What Causes Sagging Skin?
The primary cause of sagging skin is aging, or to be exact, two causes related to aging: the loss of collagen, which contributes to the skin’s elasticity; and the shifting of facial fat. Collagen is the richest protein in the body, acting like a “glue” that holds the structure of bones, skin, tendons, muscles, and ligaments together. As we age, we produce less collagen with lower quality.
Sagging skin actually occurs not just in the skin, but in all these connective tissues discussed above. The muscles and tendons elongate and droop, and the skin loses its elasticity. As this happens, the skin grows typically to lower areas under the influence of gravity, moving or shifting the fat underneath to another area. As we age, for example, we have facial fat in the neck, but disappears from the cheek.
Skin and surrounding tissues that once resided higher in the face when we are younger, grow to form the jowls below the cheek. Jowl formation is among the most common sagging skin issues, together with the “turkey” neck (layered banding, filled with fat under the chin) and deeper nasolabial fold (the smile lines).
While aging is the primary cause, other factors like unhealthy diet and lifestyle, long time exposure to sunlight can contribute to its development. Rapid weight loss and poor muscle tone can also develop sagging and excess skin that cannot be healed naturally.
Can Facial Exercise Improve Sagging Skin?
This is still the topic of an ongoing debate, even among experts. On one hand, there are physicians like Dr. Flor Mayoral that are strongly against the benefits of facial exercises for sagging or wrinkled skin. In fact, Dr. Mayoral goes on to say that facial exercises which require us to pucker our lips or squint our eyes can promote wrinkles to form quicker.
On the other hand, there are doctors like the cosmetic surgeon Dr. Francis Palmer, who wrote a book titled What’s Your Number? The Palmer Code, specifically discussing how facial exercises for the areas surrounding your eyes, neck, and cheeks can improve elasticity and firmness of the facial skin. This is because the facial exercise can firm up the muscles in these areas, indirectly also firm up the skin.
Academically, Dr. Mayoral also pointed out that no clinical research has been performed to prove the benefit of facial exercise. However, a recent study in March 2018 by Dr. Murad Alam recently suggested that facial exercise can indeed decrease aging appearance. The study is relatively inconspicuous , but it indeed shows some glimmers of hope for facial exercises.
Our tip? You can perform facial exercises moderately to tighten your muscles. Avoid excessive movemnts which will encourage more wrinkles. Moderation and proper techniques are the keys.
Which Food Can Help Maintain Younger Skin?
It’s important to note that aging is a natural process, and no matter what we do, we won’t be able to completely avoid it.
However, here are some foods that can help you look younger:
- Fatty Fish
Salmon is an example of fatty fish and contains omega-3 fats that can protect against skin inflammation and damage during sun exposure.
Also, a study has suggested that astaxanthin, a carotenoid antioxidant contained in fatty fish when combined with collagen, can significantly improve skin elasticity and hydration.
- Olive Oil (Especially Extra Virgin)
Olive oil is known for its strong anti-inflammatory effects for the skin and can protect it from sun exposure.
More than 70% of olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acid, which can improve skin elasticity as well as maintain firmness.
Flaxseeds are known as one of the best sources of omega 3, especially one of the fatty acids called alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which can shield your skin from sun damage.
In controlled studies, consumption of flaxseeds and flax oil can promote smoother skin and hydration.
- Green Tea
Green tea is a very popular source of antioxidants, especially polyphenols which can protect collagen and can reduce aging signs. Green tea diet, supplements, and cream can improve skin elasticity and protect against sun damage.
Cocoa or dark chocolate is known as the best source of antioxidants, especially flavanols. Flavanols are known for their protective quality, able to shield the skin from sun exposure.
A study suggested that cocoa, high in flavanols, can double the time we can spend under the sun before we catch sunburn.
What Can You Do to Prevent Sagging Skin?
Sunscreen is extremely important. As mentioned above, exposure to sunlight and especially UVA and UVB rays can damage your skin and speed up the aging process. Use the right product according to your skin type and apply it daily to your hands, arms, chest, neck and face.
Antioxidants are your best friend. Antioxidants can stimulate the production of elastin and collagen, as well as neutralizing reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS compounds are known to encourage the degradation of collagen production and quality. Antioxidants are present in various foods and supplements.
Collagen peptides in the form of supplements (mainly oral) can improve the skin’s moisture barrier. Fibroblast, skin cells which are responsible for producing connective compounds and especially encourage collagen production. Since the main reason for sagging skin is the loss of collagen, stronger collagen networks are the obvious solution.
Lose weight safely and at a healthy pace. In general, it is reasonable to lose just 1 to 2 pounds per week. Not only can it prevent sagging and excess skin, but also avoid regaining weight quickly. In a word, maintain a healthy weight.
Others like drinking enough water every day; quit smoking and drinking.
Various surgical and non-surgical options are available today. These procedures are fairly safe with very little risks for complications. There are also minimally invasive surgical procedures like surgical radiofrequency procedure and laser resurfacing treatment with effective results. Be sure to take the operation under a knowledgeable and certified dermatologist.