The Skin Aging Process: Natural Aging vs Photoaging

Knowing the differences between these two aging processes allows you to determine how to deal with each one.
BY Chella Caguin
| Last updated Apr, 2023
Natural Aging vs Photoaging

How often have you examined yourself in the mirror and noticed symptoms of aging? How often do you scour the stores and online for moisturizers, serums, oils, or other products to maintain your youthful glow? Understanding the distinctions between natural aging and photoaging processes enables you to choose the appropriate treatment for each.

Let’s face facts – aging is unavoidable. While you cannot stop your skin from gradually aging, there are some things you can do to care for it and halt the aging process.

This article focuses on two types of aging: Natural Aging and Photoaging. Knowing the differences between these two aging processes allows you to determine how to deal with each one.

It’s pretty simple to tell the difference between photoaging and typical aging skin. The skin’s elasticity, pigmentation, texture, wrinkles, and moisture all deteriorate with natural aging. On the other hand, photoaging has the same signs as aging but begins sooner.

Whether you care about aging or how it affects your appearance, it’s better to be aware of it.

What is Natural Aging?

The physiological changes we go through as we age are referred to as aging. As the name suggests, natural aging is a naturally occurring, genetically-established process that occurs in our bodies.

It has something to do with the cells in our bodies. After all, our cells are not built to last forever, and the structure and functioning of our cells decrease as time passes.

What Is Photoaging?

Photoaging is the term used when referring to premature skin changes, and it’s attributed to repetitive or prolonged ultraviolet (UV) exposure both from the sun and other artificial UV sources.

Some artificial sources of UV radiation include tanning beds, mercury vapor lighting (often found in stadiums and school gyms), and some halogen, fluorescent, and incandescent lights.

UV radiation affects our typical skin structures. Ultraviolet rays can penetrate the outer layers of our skin, hitting the deeper layers, where they can damage our skin cells.

In a nutshell, natural aging is dependent on time, while photoaging is all about sun damage.

What Causes Natural Aging?

Natural aging is due to intrinsic factors. It has something to do with the biological aging of cells.

Aging is thought to be caused by a combination of processes rather than a single cause. It’s also possible that these processes will interact and overlap.

Programmed Theories on Aging

There are some programmed theories on what causes aging. According to these theories, people are destined to age. Our cells have a predetermined lifespan that is imprinted into our bodies. Here are a few theories:

1. The Gene Theory 

According to this view, aging is caused by specific genes turning “on” and “off” throughout time.

2. The Endocrine Theory

Changes in hormones produced by the endocrine system, according to this view, are the cause of aging.

3. Immunological Theory

This theory, often known as the autoimmune theory, proposes that the immune system is meant to deteriorate. Disease and aging are the eventual results.

Genetic Theories of Aging

Then there are those theories pertaining to genetics. This idea is said to coincide with programmed theories of aging since genes have predefined features. To cut a long story short, the genes determine the lifespan we inherited from our parents.

Here are some of those theories:

1. Telomere Theory

As your chromosomes multiply, telomeres safeguard the ends of your chromosomes. Telomeres shorten with time, which is linked to disease and aging.

2. Programmed Senescence Theory

Cellular senescence occurs when cells stop dividing and developing but do not die. This idea claims that this is the cause of aging.

3. Stem Cell Theory

Stem cells have the ability to transform into different cells, which aids in tissue and organ repair. However, stem cell function deteriorates over time, possibly leading to aging.

There are more possibilities, but they all boil down to the same thing: changes in molecular structure and, consequently, function are the common denominator of all modern theories of biological aging.

What Causes Photoaging?

The single most significant cause of skin aging is excessive sun exposure. Short UVB wavelengths damage DNA and weaken the skin’s immune system. UVA wavelengths that are longer and more penetrating may produce highly reactive oxygen molecules that damage skin cell membranes, resulting in physical and structural changes in the skin.

It’s interesting to note, though, that smoking and being overweight are linked to solar damage and aging of the skin of the face. One researcher looked at 65 identical and fraternal twin pairs that visited the Twin Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, in 2002. These individuals filled out a survey about their weight, skin type, smoking and drinking habits, and skin cancer history.

A photodamage score was assigned to each subject, which rated traits like wrinkling and pigmentation alterations. Clinicians assigned the scores and discovered that heavier weight and smoking were linked to higher photodamage levels.


Both natural and photoaging have effects on our bodies, but the most visible ones are on the skin.

Skin elasticity decreases one effect. You will see your skin turn slack, and the lack of elastic tissue (elastin) in the skin causes it to loosely hang as it ages. Another effect you’ll notice is your skin becomes transparent, and epidermal thinning occurs. 

Bruising of the skin becomes increasingly common. This bruising occurs because the walls of blood vessels are thinner.

Sunspots or patches appear. This skin discoloration is, of course, mainly caused by sun damage.

Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays degrade elastin, a kind of skin fiber. The skin sags, stretches, and loses its ability to snap back after stretching due to the breakdown of elastin fibers.

Treatments and Lifestyle Habits

Skin health and attractiveness are some of the most important indicators of general “well-being” and the perception of “health” in humans. Therefore, it’s vital to know the most essential and natural anti-aging skincare you can apply. Here are some treatments you can try at-home, in-office, and healthy lifestyle habits.

1. Use Topical Serums and Creams 

You can use over-the-counter serums, creams, moisturizers, and oils that contain antioxidants, and anti-aging ingredients in them, such as:

You also can apply aloe vera to your skin. Aloin and aloesin, two active chemicals in aloe vera, have been shown to lighten hyperpigmentation, including sunspots, efficiently.

2. Eat Foods High in Collagen and Antioxidants 

Collagen is a protein that your body naturally produces. It accounts for roughly one-third of all protein in your body. It is necessary for joint health. And it also maintains skin elasticity, which helps to prevent wrinkles and dry skin. Your body produces less collagen as you age.

Superfoods such as beef, chicken, fish, turkey, beans, eggs, spinach, kale, broccoli, bell peppers, berries, purple grapes, avocados, garlic, carrots, and sweet potatoes are high in collagen and antioxidants. You can consider them to be foods to improve skin elasticity, increase skin hydration, and help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Antioxidant-rich foods help protect the skin from free radicals and sun damage. 

3. Exercise 

Regular exercising helps your skin to look younger by increasing blood flow, sending more oxygen, and eliminating waste. Exercise keeps skin cells healthy and vital. Better blood flow results in increased oxygen and nutrition delivery. It may help your skin produce collagen, which staves off wrinkles. Also, regular exercise is one of the keys to healthy skin.

4. Ease Stress

Chronic stress takes a toll on the body, triggering premature aging of immune system cells. Chronic stress can cause inflammation in the skin, speeding up the aging process and the formation of wrinkles. Psychological stress can affect the skin. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can cause the skin’s collagen and elastin to break down.

5. Get Plenty of Sleep 

Poor sleep causes your skin to age faster, and it does not recover as effectively from environmental stressors like sun exposure.

When you sleep, your skin produces new collagen, which helps prevent sagging. According to Patricia Wexler, MD, a dermatologist in New York, “That’s part of the repair process”. More collagen means the skin is plumper and less likely to wrinkle. 

In-Office Professional Treatments

  1. You can try botox or fillers, and this process can restore the volume and decrease the wrinkles in your skin. You can use botulinum toxin, hyaluronic acid injections, your own fat, and Gore-Tex implants to repair deeper facial wrinkles.
  1. Some prefer surgeries like a facelift. You can try that too. Before, facelifts only tightened the skin. Nowadays, this is more to do with repositioning the muscle, skin, and fat.
  1. Laser resurfacing treatments are a great way to reduce facial wrinkles, remove brown spots, tighten skin and encourage collagen production.
  1. Chemical peels can also be an option. Chemical peels reduce wrinkles caused by aging and photoaged skin. An acid solution is applied to the skin to remove the top layer. They are allowing new smooth skin to grow in its place.
  1. Microneedling is collagen induction therapy that repeatedly punctures the skin with tiny, sterile needles. Microneedling helps reduce skin elasticity, fine lines & wrinkles remove dark spots caused by sun damage or acne scars.


With all the aging treatments available, nothing can beat prevention. Technically, you cannot prevent yourself from aging. But there are lifestyle habits and skincare treatments you can follow so that you can maintain healthy, youthful skin for as long as you can.

Although you do get Vitamin D from the sun, overexposing yourself can be detrimental. It is vital to prevent the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to safeguard against sun damage. Wear protective clothing, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher when the sun’s rays are at their highest.

As UV radiation can penetrate clouds, you should wear sunscreen every day, rain or shine. The final process in your daytime skincare routine should always include sunscreen. If you apply another skincare product on top of your SPF, the sunscreen will be less effective.

Final Thoughts

Following the skincare treatments mentioned in this article is a good start to keep your skin supple, healthy, and youthful-looking. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle such as, regular exercising, eating healthy, plenty of sleep, not smoking, and reducing stress levels are vital in slowing your skin aging process.

Also, don’t allow your skin to prematurely age due to excess sun exposure. Do you see signs of aging due to sun exposure? Let us know in the comments below!

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