How to Prevent the First Signs of Premature Ageing

When we hear the phrase premature ageing, typically fine lines and wrinkles come to mind. But oftentimes, these creases aren’t the first indication of early skin damage. We’re taking an in-depth look at premature ageing: what causes it, the first signs to look for, and how to prevent it (whenever possible!). 

Young women taking a selfie who aren't showing the first signs of premature aging

What causes premature ageing?

With all of the hype and marketing surrounding the topic of facial ageing, it’s no wonder that many of us aren’t clear on exactly what we can do about it. After all, isn’t ageing inevitable?

The answer is yes — and no. This is because there are essentially two types of ageing:

  • Intrinsic (aka primary or chronological) ageing: the impact of time passing, which is affected by unalterable factors like genetics and gravity.
  • Extrinsic (aka secondary or premature) ageing: the result of our lifestyle choices and environment, including things like smoking and UV exposure.

Maybe you’ve taken one of those quizzes purporting to reveal your “true” age as opposed to your biological age — that’s evaluating your extrinsic vs. intrinsic ageing.

Here’s where it gets complicated: these intrinsic and extrinsic factors are interwoven in ways that scientists don’t yet understand. This explains why family members — even identical twins — age in different ways, and why people who make similar lifestyle choices can have completely different ways of ageing.

What are the signs of premature ageing?

Now that we’re on the same page definition-wise, we can delve into some of the major signs of secondary ageing, and how to address them.

#1 Dark spots (aka hyperpigmentation)

Sometimes called sunspots or liver spots, these dark areas occur when excess melanin (that’s the pigment responsible for skin colour) is produced by your skin cells. Hyperpigmentation is commonly caused by:

One of the best non-prescription ingredients to address dark marks is retinol, says dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper). She says that scientific studies have shown that retinol boosts cell turnover, essentially speeding up the shedding of dead cells (including those hyperpigmented ones). Find it in SLMD Skincare Retinol Serum, which effectively but gently supports the skin cycle overnight.

#2 Dullness

A lackluster complexion can have many underlying causes, but often results from the slowing of our skin cycle. Up until our 30s or so, new skin cells form and are pushed to the surface about every 28 days on average. That duration can double as we move into our 50s, and even quadruple as we hit our 70s. This is where two of Dr. Lee’s favourite ingredients — salicylic acid and retinol — come in.

#3 Fine lines and wrinkles

Skin starts to crease for a variety of reasons: repetitive motion, gravity, and structural breakdown, to name a few. So it makes sense that sleeping upside down and never smiling are the best ways to avoid fine lines and wrinkles — just kidding ;-)

According to Dr. Lee, consistently using skin care that promotes balance and supports collagen and elastin production will help your skin stay more youthful looking, longer. Here are a few of her favourite ingredients for the job:

  • Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that promotes collagen production and protects against free radical damage, says Dr. Lee. Find it in SLMD Skincare Facial Moisturizer.
  • Retinol has been shown to boost collagen and elastin production to help support skin’s structure, according to Dr. Lee. Try it in SLMD Skincare Retinol Serum.
  • Hyaluronic acid draws water into the skin, imparting a more plump appearance and lending a more youthful glow. SLMD Skincare Skin Drink contains hyaluronic acid and squalane, to hydrate and moisturise at the same time.

Skin Drink Squalane and Hylaluronic Acid Serum and Salicylic Acid Cleanser by SLMD Skincare

Dr. Lee’s top tips for preventing premature ageing

Incorporating effective skincare into your routine is one of the best ways to ward off the signs of ageing, says Dr. Lee. But here are a few more suggestions from the dermatologist:

  • Always use sunscreen! This is Dr. Lee’s number one rule. After cleansing, treating, and moisturising, layer on a non-occlusive SPF.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses. This is one of the best ways to avoid developing crow’s feet, since squinting is a major culprit.
  • Choose a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and plenty of sleep help skin rejuvenate.
  • Don’t smoke/vape. Smoking causes wrinkles and damages skin — a double whammy.
  • Sleep on your back. Side/stomach sleeping causes wrinkles to form on the face and chest over time.

Dr. Lee’s last word

Patients are always asking me about what they can do to prevent ageing. I think it’s important to be realistic — to age “gratefully” — but there are measures we can take to keep our skin looking youthful for as long as possible. A consistent skincare routine that incorporates sunscreen and retinol is extremely beneficial. And for those patients who want to take things a step further, we can always add in some Botox and hyaluronic acid fillers.

—Dr. Sandra Lee


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