4th April 2022

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Skin Ageing

Last Modified: April 4, 2022

While there's no formally agreed-upon definition of skin ageing, the general consensus is that skin ageing encompasses both intrinsic and extrinsic ageing. As the body's protective barrier, the skin is constantly subject to chronologically and environmentally induced changes. These changes will influence how your skin ages in different ways. Let's look at the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic skin ageing, main causes and how you can tackle each.

What Is Intrinsic Skin Ageing?

Intrinsic or chronological ageing is the inevitable and natural ageing process that affects the skin in the same way pattern it affects all internal organs. Simply put, your skin ages the way it does because your body is genetically determined to age that way. For instance, if deep-set wrinkles or jowls run in the family, you may eventually notice the same on your own skin.

Intrinsic ageing is caused by factors inside the body such as hormone levels, the makeup of your skin's proteins (collagen, elastic etc.) and cellular turnover. This ageing process starts in our late twenties and thirties, but it might be decades before you see the effect outwardly.

Also, the rate at which intrinsic ageing occurs is never the same for everybody.

For example, cellular turnover (the rate at which the skin sheds dead skin cells and replaces them with younger cells) will differ from one person to the next. You probably heard that as you age, collagen production also drops. But even that will not occur at the same rate as the person sitting next to you at the airport or your favourite coffee shop.

Common Signs of Intrinsic Skin Ageing

Intrinsically aged skin can appear dry, pale, thin and transparent. Other signs may include:

  • Loss and descent of underlying fat pads. This can lead to facial volume loss and sunken eyes.
  • Loss of firmness resulting in sagging skin 
  • Facial bone density loss which gives the facial features a hollowing effect.

What Can You Do?

It's hard to make any fundamental changes that can alter or stop intrinsic skin ageing. The good news is that researchers have found that only 10 per cent of skin ageing is based on DNA and gene expression. This means that around 85% is extrinsic, which you can do something about.

What is extrinsic ageing?

Extrinsic skin ageing is a consequence of environmental factors and lifestyle choices that affect the skin on the outside. That means your skin could look ten years older than your chronological age due to poor skin habits like skipping sunscreen or smoking.

There are four notable risk factors for extrinsic ageing:

Poor Diet- Your skin needs the proper nutrition to stay young, vibrant and healthy-looking. Excessive intake of sugar, processed foodstuff and junk food lead to oxidative stress in the body. This results in inflammation, which contributes to premature ageing of the skin. On the other hand, a balanced diet ensures that your body (& skin!) gets the nutrients it needs. Antioxidants like vitamin C and E and vitamin A and B vitamin biotin are particularly important for healthy skin as they fight free radicals in the body. Eat your veggies and drink lots of water! 

Related: Want Youthful Glowing Skin? 10 Skincare Terms You Need To Know

Unprotected UV exposure - The sun is your skin's biggest enemy. When ultraviolet (UV) light hits skin that's not protected by sunscreen, it causes DNA changes at a cellular level and damages the skin's structure. Because this photodamage happens in the deepest layers of the skin—the dermis—it can take years before the damage becomes visible. When it does surface, you get complaints of premature skin ageing such as wrinkling, age spots, and rough, uneven skin texture. In some cases, unprotected sun exposure can even lead to skin cancer! Using a quality broad-spectrum sunscreen like AlumierMD's Sheer Hydration every day is a must!

Smoking - Smoking can damage the skin in several ways. Nicotine narrows blood vessels and blood flow, reducing the amount of oxygen and nutrients that reach the cells. Many other chemicals in tobacco smoke degrade collagen and elastin. The heat from burning cigarettes and the facial muscle movements associated with smoking contribute to conditions such as smoker's lines

Air pollution - studies like this and this have shown a significant correlation between air pollution and extrinsic skin ageing. Air pollutants include traffic-related particulate matter, soot, cigarette smoke and gases such as nitrogen dioxide. 

Whenever a prolonged and repetitive exposure to environmental stressors exceeds the skin's normal defences, there is a compromise in the skin barrier function. The result is skin ageing traits such as pigmentation and wrinkle formation.

Common Signs of Extrinsic Skin Ageing

The telltale signs of extrinsic skin ageing are seemingly endless. Here are some of the most common ones.

  • Dull skin and clogged pores
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Redness and blotchiness 
  • Aggravated acne
  • Pigmentation such as age spots and dark spots.
  • Uneven skin tone and rough skin texture

Luckily, extrinsic skin ageing is easier to prevent and undo.

What Can You Do?

Prevention is the best and most effective way to work against extrinsic skin ageing effects.

You need to:

  1. Create a customised and well structured daily skincare routine. This will tackle the effects of UV exposure and air pollution. Read our post on layering to learn how you develop one for yourself. Alternatively, you can reach out to us to help you develop the best skin care regimen for your skin.
  2. Make lifestyle changes to help support your skin's regeneration processes. Try to cut down on alcohol, sugar and processed foods, drink more water, get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, minimise stress in your life and stop smoking (if you do). This means your skin will have fewer obstacles to overcome as you age and have a better chance of looking youthful for longer.

Why Choose Dr Aesthetica on Your Skin Aging Journey?

For skincare products and non-surgical cosmetic treatments that effectively combat the effects of skin ageing, you can count on Dr Aesthetica. 

We are a doctor-led medical aesthetics clinic committed to the science of skincare. We ensure we stay up to date with the latest technological advancements in skincare and cosmetics. More than that, we are passionate about helping every person who walks through our doors feel happier, confident and empowered.

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