Ageless Brown Skin: Photoaging -vs- Intrinsic Aging

When we think about the skin's aging process, it is important to realize that aging occurs in two distinct ways: photoaging and intrinsic aging. Photoaging is aging that is due to the effects of sunlight, whereas intrinsic aging occurs in the absence of sun exposure. Photoaging in brown skin occurs in those individuals with lighter brown skin of Latin, Asian or African descent. It also occurs in individuals who experience intense sun exposure of long duration. With photoaging, skin discolorations, uneven skin tone and areas of hyperpigmentation (skin darkening in spots or patches) are a prominent feature. Changes in the texture of the skin occur and it often becomes rough to the touch. Benign warty growths begin to develop on the face and neck. The skin appears dull and lifeless. These are just a few of the effects of sun-exposure.

In contrast, intrinsically aged skin is characteristically smooth, without prominent discolorations, but with prominent lines of expression. When you view it under the microscope, intrinsically aged skin is very thin. There is a loss of skin elasticity due to gravity that leads to sagging of the skin. This sagging is most apparent on dependant portions of the skin, especially the neck and jawline areas. The sagging of the fat pads in the cheeks towards the nasolabial folds is also a characteristic feature of aging in African Americans. Lines of expression become apparent in areas of repetitive muscle movements such as the forehead, the area between the eyebrows, around the mouth and around the eyes. A loss of the bone structure of the face adds to sagging skin. The face changes shape from oval to square. A loss of facial fat may result in a sunken appearance in the temple and cheek areas as the lips often become thinner.

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