In a recent survey, almost 4 million women felt that stress and anxiety brought about by the pandemic has caused them to age by at least 5 years. This has resulted in more women considering aesthetic treatments for the first time. But where do you start, how do you identify which treatments will help improve your looks and slow down the rate of facial ageing. We asked Dr Catharine Denning, Advanced Aesthetics Doctor and Medical Director at Clinic One Point Six.
Covid-19 has had a profound effect on all of our lives and as we enter another National lockdown we are once again preparing to work and socialise from home via apps such as Zoom and House Party. As a result of this we are spending more time, than ever before, staring at our own face on a screen, this has resulted in many people worrying that the stresses of the pandemic has aged them. It’s no wonder then that my clinic’s inbox has never been busier with requests for advice and treatments for patients ‘zoom face’.
It is well documented that stress accelerates ageing in the body, the cortisol released during a long-term stress response accelerates ageing even at a DNA level. In the face we tend to notice fine lines and wrinkles first, these result from the loss of collagen and elastin. In fact, there are a number of changes taking place at all layers of the face and these will be hastened by increased stress. A loss of fat and bone structure in the face contributes enormously to increased skin laxity, resulting in problems such as eye bags, jowling and heaviness in the lower face, common complaints when we use video conferencing apps.
There is no one solution, we need to address these problems with a variety of approaches.
Skincare is a great first step to minimising the effects of stress on skin ageing. I recommend using prescription strength ingredients such as vitamin A (tretinoin, retinol and retinoic acids), vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid 10-15%), peptides and a good SPF (separate from moisturiser and makeup, minimum protection factor 30). These are crucial in maximising your skins health and ability to make collagen and elastin as well as maintaining a radiant complexion. Many products will combine these ingredients making it easier to ensure you are including them daily.
If you want to maximise your skin’s health and boost collagen production further, in clinic treatments such as micro-needling and peels are a good option. Both of these techniques help to increase fibroblast activity to boost collagen as well as aim to speed up the turnover of the top, epidermal layer of the skin, which can appear dull as we age due to cell cycle slowing.
Injectable skin boosters such as Profhilo and Redensity 1 help to hydrate crepey, lacklustre skin and nourish the dermis directly. They use hyaluronic acid, which is a naturally occurring moisturiser in the face, these products help replace some of the bounce in the skin but also help to boost collagen production.
Our skin is very closely connected to underlying muscles and as we age, we lose collagen, elastin and the layer of fat that separates the two layers. The movement of the skin over the underlying muscles starts to create lines where the skin doesn’t bounce back as easily. By subtly softening some of these movements, some of these lines can be gently ironed out. Small doses in areas like the forehead, frown area and eye lines can help reduce fine lines as well as tighten pores and leave the skin looking more radiant and youthful.
As we get older, our facial bones change shape quite dramatically. Our skeleton is the coat hanger on which our skin is draped and so when we lose volume this can cause the skin to sag over its unsupported frame. One of the first areas of ageing that people notice is around the eyes, looking tired and ‘haggard’ is a really common reason people come to my clinic. The bony sockets in which our eyes are housed get larger and more hollow resulting in a sunken appearance under the eye where the skin is less supported and the fat between the skin and muscle has depleted. This can leave a darker shadow which exists whether you’ve had a full 8 hours sleep or not, luckily tear trough filler is a great way to treat this problem. This is where a small amount of temporary hyaluronic acid is placed in the dip under the eye to support the skin and brighten the appearance of dark circles.
Another common reason people seek my help is when they feel like their lower face has become saggier with age. Things like nose to mouth heaviness and looking jowly are common concerns I see in clinic. A combination of the lack of skin support from skeletal changes as well as fat redistribution which occurs (particularly as our hormones change) with age leads to shadows and around the nose and mouth and sagging below the jaw line. Often by strategically replacing the skeletal and (targeted) fat loss with a range of hyaluronic acid gels designed to mimic these tissues, these changes can be softened, masked and even in some cases reversed.
In summary there is certainly a link to increased stress and ageing and this will result in changes to our faces. As we continue to spend more time looking at ourselves on screens, we can’t help but notice the finer details and changes, but it is important to remember that these occur naturally. There is nothing we can do to prevent these changes and I always encourage people to embrace ageing as a privilege. The good news is that there are ways to make you feel the best you can for your age, looking refreshed and well, even in these stressful times.
Dr Catharine Denning, Advanced Aesthetics Doctor and Medical Director at Clinic One Point Six