Unless you manage to achieve the same feat as celebrities such as Madonna – who turned 64 last month and has the smooth skin of someone less than half her age – sooner or later, your complexion is going to start showing signs of wear and tear.
No matter how religiously you apply sunscreen during the day and retinol at night, fine lines and wrinkles will eventually begin to appear.
You may find yourself spending longer in front of the mirror wondering what happened to that fresh-faced youngster, or paying more attention to ads for beauty products that promise to turn back the clock.
While most anti-ageing advertising is targeted at women, men aren’t immune to the desire to remain youthful, with 33-year-old pop star Joe Jonas recently admitting he uses cosmetic injectable Xeomin to reduce his frown lines, and partnering with the brand on a promotional campaign.
As aesthetic procedures become normalised by celebrities and social media influencers, you may feel even more pressure to have ‘perfect’, age-defying skin – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Why does skin change as we get older?
“A change that we all experience is reduced collagen and elastin levels – important building blocks of the skin – which leads to loss of skin support and structure,” explains psychodermatologist Dr Alia Ahmed, who is working with The Body Shop for the launch of their new Edelweiss range. “The skin becomes more likely to lose moisture easily and finds it hard to keep itself hydrated.”
The effect of sun damage from earlier in our lives begin to show as we get older too, she continues: “This usually presents as changes in pigmentation, but is also linked to development of fine lines and wrinkles due to DNA damage incurred on the skin by the sun.”
Another big culprit? Hormones, says Jennifer Kavanagh, senior therapist at Essentials Beauty and Skincare Clinic (essentials.ie) in Dublin – particularly for women.
“With menopause, the signs of aging are rapid and exaggerated by the skin not being able to regenerate quickly,” explains Ms Kavanagh. “When the hormone oestrogen is depleted, it wreaks havoc with the production of collagen, hyaluronic acid and ceramide, so in turn, the healing power of the skin is diminished drastically.”
Is it normal to worry about skin ageing?
There’s something of a double standard in how, on the one hand, advertising suggests ‘anti-ageing’ is the skincare holy grail, while society tells us that caring about our looks ‘too much’ makes us vain.
“It is completely normal, and extremely common to worry about skin ageing,” says Dr Ahmed. “There is no shame in wanting to feel good about your skin and more importantly, protect it as we get older.”
She uses the analogy of driving a car around for years – like the paintwork, your complexion won’t remain pristine forever: “Skin is a sign of your life journey, so although ‘wear and tear’ is normal, there is no vanity in wanting to maintain yourself.”
Ms Kavanagh agrees: “It is most definitely not a sign of vanity and is normal to worry or to be somewhat concerned about our skin ageing.”
She likens looking after your skin to brushing your teeth every day: “Our skin is our largest organ in our body and protects our functioning body all day every day – so yes, it deserves the best attention you can give it. By treating it alongside brushing your teeth, you can develop good habits for a lifetime of healthy glowing skin at any age.”
Self-care can bolster self-esteem
Once you’ve accepted that skin ageing – and worrying about it – is normal, one of the keys to feeling good about your own complexion is to avoid the ‘compare and despair’ mentality, whether in real life or online.
“When I discuss skin ageing with my clients, their negative feelings are often related to comments or comparisons,” Dr Ahmed says. “It is important to remember that skin is unique to each individual and cannot (and will not) be the same as someone else.”
In addition, you’ve got to remember that with the rise of cosmetic procedures, photoshopping and Instagram filters, you’re often not even comparing yourself with the real deal – even when famous folk claim they’ve not had any ‘work’ done.
Dr Ahmed says: “I also like to spend some time highlighting what is realistic to expect of your skin, and what is probably the product of an unrealistic comparison.”
While it’s sensible to recognise that ageing is inevitable, there’s nothing wrong with using skincare as a form of self-care and to help alleviate your worries.
Dr Ahmed continues: “Actively practising self-care is something I advocate. Learning about your own skin, understanding its texture, tone and needs is very important.”
No matter what stage you’re at in life, you can always take steps to protect your skin, she adds: “I always talk about prevention, for example effective use of sunscreen and protective clothing, antioxidants, smoking cessation and maintaining a balanced lifestyle.”
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Some may want to speak to an expert, such as an aesthetician or dermatologist. “By seeking expert advice from an experienced skincare therapist, who will listen and hear your anxieties and concerns, you will begin to invest in your future skin – a well-maintained resilient healthy skin,” says Ms Kavanagh.
“This helps to support and protect our psychological and physical wellbeing, leading to better self-confidence and higher self-esteem.”