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The ABC’s Of Aging Gracefully

Gifts of time… The birthday present you didn’t ask for… Any way you put it, there are tell-tale signs that skin is aging. These include the development of wrinkles, discoloration, mottling or patchy skin, broken blood vessels (red spots), decreased radiance and loss of firmness. Below the surface, we also see loss of the deeper tissue (skin, fat and bone). To our eyes, it appears that everything’s moving down — the effect of gravity — or the dreaded word, “sagging”.

Why do these changes occur? A lot of the damage, both on the surface, as well as deeper within, comes from sun exposure. Free radical damage occurs throughout our body with age and from various exposures, including the sun and other toxins (pollution, cigarette smoking, and other damaging environmental elements). Free radicals are unstable molecules that form from these toxic exposures. When they develop, free radicals set in place a series of reactions that ultimately lead to the breakdown of healthy tissues. In the skin, they destroy the structure and accelerate premature aging, resulting in fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation – the changes that we see on the surface. They also accelerate the loss of the deeper tissues in the skin. Antioxidants help protect against free radicals by stabilizing them.

There are ways to slow these changes so that we age gracefully.

Protect your skin from the sun. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light speeds up the natural aging process of your skin, causing wrinkles and rough, blotchy skin. In fact, sun exposure is the No. 1 reason for signs of aging in the skin, including uneven pigmentation. Protect your skin — and prevent future wrinkles — by limiting the time you spend in the sun, never using tanning beds, and always wearing protective clothing and hats. Also, use sunscreen on exposed skin when outdoors, even in winter. Choose products with built-in sunscreen. When selecting skin care products, choose those with a built-in sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Also, be sure to select products that are broad spectrum, meaning they block both UVA and UVB rays.

Use moisturizers. Dry skin turns plump skin cells into shriveled ones, creating fine lines and wrinkles long before you’re due. Though moisturizers can’t prevent wrinkles, they can temporarily mask tiny lines and creases.

Don’t smoke. Smoking causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the outermost layers of your skin. It also damages collagen and elastin — fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity. As a result, skin begins to sag and wrinkle prematurely.

Eat a healthy and varied diet. There is some evidence that certain vitamins in your diet help protect your skin, particularly vitamins A, C, B3 and E, as well as Omega fatty acids. More study is needed on the role of nutrition.

photo by: e³°°°

Rehana Ahmed, MD, PhD

Rehana Ahmed, MD, PhD

Dr. Rehana Ahmed’s clinical expertise includes pediatric, general, surgical and cosmetic dermatology with special interests in skin cancer surgery/Mohs micrographic surgery, laser treatments and cosmetic procedures, including BOTOX®, Radiesse, Sculptra, Juvederm, Voluma, and CoolGlide laser hair removal.  Dr. Ahmed is available for appointments in our Minnetonka and Burnsville locations.

Dr. Ahmed attended the Johns Hopkins University and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in Behavioral Biology. She graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, Alpha Omega Alpha. She completed her internship in Internal Medicine and her residency in Dermatology at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Ahmed is certified by the American Board of Dermatology and is an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota, where she is active in research. Dr. Ahmed was born and raised in Minneapolis. She enjoys traveling, cooking and spending time with family and friends. She is married and is the proud mother of a sweet baby boy.