Wrinkles, age spots, light hair: when we get older, you can tell by looking at us – whether we like it or not. But not everyone ages externally at the same rate. And it’s not just genes to blame.
Increasing wrinkles, Age spots and thinning hair cannot only be combated with creams and lotions. What many do not know: How quickly we age outwardly depends, in addition to our genes, to a large extent on how we behave, where we live and how we treat our environment.
Environmental influences responsible for changes in the skin
The numbers are clear for changes in the skin, the largest visible organ. 20 to 30 percent of skin changes are caused by genetic factors. The remaining 70 to 80 percent are caused by environmental influences, for example UV radiation and air pollution.
If you want to understand why changes in our appearance are so closely related to the environment and behavior, you have to take a close look at the cells of the human body. Aging never affects just one organ, it always ages the entire organism. External changes are therefore related to the entire aging process and can be an indication of the state of our body.
Biological stress causes damage
If we eat oily, drink alcohol, smoke or lie in the sun too long, we expose our bodies to biological stress. This leads to molecular damage in both young and old people, for example in the DNA. Such damage occurs thousands of times every minute. But while a young body monitors them well and repairs them quickly, an older body is less and less able to do so. Aging means that the body can cope with stress less and less. DNA mutations therefore accumulate in the body’s cells. This means that organs can fail more easily or tumors develop.
Such cell changes have two visible effects on the skin. On the one hand, there are changes in skin pigmentation. It becomes inhomogeneous and aging spots can appear. On the other hand, the skin’s elasticity decreases, so wrinkles appear. The difference between genetically determined and externally influenced skin aging can be seen with the naked eye. Each of us gets fine wrinkles as we age. However, if environmental influences are added, the wrinkles become much deeper. More collagen, a protein found in connective tissue, is then broken down.
Why do people age differently?
In addition to external effects on the skin, substances that we ingest through the mouth are a major driver of visible aging. A study by the University of South Denmark published in December 2017 in the journal “Epidemiology & Community Health” came to the conclusion that heavy alcohol consumption and Smoke external signs of physical aging.
For example, wrinkles on the ear lobes, the risk of so-called old arches around the pupils and yellowish-orange coating on the eyelids had increased significantly in the test subjects. The researchers had evaluated long-term data from 11,500 adults from the greater Copenhagen area.
Again and again it has been shown that people look old at different times despite similar environmental influences. The damaging effect of external factors also depends on the physical conditions. People have different genetic makeup. There are people who live to be well over a hundred years old even though they have smoked or consumed alcohol. These differences are often also visible. The chronological and biological clock can be decoupled. Looking young can be an indication that a person has remained biologically young.
Even if the dream of eternal youth cannot be fully fulfilled, there are factors that influence the speed and visibility of our aging. While we cannot change our genes, alcohol and tobacco consumption, eating habits, sun protection and air quality are in our hands. If you believe experts, nobody ages “without any reason”.