Survey of twins reveals factors that affect how skin ages
An interesting new study involving twins has found that three factors appear to play key roles in the sun damage and photoaging of skin: smoking, not using sunscreen, and being overweight.
Twin studies are particularly helpful for those of us who study the causes and treatments of sun-damaged skin, because they enable us to separate genetic from environmental factors. Given current knowledge, we believe that about 40 percent of skin's "aging" can be attributed to non-genetic factors.
Data for this study, which was published in the December issue of the Archives of Dermatology, was collected from 65 pairs of twins (some identical, some fraternal) who attended the 2002 annual Twins Day Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. The twins filled out detailed questionnaires about various lifestyle factors and also submitted to an evaluation of their skin by a clinician.
The fact that the study linked photoaging (defined as coarse wrinkles, dilated facial blood vessels, and pigment changes such as brown spots) with smoking and not using sunscreen doesn't come as a surprise. We've known for a long time that people who smoke and/or who ignore warnings to protect their skin from the sun have skin that ages much faster than their peers.
The link between being overweight and photodamaged skin was a bit more unexpected, although, as the study's authors note, animal studies have suggested that the consumption of high fat foods may make skin more susceptible to damage from the sun's ultraviolet rays.
After overweight twins reached the age of 54, however, they were less likely to have a high photoaging score. The study's authors suggest that this outcome may be because excess fat masks the appearance of wrinkles in old age.
Interestingly, consuming alcohol was associated with a less photodamage. The study's authors speculated that this may be due to the fact that some alcoholic beverages, such as red wine, contain resveratrol and other polyphenols, which are antioxidants, and thus may help protect the skin from some of the sun's damage.
The take-home message from this study: If you want to keep your skin looking young, don't smoke, wear sunscreen, and maintain a healthy weight.
Of course, that's good health advice for your heart as well as for your skin.
Source: Matieres KJ, Fu P, Polster AM, Cooper KD, Baron ED. Factors that affect skin aging: cohort-based survey on twins. Archives of Dermatology. 2009;145(12):1375-1379.