Thin isn’t always a good thing. At least not when our skin is concerned. Think thin, saggy, wrinkled skin. Not very pretty huh? So having thick skin is good for once. But it’s a fact that as we age, our skin naturally becomes thinner due to a loss of collagen and elasticity. Our lifestyle and our choices of products and treatments may even accelerate this skin thinning process if we aren’t careful.
So what are the contributing factors to giving us thinner skin aside from medical problems? Here are six that I’ve come across based on reading as well as personal experience:
1. Excessive sun exposure
Excessive sun damage is always a bad thing when it comes to our skin. I’ll say it’s the number one skin enemy that causes us to age rapidly. Why? Prolonged exposure to the sun breaks down collagen and elastin fibers in the deep layer of your skin. Over time, your skin looks thin, crepey and full of pigmented marks. Just look at the skin of those who love to sun tan and you’ll see what I mean.
Hence, to avoid having your skin lose elasticity and become more fragile too quickly, you should always use a sunscreen with SPF30 or higher. Most importantly, ensure your sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection. Believe me, this is going to be your skin’s long term savior!
2. Over exfoliation
While exfoliation is often said to be an important step in skin care as it removes dead skin cells that build up on the surface, forced exfoliation result in an emergency message from the epidermis to the dermis requesting immediate assistance. And the only way to get replacement cells to the surface quickly is to increase turnover temporarily, according to Dr Ben Johnson.
It appears that if we “forcefully” repair the epidermal layer, it will then grab nutrients from the dermis layer, and as such, will cause the dermis layer to thin faster. When our dermis layer thins, then our skin becomes prone to wrinkling and sagging. Also, remember that exfoliating the epidermis increases photodamage, which will further hasten skin aging. So cosmetic procedures like microdermabrasion is not too good for our skin and might even cause it to become sensitive.
3. Frequent aggressive treatments
While it is said that skin that is thin and fragile can be significantly rejuvenated with aggressive treatments such as peels and resurfacing with either chemicals or lasers, these cosmetic procedures can thin the dermis by 30% in one application (source).
I can’t say if it’s really 30% but I can definitely attest to laser treatments thinning out my skin after getting a few sessions of IPL done many years ago. So while laser treatments may help even your skin tone, you may have thinner skin to live with after one session too many.
4. Ingredients that have exfoliating properties
Tretinoin creams like Retin-A or Renova; vitamin A derivatives called retinoids and including retinal and retinyl palmitate; AHAs like glycolic, lactic, tartaric, malic, alpha-hydroxyethanoic or alpha-hydroxycaprylic acid and sugar cane extract; BHAs such as salicylic acid – are said to be ingredients that contribute to our skin thinning. This is because these ingredients have exfoliating properties. In the same vein, we should also minimize our usage of natural and botanical ingredients with exfoliating properties.
5. Long term usage of topical steroids
Long-term use of topical topical corticosteroids (simply called steroids for short) can weaken skin and the blood vessels in skin. Topical steroids work by getting absorbed into the skin cells to stop these cells from producing various inflammation-causing chemicals that are normally released when the skin reacts to allergens or irritation.
Hence, avoid using topical steroids for longer than necessary. Some of these include Triamcinolone Acetonide, Betamethasone Valerate, Clobetasol Propionate, Diflucortolone valerate. amongst others and are said to be extremely potent in strength (source).
6. Low estrogen level
A low estrogen level in women can cause our dermis to become drier and more fragile. As such, women in their late 30s may begin to experience more wrinkles and sagging due to a reduction in their skin elasticity. If you’re experiencing this, you have to take care of your skin, avoid frequent exfoliation and harsh treatments plus maintain a healthy lifestyle in order not to accelerate the thinning process.
You may also want to know that there is also a variation in skin thickness during the menstrual cycle, with skin thickness lowest at the start of the menstrual cycle, when estrogen and progesterone levels are low, which then increases with the rising levels of estrogen (source).
I am not too sure if I have naturally thin skin but in the years I had acne, I used to exfoliate more than necessary because I want get rid of my acne marks quickly. So sometimes, I can exfoliate every day for a week. However, it was good I kept that as a short term solution and reverted to my once-a-week exfoliation afterwards.
I also try to avoid using harsh ingredients whenever possible. Of course I’m also looking at ways to thicken my dermis layer – as naturally as possible. I’ll discuss that in another post soon.