Expert Commentary: Dr. Florence Mussat, MD, SC - May 18, 2009

This study is fascinating: it basically confirms what we all know instinctively. Stress is a huge factor in accelerating aging. Look at how fast President Obama acquired white temples within a 100 days at the Office ! We all age according 3 main mechanisms:

-          Our genes inherited from our families. We don’t choose our parents, but with the advance of research in medicine, we know now how to detect certain susceptible inherited cancers. We can save lives by knowing which genes we carry putting us at risk for breast or colon cancers for example.

-          Our internal clock, which we cannot change. It is basically the way we are set to age individually.

-          External factors, such as the “ the 3 deadly S “: Sun, Stress, and Smoking which we can control, and our weight.

Sun will “grill “ your skin: the UV A and B will destroy the skin cells faster, therefore less collagen and elastic fibers. The skin may get tanned uniformly when young, but by our 30’s, we don’t tan evenly anymore. Us women get more blotchy, with resistant brown spots appearing later, called Melasma, also related to hormones. The facial skin becomes drier, thinner, and more wrinkled. The constant squinting in the sun will result in more lines around the eyes, the nose. It will also promote more skin cancers, squamous and basal cell skin cancers, as well as the deadly melanoma. Therefore the constant recommendation to avoid sun exposure, to wear a hat and sun screen.

Stress is a chronic, destructing force to our bodies: not only we know it raises the Cortisol, our stress hormone, therefore raising blood pressure, headaches, the risk of heart attack and stroke, etc… but it affects the way we look. If you are going thru a divorce, chances are you will lose sleep somehow about your children, finances, your home. Divorce has been rated the # 1 cause of worst stress, right before a move, and job loss. Lack of good sleep, combine with poor meals, constant crying, frowning from worrying will promote faster facial aging. The constant muscle spasms will make the lines in our facial skin deeper. Many primary care physicians now include recommendations about alternative medicine: yoga has been shown to control stress, and decrease blood pressure. Practicing a sport, or just 30 mn of daily walking will help. Antidepressants will help of course, but ultimately, your happiness has to come from within. A happy relaxed person will be smiling, will present a younger face, with less worry lines. We now have Botox injections which relax the muscles of the upper 1/3rd of the face, and helps control facial lines. Fillers ( Juvederm, Restylane, Radiesse ) will fill the deeper lines.

Smoking is terrible on our bodies. Not only the smoke and nicotine have negative effects internally, but it affects the facial skin. Smokers skin appears sallow, more wrinkled, thinner. All physicians urge patients to stop smoking. We should create a National Stop Smoking Day !

We should keep a healthy weight thru out life. When we are young, we have a layer of subcutaneous fat which gives “padding “ over the face. Yoyo weight variation is the worst for the skin: if you lose a lot of weight, your face will appear drawn out, the lines deeper, especially after 40. You will lose that padding effect. Fillers injections can help too.

That study shows us that facial aging is multifactorial. We have to take care of ourselves from early on, by controlling the external factors in our life. Stress still remains the worst aging agent with smoking.

It is all in the prevention.

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