Generally, when we talk about ageing, images of old people with fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin along with thinning greyish hair will start to pop up in our mind. Obviously, this is normal for old people especially those aged 40 and above, in fact ageing skin may show signs in the 30’s. However, what if we see someone looking so old but their age does not even reach 18 yet? This can be a sign of premature ageing and people will certainly find doctors for help or explanation regarding this situation.
Premature ageing happens when the ageing signs occur earlier than standard. Much more precisely, premature ageing occurs when a person’s biological age is older than their chronological age. The prominent sign of premature ageing usually can be seen by changes of the skin. Such changes include sunspots, dry itchy skin, sagging skin, hair loss and sunken cheek. You are probably thinking what can cause this condition. Below are most of the reported and studied causes:
1- Health disorders. Defective genes are the main cause for certain disorders which cause someone to have premature ageing and possibly shorten life expectancy. Examples: Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome (progeria), Werner Syndrome, Down Syndrome
2- Smoke and alcohol. Smoking habits and excessive alcohol drinking may speed up the ageing process. These can lead to significant ageing due to damaged cells by the alcohol and substance in the cigarettes. Smoking also damages collagen and elastin fibre in the skin that usually make the skin young, plump and hydrated. Alcohol dehydrates the skin. A dehydrated skin that occurs for long will cause further damage to the skin and compromise the skin barrier. Damage to the skin barrier is the cause of irritated skin, dry itchy skin and ageing skins.
3- Daily lifestyle. Diet and exercise are not only meant for weight loss. A healthy, well balanced-diet can make a great difference for the body. Diet containing lots of sugar or refined carbohydrates have been found to cause premature ageing. This can be due to the oxidative stress from these types of food that causes bad changes to the cells in the body.
4- Environment. Frequent skin exposure to the sun can cause skin ageing due to the ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays can cause skin damage by reducing elasticity of the skin that leads to premature ageing. Prolonged stressful life and lack of sleep can further exacerbate this problem.
Indeed, premature ageing, especially the skin, can cause great distress to some people as it affects appearance and confidence. It is never too late to make changes to your life even though you may already have signs of premature skin ageing. A person practising a good lifestyle may not only have a healthy youthful skin, their body will also be much healthier in the long run.
Things you can do to reduce premature ageing:
- Protect your skin from the UV rays by wearing UV protection and sunscreen especially in the outdoors.
- Wear protective clothes such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, hats and sunglasses when you are out in the sun.
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol drinking.
- Practising a healthy diet by eating more vegetables and fruits. Try to eat less sugary food or drinks and processed food that is high in salt, fat and chemicals.
- Use gentle skincare to avoid skin irritation.
- Make sure your skin is hydrated by using moisturiser and keeping the body hydrated by drinking plenty of plain water.
- Learn to manage stress in life by practising mindfulness or get help from psychologists to get more insight on what can be done to improve your quality of life.