As if we didn’t have enough to fret about at the moment, it turns out that stress can also accelerate skin ageing and accentuate wrinkles, too. Wrinkles are the result of a breakdown of collagen and elastin, a perfectly natural—if infuriating—occurrence over time (after our 20s, our skin produces 1 percent less collagen every year, while elastin production also decrease with age). But worryingly (though try not to, it’ll make things worse), research has found the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol causes inflammation and reduces the body’s ability to repair itself, while breaking down both collagen and elastin as well. Chronic anxiety can also result in insulin resistance leading to higher blood sugar levels and glycation which affects the elasticity of the skin—potentially making it more prone to wrinkles.
Other factors that expediate the ageing process are more well-known. As much as 90 percent of skin changes that are visible to eye are caused by UV exposure (which breaks down collagen) while nicotine reduces the flow of blood—and nutrients—to the skin which impacts its elasticity. Too much booze breeds wrinkles by way of vitamin A depletion, as does excess refined sugars, and trans and saturated fats.
“Environmental factors contribute significantly to degradation of the quality of the skin and soft tissues of the face, accentuating age-related changes,” says Jonathon Heather, a plastic surgeon at North Shore and Ormiston Plastic Surgery Clinics, and a consultant at Middlemore Hospital’s Plastic Surgery and National Burn Centre. “Though, our genetics also are pivotal in how our faces change with age.”
While there’s not too much that can be done to counter our genes, there’s no excuse for not adopting healthier lifestyles, and the surgeon even says that’s it’s never too late to begin blocking out those harmful UV rays.
We have the privilege of helping patients through every age and stage of life. Plastic surgeons are trained to be expert in techniques that can be applied all around the body, so that individualised problem solving is at the heart of what we can offer.”
“The message to protect our skin from the sun is definitely getting through,” Jonathon says. “Most of our patients have a sensible regime that includes regular sunscreen, and various products that incorporate long lasting SPF have made this even easier to achieve. It’s a mistake to think that a ‘misspent youth in the sun’ means that all the damage is done – sun protection is valuable for all ages!”
Using both surgical and non-surgical techniques, Jonathon says that plastic surgeons can offer tailored treatments to the specific areas of worry: “In my practice, some of the frequent concerns are the areas around the eyes—blepharoplasty—along with neck and lower face lifts.”
The surgeon says that though women tend to be better at looking after their appearance and account for the majority of his aesthetic patients, “there is a steady stream of men looking to maintain or improve on their appearance”, usually regarding just one specific feature that bothers them.
Younger patients, too, he adds are beginning to recognise the value of some treatments in postponing those wrinkles and slowing the ageing process, most notably through injectables that can “arrest and prevent the formation of deep facial lines”: “Although surgical results will not last longer, per se, problems areas treated earlier might well be amenable to less extensive surgical procedures.”
The industry in general, he says, is commonly misunderstood, covering a vast array of procedures from cosmetic surgery through to complex reconstructive problems.
“We have the privilege of helping patients through every age and stage of life. Plastic surgeons are trained to be expert in techniques that can be applied all around the body, so that individualised problem solving is at the heart of what we can offer.”
Just about every aspect and procedure now considered routine have undergone “significant evolution and refinement” in the past few decades such as microsurgery, nerve surgery, hand surgery and fat transfer.
“They have all improved dramatically to give improved and more reliable results to patients,” says Jonathon. “In cosmetic surgery, there has been a definite trend toward more restorative procedures, with less ‘surgical appearing’ results.”