Understanding intrinsic vs extrinsic aging

The skin ages in two ways intrinsically and extrinsically. Understanding the differences between these two types of aging can empower you with the right foundation...
Lara Fountain
Understanding intrinsic vs extrinsic aging

The skin ages in two ways intrinsically and extrinsically. Understanding the differences between these two types of aging can empower you with the right foundation and knowledge so your skin is at its best whatever your age.

What is intrinsic aging?

Intrinsic aging, aka chronological or physiological aging, is the natural genetically determined process of aging we all experience. It's driven by our unique biological clock which ticks away inside us, slowly changing our cells, tissues, and organs.

Intrinsic aging factors

Intrinsic aging is a gradual process typically starting in our mid-20s, although its effects may not become visible for decades. During this time the skin undergoes several changes which are largely attributed to hormonal changes.

Collagen production slows collagen the protein that gives skin its structure, strength, and elasticity. Our bodies produce less collagen as we age, leading to thinner, less resilient skin.

Elastin loses Its spring elastin, another protein in our skin, helps it snap back into place when stretched. Over time, elastin fibers become less flexible, causing the skin to sag.

Decreased skin cell turnover in healthy skin the process of skin cells renewing and shedding happens roughly every 28 days. With age, this process slows and leads to a duller complexion.

Fat loss the underlying fat in our cheeks, temples, chin, nose, and eye area begins to diminish, and as a result of this loss of supportive tissue the skin around these areas starts to sag.

Signs of intrinsic aging

Intrinsic aging manifests itself in several ways, some of which include:

  • Fine lines and wrinkles appear due to the gradual loss of collagen and elastin
  • Loss of firmness as skin starts to sag, especially around the jawline and neck.
  • Skin becomes thinner and more fragile, making it prone to bruising and tearing.
  • Gaunt appearance as a result of the loss of underlying fat that plumps skin structure. This is especially visible around the cheek and eye area.

What is extrinsic aging

Research shows that up to 80% of the visible signs of aging are due to external factors aka extrinsic aging.

Extrinsic or premature aging refers to external, preventable factors that speed up the aging process. These environmental factors often work in tandem with intrinsic aging to prematurely age our skin. Unlike intrinsic aging, which is largely out of our control, extrinsic aging can be mitigated by implementing lifestyle changes.

Extrinsic aging factors

Extrinsic aging is primarily driven by environment and lifestyle choices. Some of the main culprits include:

Sun Exposure or photoaging leads to a range of skin issues and is the number one factor contributing to premature aging. 

Diet eating nutrient-dense foods provides the building blocks that support healthy cell regeneration and in turn, support healthy cell turnover resulting in clear, bright glowing complexions.

Smoking exposes the skin to harmful chemicals that break down collagen and elastin, leading to the premature formation of fine lines, wrinkles and skin sagging.

Alcohol consuming alcohol results in dehydration and inflammation which leads to free radical damage and loss of elasticity leaving skin dull, dry, and flushed.

Pollution environmental pollutants can damage the skin’s barrier, leading to dehydration and premature aging.

Signs of extrinsic aging

Extrinsic aging typically results in more pronounced and varied skin changes compared to intrinsic aging. Some signs include:

  • Deep Wrinkles, especially noticeable on the forehead and around the eyes these wrinkles are more prominent due to sun exposure and other environmental factors.
  • Dyspigmentation uneven skin tone, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation are common signs of extrinsic aging.
  • Telangiectasia are small, visible blood vessels that appear on the surface of the skin, often due to sun damage.
  • Actinic Elastosis is a condition that causes the skin to become thickened, leathery, and deeply wrinkled, particularly in areas exposed to the sun.

Infographic on how a wrinkle is formed via the process of skin aging

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Intrinsic and extrinsic aging factors

As you have learned Intrinsic aging is a natural, genetically driven process that happens to everyone. Influenced by our DNA and the biological changes that occur within our bodies over time. Extrinsic aging is largely determined by our environment and lifestyle choices. While we can’t stop intrinsic aging, we can take steps to prevent or reduce extrinsic aging by making healthier choices.

The signs of intrinsic and extrinsic aging can overlap, but there are some key differences:

Intrinsic aging generally leads to fine lines, sagging skin, thinning, and a loss of underlying fat, resulting in a gaunt appearance.

Extrinsic aging results in deeper wrinkles, uneven skin tone, dark spots, and uneven even leathery skin texture due to environmental factors like sun exposure and smoking.

 Minimize the effects of aging 

  • Apply a natural broad-spectrum non-nano SPF sunscreen every day
  • Don't smoke as smoking accelerates the aging process
  • Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and antioxidants which help fight free radical damage.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated and maintain its elasticity.
  • Use bioavailable natural skincare products that nourish and replenish the skin with bioavailable natural actives like bakuchiol, vitamin C, peptides and hyaluronic acid which can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve skin structure and texture.
  • Ensure you are getting 7-9 hours of quality rest each night so that your cells can regenerate properly
  • Exercise regularly as it promotes healthy blood circulation and helps to detoxify the body and skin.
  • Support hormone health at every age and stage to foster and support healthy hormonal balance

Discover natural hormonal support products

Metamorphosis by Vanessa Megan women's blend peri- post menopause powder

A final word on aging

Aging is a complex process that is influenced by many factors it can be confronting and hard to get your head around at times. Understanding the differences between these two types of aging allows you confidently take measures that support the optimal health and wellbeing of your skin at every stage. Let your unique true natural beauty shine and never forget smile lines are a sign of a life well lived and beauty comes from within!! Don't view the process of aging through a less of loss as it is your perspective that will either squee or empower your perception of your reflection.

Learn more about natural skincare:

How to choose the best natural sunscreen for your skin

The comprehensive guide to skincare ingredients 

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About the author

Lara Fountain

Lara a certified organic skincare and cosmetic formulator shares natural, and effective beauty solutions, wellness insights, and recipes created to empower and nourish your glow naturally from the inside out.