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Signs of aging skin -- normal or not?

Skin signals

Aging skin is inevitable. No matter how well you've taken care of yourself, wrinkles will eventually make their way onto your face. But sometimes the signs of aging appear too early on the skin and indicate a serious problem. There can be a vast difference between what is considered 'normal' skin aging on your face and what should send you to a dermatologist ASAP.

Woman concerned with aging

What's Normal

Dr. Susan Stuart, chief of the division of dermatology at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, and a dermatologist recognized by the American Research Council, says changes in skin are "both progressive and additive." Here are some of changes that you can expect to see on your face as you age:

Pigmentary Changes

In your 30s, your skin may start to show signs of discoloration called dyschromia. Melasma, a brown discoloration often due to sun exposure, is also possible. It's more common in women with darker skin tones. Applying skin lightening creams that contain hydroquinone and retinoic acid can help. Be careful though, since pigmentary changes can also be a sign of skin cancer or a more serious condition, especially if they occur around a mole.

Fine Facial Lines

Rhytids, another name for wrinkles, may start to form around your eyes in your 30s and may be due to genetics -- people with fair skin who burn easily tend to age more quickly than those with olive or darker skin color, Dr. Stuart says. Eye creams will help, but protecting the area with sunscreen and protective eyewear is most effective, since the sun breaks down collagen causing volume loss, says Dr. David E. Bank, founder and director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in California and author of Beautiful Skin: Every Woman's Guide to Looking her Best at Any Age.

Marionette Marks

The wrinkles that extend down from the corners of your mouth, called marionette lines, may pop up in your 40s, along with lines on your forehead. Dermal fillers, which replace the lost volume between the mouth and chin, can be helpful to treat these lines.

Deeper Facial Wrinkles and Neckbands

As you age into your 50s, you might see deeper facial lines emerge around your mouth and face that give a sagging look to the cheeks and neck. Neck bands also become more prominent. You can delay these changes by cleansing and moisturizing your neck and applying daily a rejuvenating skin cream specially designed for the neck. If you already have these issues and are looking for procedures to remove them, light skin peels, thermage, microdermabrasion and Botox can help smoothen and prevent further wrinkles, Dr. Bank says.

What's Not Normal

Other changes in your facial skin are caused by habit, especially smoking and sunbathing. Both can not only cause early signs of aging to mark your mug, but can also increase chances of several types of skin cancer.

A Sallow Complexion

If you are a smoker, your skin is going to grow sallow and coarse. Puffing on a cigarette will also speed up the appearance of facial lines and make them deeper, especially around the mouth in the form of "smoker's lines." Quitting smoking is the most helpful way to stop these wrinkles in their tracks.

Pigmentary Changes in Your 20s

Though an eventual sign of aging, pigmentary changes in your 20s mean you've probably worshipped the sun. Sun bathing can also cause deep wrinkles to show earlier. Keep sun exposure to a minimum and apply moisturizers with SPF to prevent further damage or use make-up with SPF.

Broken Blood Vessels

Also known as telamgiectasia, small, dilated blood vessels near the surface of the skin or mucous membranes can pop up after too much sun exposure. They can develop anywhere on the body, but are most commonly seen on the face around the nose, cheeks and chin. Laser treatment is the most effective way to remove these marks.

Lesions and Changing Moles

Lesions that crust and bleed can be an early sign of skin cancer. Moles that suddenly change size, color or shape may indicate malignant melanoma -- the most deadly type of the disease. Scan your body for changes in moles or marks once a month, and visit the dermatologist once a year for a check-up.

More AGING AND SKIN CARE on SheKnows

Skincare tips from a dermatologist
The best at-home facials
Dealing with sunburned, peeling skin

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