What actually happens when your skin ages

science behind ageing skin

Advertorial: The science behind getting older

Beauty Crew Editor / May 25 2017

Getting older has its pros and cons. With age comes wisdom and perspective, but on the flip side, as each year ticks by we start to notice the visible signs of ageing. A wrinkle here, a little sagging there, some pigmentation and unevenness everywhere. And while there’s certainly no shame in these age markers, we’d all like to hold onto our youthful glow for a little bit longer. 

We spoke to Maggie Lee, Senior Scientist for Olay, to not only understand what is actually happening behind the scenes (aka at a cellular level) when our skin ages, but how we can use that knowledge to our advantage to erase (or even prevent) wrinkles and lines, tighten up sagging skin by improving elasticity, and even out imperfections like age spots and pigmentation.

How does ageing occur?

“Our genes that are responsible for making us look young – be it to tell cells to make more collagen or to lock in moisture – slowly decrease in activity [as we age]. These genes behave differently at different points in our lives, and when the genes that help make us stay youthful-looking do not function as strongly as before, it translates into visible signs of ageing on our skin,” explains Lee.

What contributes to ageing

Of course the natural passing of time impacts how your genes communicate with those cells, but there are other factors at play that can have an effect on the ageing process. 

“The biggest causes of ageing, aside from time itself, include ultraviolet rays and stress,” says Lee. 

In addition to this, a lack of sleep is also a huge contributing factor. An Olay Asia study by Olay Principal Scientist Dr. Akira Matsubara showed that the skin barrier weakens significantly after just one night of sleep deprivation, and that over time, a weakened barrier can lead to skin dryness and slowed skin surface cell renewal.

“The biggest causes of ageing, aside from time itself, include ultraviolet rays and stress.”
Maggie Lee
Senior Scientist

The first signs of ageing

Lee explains that it’s important to note that ageing begins without any visible signs (more on that in a bit), but then when it comes to noticing it, “Ageing takes on different forms in people due to various differences such as ethnicity. Some of the first signs we may notice include crow’s feet, dark circles around the eyes, and age spots on the cheeks.” 

As the ageing process progresses, Lee says our “skin loses more collagen and elastin – two proteins that help maintain skin structure, so we may experience loss of elasticity, saggy skin, and uneven texture.” 

How to tackle the signs of ageing

Because we don’t even notice when the ageing process begins, Lee recommends looking after your skin as early as possible. 

“We can use skin care products to address many signs of ageing. Olay products have been proven to provide visible results by their active ingredients, which help to remove the look of many of the aforementioned signs,” says Lee. 

When it comes to those aggressors of sun and stress, Lee has this advice: “For UV rays, we can put on blockers that help block them from causing the photo-damage on our skin. Olay Total Effect Day Cream SPF 15 provides sufficient protection against the harmful effects of UV rays. It is formulated with an optimal range of UV blockers that protect against the broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) of UV. It also helps to prevent all seven signs of ageing that thousands of women identify to be first indicators of their skins’ ageing. As for stress, we can manage our stress in our own ways to maintain a more relaxed lifestyle. Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Night Cream imparts a soothing and cooling sensation, which when applied and massaged onto skin, can help you to relax and let go of the stress accumulated from the day.” 

To treat the acceleration of ageing caused by a lack of sleep, there’s a skin care solution for that, too. Rosemarie Osbourne, PhD, Research Fellow for Global Olay Science says, “By identifying the enzymes responsible for skin repair and understanding when they’re most active, Olay is able to target a golden time frame when skin repair can be boosted to an optimal level.” 

Olay Regenerist’s Overnight Miracle products – Olay Regenerist Miracle Boost Youth Pre-Essence, Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream and Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Night Cream – are formulated to work with the skin’s daily repair rhythm to boost surface cell metabolism and renewal, intensely hydrate, and repair skin as you sleep.

Olay Regenerist Miracle Boost Youth Pre-Essence

Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream

Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Night Cream

How anti-ageing products work

The key to ensuring your skin care can help target your ageing concerns? Having the right ingredients in your skin care products. 

According to Lee, one of the best anti-ageing ingredients that’s been proven in its effectiveness is niacinamide. “It helps strengthen skin’s protective layers by playing an important role in enzymatic reactions that fuel skin cells. As a result, niacinamide can help to lock in more moisture in the skin, smooth out wrinkles and improve skin texture, and reduce the effects of UV rays.” 

It’s also important to understand the role of active ingredients in your skin care. So what is an active ingredient? Lee explains it like this: “Active ingredients are the key ingredients that provide the benefits offered by a skin care product. They target certain concerns.” 

“There are skin care products with active ingredients that work on ‘multiple fronts’ to help fight the signs of ageing. Skin care scientists at Olay have done countless tests for efficacy and safety to ensure that these active ingredients, together, are safe and effective to be used in one product that provides multiple effects. For instance, Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream is an award-winning anti-ageing product that is formulated with multiple active ingredients that are proven to have dramatic effects on signs of ageing. Its key actives work together in synergy to provide holistic anti-ageing benefits: Pal-KTTKS helps restore collagen, niacinamide boosts skin’s energy, Olive-M helps fight oxidation as an antioxidant and improves the penetration of other ingredients, and Lylastine – derived from the dill herb – assists the skin’s production of elastin, a key protein that maintains skin structure,” explains Lee.

Why Olay products work

When it comes to Olay, consumers and anti-ageing, the brand has all bases covered. Lee says, “Olay scientists study consumer concerns and determine what is possible to be done about these concerns. Our teams constantly work on new ingredients and technologies, and innovate with ways that these could bring benefits to the consumers. Tested vigorously, countless prototypes of these products are produced to find the optimal formulation and method of delivery on skin. We also constantly consider formulation upgrades to allow ingredients to work more in synergy, maximising skin care effects. Our products go through robust safety tests to ensure that everyone can confidently use our products.”

Like the sound of the Olay Regenerist Overnight Miracle products? Find out what happened when our Editor put Olay Regenerist to the test.

Main image credit: Getty


Carli was BEAUTYcrew’s Editor from launch in 2016 until May 2020. You can find her words right here on BEAUTYcrew, and previously on beautyheaven.