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Fighting war on wrinkles

Thanks to breakthroughs in medicine and nutrition in recent years, we are living longer than ever before. But this increase in life expectancy also brings an increase in the number of diseases, injuries and impairments that affect older adults. With this in mind, we at the local Visiting Angels office in Salem have created this series of articles to keep our older population and their families informed and to offer some practical advice for meeting the challenges faced by seniors and those who care for them.

Wrinkles are a normal part of growing older. They happen because the skin loses its elasticity as we age, becoming drier and thinner. While they first begin to appear on the areas of the face where the skin naturally folds when we smile or frown, they are also more common on those parts of the body most exposed to ultraviolet light.

This is because UV light damages the connective fibers within the skin that allow it to bounce back during normal use. As these fibers deteriorate, the skin becomes weaker and loses its flexibility, and wrinkles appear.

People who spend a lot of time outside, working or playing in the sun, are more likely to notice wrinkles earlier in their lives. Protecting the skin from the sun helps. Long clothing helps to cover the arms and legs, and a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses will shade the face from direct sunlight. Using a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily can also protect the skin from damaging UV rays.

Activities such as sunbathing, playing outdoor sports and using tanning booths can expose the skin to UV light, while other environmental factors such as smoking or drinking alcohol can also lead to early wrinkles. Smoking causes accelerated aging by hindering the supply of blood getting to the skin, and the pollutants in cigarette smoke, including secondhand smoke, can further damage the skin. Alcohol dries the skin out, causing it to become dehydrated.

In addition to cutting down on drinking and smoking, and limiting exposure to UV light, drinking plenty of water help keep the skin healthy and hydrated, and a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables can also benefit the skin. However, processed sugars and refined carbohydrates accelerate the skin’s aging process.

Using a skin moisturizer regularly can help lock water into the skin and prevent the dryness that can lead to wrinkles. Washing the face also helps ward off fine lines and creases by removing the chemicals contained in makeup and other environmental pollutants.

Sweat can also hinder the skin’s ability to repair itself if it isn’t washed off regularly. Most experts recommend using a gentle cleanser to wash the face twice a day, but be careful, rubbing the skin too hard can also be damaging.

There are many techniques available to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, including some that must be performed by professionals. Botox, in which small amounts of the Botulinum toxin type A are injected into targeted muscles around the face, smooths out the skin by keeping those muscles from tightening. Injecting hyaluronic acid, fat or collagen into deeper wrinkles to fill them in is another technique for younger looking skin.

Chemical peels remove dead skin through a chemical solution and leave newer, smoother skin exposed. Dermabrasion removes the upper layers of skin with a rotating tool, also exposing the smoother skin underneath.

Yet another, more invasive technique, is a rhytidectomy, commonly known as a facelift. During a facelift, a surgeon removes skin and fat to tighten up the facial area. Studies indicate the beneficial effects of a facelift last for five years or longer, but bruising and swelling can remain for weeks following the surgery.

However, not all techniques used to fight wrinkles are so invasive. Coconut oil can be used to smooth out skin by filling in the gaps in the skin’s outer layers. It also helps the skin hold in moisture and helps keep it from getting dry.

Many skincare products contain beta carotene, which can help prevent the damaging effects of UV rays on the skin. However, beta carotene can also be taken as a supplement, and research suggests that 30 milligrams taken daily can not only help to prevent wrinkles, but can also repair them.

Antioxidants can also repair stress and damage to the skin. While these are contained in some sunscreens and wrinkle creams, including a diet rich in antioxidant foods such as blueberries, spinach and kidney beans will help keep the skin healthy and counter the environmental effects that lead to wrinkles.

Information provided by Visiting Angels, America’s choice in homecare. Visiting Angels non-medical homecare services allow people to continue enjoying the independence of their daily routines in familiar surroundings. To set up an appointment for a no-obligation in-home consultation, call 330-332-1203.

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