Do changes in your skin with age really matter?

As part of our 2018 study on attitudes to skin and ageing in the UK population*, we wanted to understand how much the skin changes with age mattered to people.

Fungal decay on an aged tree stump – copyright Steve Barton 2019

Why we asked this

  • Popular press, glossy magazines and consumer advertising perpetuate the idea that the changes in skin with age are somehow negative or a concern that can be easily addressed using a variety of strategies.

  • We wanted to understand the attitudes to ageing skin:

    • how concerned are people?

    • how motivated are they to do something about skin changes with age?

How we asked

  • Respondents were given 6 options and asked to select the one which best described their attitude. The options and responses can be seen in the figure below.

What we found out

  • 50% “accept the changes for what they are but still take steps to keep my skin in good condition anyway”.

  • This appears to be slightly higher in oldest and youngest age groups.

  • A sizeable proportion respond to problematic changes “taking steps from time to time” or “continually” in 18% and 23% respectively

  • “taking steps continually” appears to be age related.

Commentary

The perception that “everyone” is concerned about skin changes with age seems far from the truth. The array of options to improve ageing skin and frequent advertising targeting skincare for older groups would appear to attract around 40% of the population.

The response options were created to assess “concern” together with “motivation”. Concern has two aspects –  are skin changes a problem or are they acceptable? Motivation has three aspects – there is nothing I can do, I may take action, I definitely take action.

It has been accepted for some time that there is a strong relationship between self-image and psychological status.

Using a standardised set of questions to assess individuals’ “happiness” we also compared people’s attitudes, concern and motivation with their “Happiness scores”. The maximum achievable score is 35 and the results from the groups in our study are in the table below.

Attitude to changes in skin with age Average Happiness score
1.     The changes in my skin as I age represent a problem for me and I take positive steps to improve these on a continual basis 19.4
2.     The changes in my skin as I age represent a problem for me so I take positive steps to improve these from time to time 18.5
3.     The changes in my skin as I age represent a problem for me but I believe there is little I can do to alter this so do not take any action 16.6
4.     I accept the changes for what they are but I still take steps to keep my skin in good condition anyway 19.5
5.     I accept the changes in my skin as I age for what they are, so I do nothing in particular to change things 19.1
6.     I do not worry about changes in my skin as I age and I see no point in doing anything about it 17.5

The analysis is complex, but it does show significant differences in “Happiness scores”.  It appears that those with higher motivation to do something about the skin changes with age (responses 3 and 6 above) have higher “Happiness scores”. However, this needs further exploration; there is no clear causal relationship.

Other research has shown that those with a positive self-image “aged better” than those with a less positive mindset; again, it was hard to know whether this was a cause or an effect. These and other aspects of the interactions between our brains and our skin – the role of touch on our physical and mental wellbeing, the role of sleep and stress – are current areas of exploration in skin biology.

Want to find out more? 

For a summary of the other findings in our survey email us at this address:-

info@skinthinking.com

*our survey of responses from over 7000 UK residents was conducted between Feb and May 2018. Some of the results were presented at Summit Events Anti-Ageing Conference in London June 5-6 2018