Sex and gender equality is something we are all striving to achieve but there will always be some differences that must be acknowledged and respected. The male and female forms obviously have their differences and so too are the stages in life for each group.
The most typical signs of ageing are for many those that are visible. Typically that is wrinkling/sagging skin; loss or greying hair and weight gain. The ageing process for both men and women is unavoidable and are mostly caused by the natural lowering of sex hormones. There are some external or lifestyle factors that can play their part in premature ageing which should therefore be solvable.
Today some of the visible signs of ageing to the skin can be delayed by innovative technologies and medicated serums which work by either removing excess skin, plumping deflated dermal layers or replacing substances like collagen that are vital to keeping a youthful appearance. Another big give-away is hair loss or greying hair. The latter can be easily treated through regular dying but there have been impressive advances in hair restoration methods too.
In order to address the symptoms ageing, we first need to understand the natural ageing process and what can cause premature ageing in both men and women. Essentially, the skin’s own collagen and natural oils are what keep a youthful appearance by showing a plump, elastic (or “spring-back”) quality. In the war on ageing we need to watch what destroys this healthy condition.
Cause and effects for both Men and Women:
There are of course external and lifestyle factors that affect both men and women. Here are the most significant ones:
- Environmental factors and lifestyle choices. For example, a farmer or gardener who spends most of his/her adult life working outdoors in all elements throughout the year will no doubt look older than their peers at say 50 years old. The sun, wind and extreme cold conditions will harm the delicate layers of skin in different ways although sun screen and barrier creams can prevent this damage to some degree.
- The desire for a sun tan has been fashionable for a long time but over several generations we are now in no doubt as to the ageing and harmful effects too much sunlight can have on our bodies. The medical profession’s advice is to avoid direct sunlight except for the benefits of gaining Vitamin D where short periods of time (20 mins max) can help boost this vitamin for good health.
- Central heating and air conditioning are systems that help keep our body at a comfortable temperature unfortunately dry out the atmosphere and our skin too. We have learned to compensate by drinking more fluids. In this category you can also include pollution. Poor air quality in the world’s big cities show their effects on skin which can lead to signs of premature ageing – therefore reversible damage.
- Food, nutrition and alcohol might affect a person’s skin in the short term and in extreme cases – for long term permanent damage. Poor nutrition, lack of water and too much alcohol over long periods will definitely take their toll on collagen and the supporting structures of the skin. There are some studies that show that the metabolism slows down as we age but these causes can be due to changes in lifestyle rather than direct physiological age processes.
- Smoking is a well-known enemy to the skin. The toxins that are breathed in and that circulate around the smoker’s head cause a breakdown in the healthy tissues near the surface of the skin. This results in a weakening of the skins structure and premature wrinkling. The lips will suffer too as a result of many years of “holding” on to the cigarette.
- Genetics will always have a huge impact on the rate at which a person ages. With the hair and skin it is clear to see when someone is following their mother or father’s ageing pattern. If this is negative and concerns that person, they need to take as many precautions as possible to avoid delay the impact on their body.
- Hormones play a large part in the natural ageing process. For both men and women there is a decline in all hormones. With men there is a gradual decline after the age of 30 and for women their starts a gradual at 30 but abruptly changes at the start of the menopause around age 50.
The ageing differences between men and women
The sex hormones are the most significant and unavoidable cause of ageing – and many people underestimate their power – until they see the effects of their decline. This is where the real differences start for men and women.
Testosterone is the main sex hormone for men. This hormone produces more body hair and thicker skin (25%) for men than women. It is the hormone that is relied upon for physical development in pubescent boys and good sexual health for men. Men are actually at an advantage to start with due to having thicker skin which contains more collagen. Their skin produces more moisture through higher perspiration levels which contain lactic acid.
For men testosterone decreases gradually with age – with more visible effects starting to show around the age of 30. Typically these signs are hair loss and some weight gain. It is believed that a man’s optimum “sperm health” is reached at age 30 but there is not necessarily a fast or significant decline in quality towards older age – it is thought to be about 1% per year after age 30.
Although collagen starts to decline at the age of 30, the effects on the skin are less noticeable for men until they reach their 50s. Facial hair can help protect against the weather and other external elements such as pollution and smoke. However, there has been one interesting revelation about how the male face changes over time. Men are more likely to develop deep lines in the forehead and not so many around the mouth. The skull around the eye area is much larger in men than women and this lack of bony support gives men a more hollowed look which exacerbates bags and wrinkling at the top part of the face. Men have more sebaceous glands around the mouth due to the high production of facial hair. Whether this shaved or worn long – the now fashionable beard – these rigid protein follicles are 4mm below the skins surface giving structural support.
Unlike men, women rely upon three sex hormones: progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone. Progesterone is responsible for pregnancy, oestrogen to ensure the “fully-comprehensive” female characteristics and testosterone – the more male balancing hormone for strength and sex drive. These all start to enter a decline phase towards the end of the 20s or early 30s. Oestrogen is the biggest influence on a woman’s ageing process. Physiological and mental (emotional) health is impacted due to comparatively sudden drops in this vital hormone in the lead up to the menopause (peri-menopause) and beyond. The skin, hair and weight gain are the areas most affected by this change in the body and for many women the only alternative is to seek Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Like men, woman’s collagen levels start to drop at around the age of 30 at a similar rate. However, when a woman reaches the menopause – around age 50 the decline quickens for about five years. Due to the loss of collagen and drying skin, fine lines and sagging around the eyes and jaw line are obvious signs of ageing. For some with thicker skin deeper lines might occur due to lack of collagen and elasticity, but the skin might “hold up” better around the jaw which can be less of an age give-away.
Hair loss and greying is also an obvious sign of ageing as a result of the drop in all hormones but in particular oestrogen. Fatty deposits will start to gather around the abdomen which is stubborn to remove through dieting and exercise alone.
Despite the warnings about skin cancer and the premature ageing effects of the sun, many women do continue to sunbathe. However, the use of sunscreens and extra moisturising plus heeding advice on drinking more water, women’s skin today is probably better than those of 40 years ago. Basically we are taking better care of our skin the more we understand how it works and ages.
While we cannot stop the ageing process we can help prevent the signs of premature ageing and if we are really concerned we can look to anti-ageing treatments. It is now commonplace for both men and women to consider the many choices of highly effective non-invasive therapies such as BOTOX and dermal fillers. The best training and quality experience will give a clinician the confidence and skills required for a successful business in the world of aesthetic procedures.