By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
When you consider you carry close to eight pounds and 22 square feet of skin around all day, every day of your life, itís not surprising it comes in for some wear and tear. The fleshy covering that insulates, waterproofs, protects against heat and sunlight, allows you to feel the world, and prevents you from literally evaporating, is the largest organ. Your skin is versatile and essential but, being highly visible, it is easy to focus on its appearance.
Over time your skin probably wonít look as plump, fresh and tight as it did when you were a teenager.
It happens to all of us (save a lucky few who won the genetic lottery).
Unfortunately our notions of beauty are often tied up with perception of age Ė research like the 2014 study from the Chanel Research and Technology Center, Pantin, France shows young faces are generally perceived to be more attractive than old faces and estimated age is negatively associated with perceived beauty.
One of the main ways in which a face looks old is when the skin starts to sag and hang. Saggy skin on the body is also a problem when you lose a good deal of weight (through weight loss or after having a baby) which affects the skinís elasticity.
Why Does Older Skin Look Saggy?
Gravity helps pull your skin in a southerly direction but there is more to it than physical forces. Time causes the skinsí underlying cell structure to collapse.
Collagen and elastin in the cells provide skin with elasticity (stretchiness) and firmness. The collagen and elastin content of the skin decreases with age and therefore the skin loosens, gets drier, and is less stretchy.
Older skin also renews itself much more slowly than younger skin.
Causes of Saggy Skin
This loss of structure over time is caused by genetic programming Ė a kind of clock that causes the skin to age, which is different for different people. Cumulative sun damage is also a contributing factor.
Cigarette smoke ages the skin and causes it to sag. Nutrition is also a factor in whether you skin will remain elastic for a long time or start to sag more quickly.
Can Saggy Skin Be Tightened?
Itís difficult to reverse the aging process and tighten skin that has already begun to travel south. Prevention is better than cure, and keeping out of the sun (and wearing sunblock) is crucial.
Drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet. But for skin that has already started to sag, many people decide that surgery is the only option.
Donít fancy a face lift? Thatís fine Ė thankfully there are some natural ways to increase the skinís elasticity. Weíve looked at recent studies to discover the remedies and strategies to help skin look firmer for longer.
1. Oligomeric Proanthocyanidin Complexes (OPCs) for Saggy Skin
OPCs are naturally occurring substances found in pine bark or grape seed and they have been widely touted as anti-aging treatments because of their antioxidant properties and their reported ability to strengthen collagen and elastin.
Research such as a 1994 study from Istituto Chimico Farmaceutico Tossicologico, Milan, Italy demonstrates OPCsí skin protective action, as do studies like 1984 research by Tixier JM, Godeau G, Robert AM, et al.
2. Apply Vitamin A for Less-Saggy Skin
Applying vitamin A as a topical treatment may have benefits for aging skin. According to a 2007 study from University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, a 0.4 percent vitamin A lotion applied three times a week improved skin elasticity and also reduced the number of fine lines in senior skin.
3. Vitamin B3 is a Saggy Skin Treatment
One form of vitamin B3 is called niacinamide (nicotinamide). When applied as a topical cream, niacinamide significantly improved the elasticity of skin in 50 women with signs of aging skin, according to a 2005 study by The Procter & Gamble Company, Miami Valley Laboratories, Cincinnati, Ohio.
4. Does Glucosamine Work on Saggy Skin?
Based on its ability to help collagen regenerate in osteoarthritis sufferers, glucosamine has been advocated as a treatment for cosmetic purposes in treating saggy skin as a result of skin aging.
However, there is not a great amount of scientific evidence to prove this claim. A 2001 study by Murad and Tabibian at El Segundo, California, showed women with aging skin experienced greater improvement in skin tone after using a mixture of glucosamine, amino acids and minerals, but the study was not placebo-controlled.
5. Silicon Improves Saggy Skin
In a 2005 study from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium, 50 women took 10mg silicon each day for 20 weeks, in the form of orthosilicic acid, or placebo. Skin elasticity improved in the silicon group, as did measurements of skin roughness.
6. Take Lutein Supplements for Firmer Skin
Lutein, a dietary supplement known for its eye health benefits, may also have an impact in terms of increasing elasticity and hydration, and firming saggy skin.
A 2006 study by the University of Naples, Italy showed a daily 10mg oral lutein supplement increased skin elasticity by 8 percent and skin hydration by 38 percent.
Lutein is found in dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and collard greens, as well as corn, broccoli and egg yolks.
7. Does Estrogen Protect Skin from Sagging?
It has long been believed that estrogen helps protect against skin aging associated with the menopause, although studies do not agree as to how Ė or how much.
However, a 2006 study from the University of California at San Francisco, School of Medicine suggests that the use of estrogen prevents skin sagging, dry skin and skin wrinkling in post-menopausal women.