Age... It's is a funny thing
Age is a funny thing.
It is a physical phenomenon, but it has so much emotional significance on us. I wanted to grow up so badly when I was in school, and when I finally graduated, I wanted to stay young. Occasionally, when people at work commented how young I look (and hinted if I am qualified for the job), I wanted to look older. But most of the time, I am happy with how I look and feel. I am not afraid of aging, as long as I age gracefully.
Well, enough of the soliloquy and let’s dive into what I wanted to talk about: Anti-aging.
This audio blog features my first ever guest!! I've given her a pop quiz at the beginning and the result is hilarious 😂!!! (00:00-1:50) (Caution: Coarse language after that) It's a rather long post, so feel free to skip / skim through!
(1) Anti-aging: a familiar claim (2:38)
Can we all just take a step back and look at this word, and be amazed at how crazy this sounds? Whenever I see this term (or, can I say ‘this lie’?) on a product label, I can’t help but think - so what is this, does this cream contain capsules of time machines that will take my skin cells back to what they look like 20 years ago?
What’s even more crazy is that, around 10 years ago (when I was still in school), anti-aging creams are for those who are in their 40s. Now, WHY THE FUCK are they targeting at people in their late 20s!!!! What the fuck is wrong with you, people?
So if you’re with me here, that means you have chosen a geeky way of approaching beauty. Let’s begin by defining what ‘aging skin’ is.
(2) What ‘aging skin’ means (3:23)
Skin is the largest organ of our body. There are many layers of the skin, but it is roughly categorised into 3 layers - epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous layer. Each layer also contains connective tissue with collagen fibers to give support and elastin fibers to provide flexibility and strength. 
(original version with scientific terms at the end*)
Your skin thins
- Your dark spots grow bigger because your pigment-containing cells increase in size
- You lose strength and elasticity of skin (some people relate this to wrinkles)
- Your blood vessels are more fragile, you bruise easily
- You produce less oil, so it means your skin is dryer
- You produce less sweat and your fat layer thins so you are less able to maintain body temperature (feel cold / warm easily)
There are many dimensions to aging skin, and the common ‘anti-aging cream’ mostly talks about preventing wrinkles, which only corresponds to one dimension of what constitutes aging skin.
(all of the above bullet point unless otherwise specified is from )
(3) Busting market myths (5:54)
Let’s look at a real-life example - this Revitalizing Supreme+ Global Anti-Aging Cell Power Creme. OK - let’s just decode what this really is LOL. Just like any Chinese would know at a wedding banquet table, if you want to tell what a dish really is, just remove all adjectives. For example, 金沙大明蝦 is just.. 蝦. LOL So this cream basically is just a… Cream that is trying to reinforce that it has anti-aging properties, hence the use of ‘revitalizing’ and ‘cell’.
If you look at the claims, it mainly revolves around the skin’s elasticity - ‘bounce’, ‘collagen’, ‘elastin’, ‘lines’, ‘wrinkles’, ‘firmness’, ‘density’. Ok, great, and it has some researches backing it!
Below are some observations not specific to the above product but the market in general:
Everything to do with 'looking young'
Have you ever realised that all they are saying is that your skin will LOOK younger? (“the key to younger-looking skin”. It doesn’t say ‘younger skin’; “lines and wrinkles looks visibly reduced.”; “skin’s visible firmness”).
This is because this cream is not a drug, so according to FDA they cannot make any claims that the product can change the structure of the body, so basically there is NO WAY a cream can claim that they are truly ‘anti-aging’ in the sense that the skin structure has changed to a younger state. If they do, it will require FDA approval as a OTC Drug . Loreal’s Genefique Youth Code suffers because of it .
They always have consumer testing as a backing
But you might say, well, it doesn’t change my skin’s structure, but for sure it’s better to LOOK younger! Well, who is the one to judge whether they look younger? The respondents? Here’s another trick - the consumer test says, “96% of women says their skin felt firmer”. Felt?
Who are they to determine this product works?
For one, they never disclose who runs the consumer test. Is it an in-house lab? Do we trust it? Second, who are these 107 women? Have they ever had any cream on? Say if you have 107 older ladies who had never used any moisturizers before, and they would most probably felt that skin feels better, more firm, less wrinkles, when they FINALLY had some moisturizers on? Is this a controlled test? Are respondents told that they are putting on moisturizers that would make their skin feel better? If so, are they under placebo effect that no matter what they’ve put on, they would feel that the product makes their skin feels firmer?
(4) But you still have new skin every day! (8:30)
Well, yes it is physically impossible to go 'anti-aging', but if it is of any comfort, you have new skin cells every day! Your body is always making new skin cells and getting rid of old ones. The outer layer of the epidermis consists of dead cells. They are then replaced by new cells produced in the lower portion of the epidermis, which move upward to the outside of the skin. This cycle of cell production and replacement takes about 28 days. 
The cycle spans longer as we age. So you see, everyone has new skin cells, but it is a matter of fast or slow. Now I’m being really general here but I think the process that builds up and breaks down cells is METABOLISM.
On a side note, you can’t really speed up your natural skin cycle by exfoliating, as what you’re doing is removing the top layers of dead skin!* But sure, as with any sort of cleaning (say at home - cleaning your messy work desk), the end result is a shinier, brighter looking skin. But is your skin younger? Well structurally not but visibly yes! So take note - don't do too much scrubbing, as this is thinning your skin!
(5) How to slow down aging (9:45)
- ONE SUPER IMPORTANT TIP -
Any actions that stimulates and encourages metabolism helps, this includes your diet, rest, stress levels, exercising, etc.
But there’s one tip you should know:
“Loss of collagen, while a natural process, has been demonstrated as a consequence of chronic sun exposure" [5, p.65]
So that’s why it’s important to put on sunscreen!!!! Omg I don’t know how many times I’ve said that. Check out my post here to see more on how to select a well-rounded sunscreen that protects you from USA & UVB. And hey, while you can’t stop aging, you can stop sunburnt!!!
To conclude (10:30)
The desire for anti-aging is a fear of the unknown.
So that’s a goal right there, and all we need to do is the work backwards, to see how we can come up with ways to stay beautiful. Note I didn’t say ‘preserve youth’, because, let’s be fucking honest, it is as crazy as ‘anti-aging’.
Hope you like this post & will find it useful!!
 - Percival, Steven L. Microbiology and Aging: Clinical Manifestations. Springer Science & Business Media, 2008. But lol sorry I got this from Google books. https://books.google.com.hk/books/about/Microbiology_and_Aging.html?id=YzCW-eN60OgC&redir_esc=y
- The outer skin layer (epidermis) thins. Aging skin looks thinner, paler, and clear (translucent).
- The number of pigment-containing cells (melanocytes) decreases, but the remaining melanocytes increase in size. Large pigmented spots, including age spots, liver spots, or lentigos, may appear in sun-exposed areas.
- Changes in the connective tissue reduce the skin's strength and elasticity. (Some would read this as having wrinkles, and associate it with reduction in collagen levels. Though according to [5, p.64], the cause of wrinkles are unclear, yet it is known that collagen levels decreases as we age, hence the association.)
- Your blood vessels of the dermis become more fragile. This leads to bruising, bleeding under the skin (often called senile purpura), cherry angiomas, and similar conditions.
- Sebaceous glands produce less oil as you age. This can make it harder to keep the skin moist, resulting in dryness and itchiness.
- Your subcutaneous fat layer thins so it has less insulation and padding. This increases your risk of skin injury and reduces your ability to maintain body temperature. For instance, you are more likely to feel cold than when you were young.
- Your sweat glands produce less sweat. This makes it harder to keep cool. Your risk for overheating or developing heat stroke increases.
** A random search online on "skin cycle and exfoliation" returns some skin treatment that says, 'To increase the rate of cell turnover, you can also take matters into your own hands…literally. Through chemical and manual exfoliation, you can gently slough away the upper layers of the stratum corneum, encouraging newer, plumper cells to the surface.' - notice that it says you can slough away the upper layers of your skin i.e. the dead skin, then of course your new skin cells can reach the surface faster! BUT what it didn't say is that it can speed up your skin cycle. ;)