Woman touching her face with her left hand.

Signs of ageing General skin ageing

From around the age of 25 the first signs of ageing start to become apparent on the surface of the skin. Fine lines appear first, and over time wrinkles, a loss of volume and a loss of elasticity become noticeable.

Our skin ages for a variety of different reasons. Many of the causes of skin ageing are entirely natural and cannot be altered. There are, however, several factors that can cause skin to age prematurely, and these can be influenced. An holistic approach to lifestyle and skincare can help to reduce the visible signs of skin ageing and prevent premature skin ageing.

Understanding the way that internal and external factors affect the skin’s structure and function can help to inform choices about treatment and care.


The visible signs of skin ageing

There are three main manifestations of general skin ageing. Each one affects the look of the face in a different way.

The first noticeable sign of ageing from 25 onwards are fine lines and wrinkles. These lines appear on different areas of the face and are easy to spot. First to appear are fine lines. These small, shallow wrinkles tend to become noticeable at the outer corners of the eyes - where they are known as laughter lines or crow´s feet. Wrinkles on the forehead become noticeable as horizontal lines. Triggered by facial expression, they tend to become deeper as time goes by, while smaller, vertical lines between the brows are caused by frowning. Deeper wrinkles, known as nasolabial folds, form between the nose and mouth. These are linked to sagging skin and are often associated with a loss of volume and, as skin matures further, a loss of elasticity.

Loss of volume
Sometimes difficult to identify, a loss of volume is also described as saggy skin, loss of contours, turkey neck, chicken skin or ‘looking drawn’. It changes the overall appearance of the face in ways that are transformative but hard to pinpoint. The diminishing volume and slackened facial contours associated with a loss of volume can give the face a negative, sad or stressed look. This can, in turn, lead to incorrect perceptions of a person’s mood or outlook.

Loss of density
From about the age of 50 onwards our skin loses elasticity and firmness, its structure weakens and deeper wrinkles form. As our skin matures it also becomes drier, appears more `crepey` and loses the radiance we associate with youthful skin.



Older woman with wrinkles around mouth and eyes.
The skin’s structure changes with time. Fine lines and wrinkles are usually the first visible sign of skin ageing.
Sagging skin is a sign of loss of firmness.
As our skin loses elasticity it becomes less firm and deeper wrinkles form.

Skin ages due to a combination of factors, both internal and external. Understanding these factors helps us to care for skin as it ages, reduce the visible signs of skin ageing and prevent premature skin ageing.


Ageing happens in every layer of the skin

Changes within the skin’s layers show themselves on the surface as signs of ageing.

Epidermal layers
A slower cell turnover and reduction in sebum production on the skins surface means roughness and dryness are more likely. As this particular layer of the skin ages, it becomes more sensitive to UV light. The skin is less efficient at healing itself, and a reduction in immune function can lead to an increase in skin infections, together with slower wound healing.

Dermal layers
From the age of 25, there is a 1% annual decrease in collagen, one of the ‘building blocks’ of the skin. Together with a decline in elastin this leads to dermal tissue disorganisation. Skin structure is compromised, and fine lines and wrinkles are more likely. As our skin matures, elasticity continues to reduce and deeper wrinkles form. The production of Hyaluronic Acid – plentiful in youthful skin – slows down, so skin cells are less effective at binding in water and it becomes drier. It also becomes weaker and more prone to damage and broken capillaries. Reduced micro-circulation means a less efficient delivery of nutrition and oxygen to the surface, which leads to a decrease of the rosy glow enjoyed by youthful skin.

Subdermal layers
In the deeper layers, the most notable changes are to the size and number of lipid-storing cells in the adipose layer. This decrease has a knock-on effect on loss of volume, and can lead to deep wrinkles, hollow cheeks and impaired wound healing.

Ageing causes changes to occur in every layer of the skin, affecting both it’s shape and the substances within it.

Internal causes of ageing

Some of the causes of ageing facial skin are inevitable and cannot be changed. Our biological age determines the structural changes in the skin and the efficiency of the cell functions. These slow down with each passing year.

Hormonalinfluences. Decreasinglevels of oestrogen (instruction giving hormones) results in reduced messagingbetween the cells.

A poorer blood supply to the skin means the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the skin’s surface is impeded. A duller skin tone is predominant the rosy glow that is a feature of young skin disappears. The radiance that is a feature of young skin fades, and skin becomes duller.

Genetics have a key role in how the skin ages. The ethnicity and skin type we are born with make a difference to how quickly the signs of ageing appear on the surface of the skin. For example a fair sensitive skin is prone to wrinkles at an earlier age, while Asian skin can be prone to uneven skin tone and wrinkles appear at a later age. Age induced dryness can also be caused by a persons specific genetic make-up.

Read more about how ethnicity effects your skin

In young skin, strong connections between the layers mean an efficient delivery of moisture and nutrients to the visible layers.
Over time, these connections and systems slow, becoming less efficient. The result is visibly ageing skin.

External causes of ageing

The external factors affecting the speed with which the skin ages are all due to one process, oxidative stress, which releases molecules called free radicals which consist of a single unpaired electron in an outer shell. Free radicals cause ageing by damaging skin cell structures.

Under normal circumstances free radicals are caught and neutralised by anti-oxidants in the skin: molecules with the ability to absorb and stop them. However, over time, the skin’s ability to de-activate free-radicals decreases. The result is damage to all components of the skin cell. Oxidative stress is accelerated and triggered by a variety of lifestyle factors.


Exposure to the sun’s rays is the primary external factor responsible for skin ageing via oxidative stress. Damage to the skin caused by both prolonged exposure, and everyday exposure to the UV rays is called Photoageing, which is also responsible for uneven pigmentation.

Allowing the skin to be exposed to pollution, most commonly in cities, can trigger the release of skin damaging free radicals. In addition, pollution worsens the affects of sun exposure accelerating oxidative stress.

The chemicals and nicotine contained in cigarettes are responsible for an upsurge in the amount of free radicals in the skin. Like pollution they intensify the effects of sun exposure, leading to oxidative stress.

Freckles and hyper-pigmentation are a result of the skin attempting to protect itself from the damaging effects of the sun.
The pollution found in cities can accelerate the effects of free radical damage, particularly when coupled with sun exposure.

Anti-oxidants are molecules with the ability to neutralise the free radicals that damage skin, speeding up skin ageing. Eating lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables is an important part of caring for our skin as it ages.

Too little care
Skin that is poorly cared for will age more quickly. Thorough cleansing using products appropriate for skin type together with regular application of skin care products targeted to the skin’s primary concern, can influence the skin to a great extent. Effective sun protection is key to preventing premature skin ageing.


Reducing the visible signs of ageing

Understanding the skin’s ageing process informs decisions about how best to care for it. The three key signs of ageing: fine lines and wrinkles, a loss of volume and a loss of elasticity, and deep wrinkles are examined in more detail in separate articles. If there is still uncertainty about which products are best suited to your skin, our skin test may be a useful diagnostic tool.
An holistic approach to lifestyle and skincare can help prevent premature skin ageing and reduce the visible signs of skin ageing.

As oxidative stress is the primary cause of external skin ageing, any lifestyle changes should be targeted towards minimising its effects as much as possible.

A healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables will ensure an intake of anti-oxidants that can help to limit the damaging effects of free radicals on the skin. As much variety as possible should be included, but some foods are known to be particularly high in anti-oxidants and might even have a skin protecting effect: Carrots, apricots and other orange and yellow fruit and vegetables, blueberries, leafy green vegetables, bell peppers, tomatoes, beans and other pulses, fish – particularly salmon, and nuts.

There is evidence to suggest that some foodsshould be avoided. A diet too high in fat and carbohydrates has been found topromote skin ageing.

Smoking accelerates ageing remarkably, reducing elasticity and causing dullness. Stopping smoking will help to improve the appearance of the skin.

Plentiful sleep can help as part of an holistic preventative approach to ageing.
Eating more of the right sort of foods can be part of an holistic approach to prevention.

Skin Care
The skin changes with each life stage and the way it is cared for should reflect its changing needs as time goes by.

A good skin care routine is an essential part of an holistic approach to treating all signs of ageing: loss of volume, loss of density, wrinkles and related conditions such as age induced dryness or sensitive ageing skin.



If your skin is healthy, good care will ensure your skin stays in condition. If not, a consistent routine can help to improve it. A skincare routine should consist of three steps, cleanse, care and sun protection.

Cleanse to remove make-up, dirt and chemicals from the skin. This is vital, as chemicals on the surface as a result of pollution can trigger oxidative stress.

Care is the replenishment and hydration of the skin, using the appropriate products for the sign of ageing that is the primary concern. By targeting the concern with the correct products and their actives such as Hyaluronic Acid, Glycine-Saponin or Silymarin, improvements can be made to the appearance of the skin.

Protect. Protecting the skin from UV rays is the most important step in the prevention of premature skin ageing. The SPF product used should be selected with skin type and skin concern in mind.

Read more about facial sun protection



Creams with colour pigments can also be used to even the skin tone and correct your complexion. Choose one which applies evenly, and does not form lines on your skin, to help your skin appear younger.
Regular facial cleansing can remove chemicals that can cause oxidative stress.
Moisturising eye patches and hydrating face masks, can improve the appearance of skin.