The one aspect of the esthetic industry that will never change is the fact that everyone’s skin ages. There will always be a need for the correction of the visible signs of aging and, although there are now numerous treatment options available, the first step in treating any skin concern is determining what is happening within the dermis and epidermis that is causing the symptoms. It is well known that ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are the No. 1 cause of visible aging, hence the popular term “sun damage.” By identifying the breakdown that occurs when the skin is exposed to the sun’s damaging rays and which ingredients can be used to limit or repair this breakdown, more deliberate treatment and product choices can be made.
Understanding sun-driven changes
External factors, such as sunlight, are responsible for many of the visible changes that take place in the skin. Although some minor alterations would occur regardless of a client’s amount of sun exposure, research indicates that up to 85% of visible aging is due to external factors.1 Client complaints regarding this damage are plentiful, and developing an understanding of how and when these changes take place will assist greatly in treatment. The following are among the most common presentations of cutaneous sun damage.
Deep wrinkling. This is not associated with the normal—or intrinsic—aging process; fine lines are normal, deep wrinkles are not. The sun’s UVA rays penetrate deeply into the dermis and cause the breakdown, disorganization and cross-linking of collagen. Cross-linking refers to what occurs when collagen fibers break down and fuse back together in a crisscross pattern. This process leads to reduced support and structure and, in the end, deep wrinkling. In addition, collagen and elastin breakdown is accelerated by an overproduction of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) enzymes. Important MMP include collagenase and elastase, which break down collagen and elastin, respectively. Studies have found that MMP are increased within minutes of UV exposure, making any time spent outdoors potentially destructive to the skin.2