Gravity does take its toll, but something else is at work here: Over time, the skin’s underlying structure breaks down, robbing our faces of their definition, youthful plumpness, and resilience. Skin also renews itself much more slowly than it once did. Thanks to all these factors (not to mention genetics, weight changes, and sun damage), skin starts to sag and hang (that’s where jowls come from). And some doctors say that once skin starts to slacken, pores often look larger, as if they’ve been stretched out of shape.
Skin that has lost its spring isn’t the result of just one cause. Several factors are likely responsible for making your once supple skin appear tired and droopy.
The most common cause of sagging skin is aging. As you age, your skin loses the collagen and elastin, your skin’s supportive connective tissue, that make it look soft, plump and youthful. In addition, facial muscles can weaken with age, which takes a toll too. Getting older means more exposure to the dreaded pull of gravity; which we know causes skin to sag a little further down with each passing day,
Sun exposure is another reason for skin losing its elasticity. The sun’s powerful rays damage skin cells which, over time, can increase the effects of aging. It’s a double-edged sword -- all that ultraviolet radiation you soaked up while getting the perfect tan was also breaking down your collagen and elastin, which can lead to saggy skin and wrinkles.
Last but not least, weight loss, especially the loss of large amounts of weight over a short period of time, can cause skin to sag. Those who undergo bariatric surgery often find themselves stuck with skin and tissue too stretched out to snap back. People who lose a lot of weight quickly with diet and exercise may be disappointed by the amount of skin that is left sagging after all their hard work and discipline.
Despite all of these skin-sabotaging factors, you are not necessarily stuck with skin that’s gone slack.
What You Can Do at Home
No easy fixes here. “Tightening sagging skin requires more intervention than any other problem,” says Ranella Hirsch, M.D., spokesperson for the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. A good moisturizer will plump skin temporarily, Dr. Hirsch says. But if the cream is too heavy, it will clog those oversize pores. The best at-home solution: what the beauty industry calls an “active” treatment, such as an over-the-counter vitamin A (known as retinol) cream, vitamin C serum, and alpha or beta hydroxy acids (AHAs or BHAs). These usually go on at night and help skin renew itself faster and look firmer.
As for pores, you can’t shrink them, but you can minimize their appearance, says Jeanine B. Downie, M.D. “Pores will look smaller if you keep your skin clean and protected from the sun”.
What a We Can Do
Not interested in a face-lift? That’s fine — there are noninvasive procedures worth investigating. Both infrared and laser treatments help stimulate the development of new collagen and “get heat deeply into the skin to help tighten fibrous bands,” explains Dr. Robert Weiss, vice president of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Ask your medical professional about radio-frequency skin tightening.
“Although we haven’t found the perfect device for dealing with sagging skin, the technology is getting better all the time,” Dr. Weiss says.
And while these treatments are pricey and you’ll need several sessions, the results are visible and impressive. To help improve the look of enlarged pores (and speed up skin’s renewal process) at a much lower cost, ask a about a prescription for Retin-A. “Whether you’re dealing with acne or wrinkles, it’s been proven to work on many levels,” says Dr. Hirsch.
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