, on behalf of our patients and clients.
Beauty Next® has introduced the natural agent hinokitiol, extracted from the oils of the western red cedar tree, which makes it a superpower ingredient with soothing, anti-irritant, antioxidant and brightening properties to address multifactorial skin redness and blemishes. Their line of physical sun blocks is truly innovative and tailored to address several specific medical conditions. (You can expect to see more of the new AlumierMD® line at the Ageless Living Cold Lake location.)
Non-invasive and minimally invasive procedures to prevent skin aging have also turned over a new leaf in the last decade or two, and refinements are continually made. New innovative technologies constantly emerge. Here, too, we are harnessing what Mother Nature offers us. Light, for instance, is a wonderful tool. With the use of various crystals, we can filter out very specific bandwidths of light to treat the redness of rosacea, discoloration from pigmented conditions such as melasma (also called the “mask of pregnancy”), dyschromia, sun spots and so on. This is called phototherapy by Intense Pulsed Light (IPL). We can also accelerate light in a small chamber with crystals and mirrors to create laser. Again, depending on the goal, we filter the light accordingly to create different bandwidths that enable us to remove cells, make absolute perfect cuts that heal virtually without scars, treat varicose veins, remove lesions with exceptional cosmetic outcomes, and so on.
The “Good” Fat
When thinking about skin aging, one tends to forget about subcutaneous fat support. Ever noticed how older people have hollowed temples and cheeks, wrinkled lips, and how their faces form a triangle that flips 180 degrees from when they were younger? Sadly, this has to do with gravity pulling the fat pads in the cheeks and temples down, in sinister symbiosis
with facial fat volume decreasing over the years – the pads literally melt away over time, and we appear increasingly gaunt or boney. It’s like the ultimate joke from Father Time, reserved for when we are weak and less resilient to fight back. In vehicular terms, your skin is now riding like a car without suspension and shock absorbers. Not smooth at all.
But don’t despair – thankfully, we have fillers. We can place fillers almost everywhere in the face or body (hands, for example) to re-volumize that area. In the face, it’s possible to regain much of the youthful facial features we had five to 15 years earlier. Besides Botox®, studies show that filler injections are the best anti-depression aesthetic treatment, because they make you look younger and more vibrant; less tired, run-down and “old.” Fillers are truly magic for physical and psychological well-being alike.
The New Messiah of Skin Treatments
It gets even better! The new “messiah” of perfection in skin treatments (as well as in body contouring) is radiofrequency. Year over year, this modality leaps in popularity worldwide, much like Botox® injections. This oscillation of micro-electrical waves creates pockets of energy that can be used in many creative ways. Radiofrequency can tighten and renew the skin, remove unwanted blemishes or lesions, and stimulate cells. In experienced hands, this modality yields truly remarkable results. When configured differently, radiofrequency can contour bodies by melting away pockets of excessive subdermal fat on the belly, thighs, love handles and more.
At the Ageless Living Clinic in Cold Lake AB, these treatments are performed by a highly qualified medical aesthetician, a dermatology nurse and a physician. The clinic also offers a wide variety of modalities besides radiofrequency, like IPL, Blu-U, laser and various customized chemical peels to achieve skin tightening, skin conditioning, fractional ablation, treatment of rosacea, and removal of wrinkles, blemishes, spider veins, warts, moles and other lesions in a cosmetically pleasing way. And don’t forget about Botox® and fillers!
The Ageless Living Clinic in Cold Lake is owned and run by a college-approved physician with a post-graduate diploma in dermatology, who dedicates all his clinic time to skin disorders. Clients and patients are encouraged to have a free consultation before treatment to assess the nature and degree of their skin condition professionally, so that mindful and appropriate treatment in a medically controlled environment can be advised.
By Dr Jakes Dekker, MD, Ageless Living Cold Lake
Dr. Jakes Dekker, MD, graduated in 1991 from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, as a General Physician. He completed a post-graduate diploma in anesthesia at the University of Pretoria before immigrating to Canada in 1998. In 2012, he received a certification in dermoscopy from Cardiff University, Wales, followed by a post-graduate diploma in dermatology in 2014, and has received special merits from Cardiff University for knowledge in light-emitting technologies. Dr. Dekker’s current work is mainly in dermatology and aesthetic medicine. He is a member of the International Association of Physicians in Aesthetic Medicine (IAPAM) and the Canadian Society of Phlebology, and is currently enrolled in a post-graduate fellowship, while also serving as examiner for the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examinations.