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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 21:21 EDT

White Skin Shows Wrinkles Faster

November 11, 2010

Researchers have found that the skin of Caucasian women is more likely to show wrinkles sooner than African American women. Scientists believe this may have more to do with aging than declining estrogen levels through menopause.

These findings are giving lighter skinned women more reason to protect their skin from damaging UVA rays, which can penetrate up to 250 micrometers into the skin.

It’s always been thought that the melanin in dark skin keeps it resistant to the signs of aging, but it is unclear whether there are actual racial differences in the aging of our skin.

In addition, while skin cells have receptors for estrogen, the extent to which estrogen loss after menopause may contribute to skin aging also remains unclear.

To put these theories to test, scientists took 65 Caucasian women and 21 African American women in their 50s who had gone through menopause over the past few years and evaluated skin elasticity and facial wrinkles.

In general, the women had only mild wrinkling; however, white women had nearly double the wrinkles than black women.

According to Dr. Hugh S. Taylor, The theory is that white women show wrinkles sooner because their skin is more susceptible to damage from a lifetime of sun exposure.

“That’s what we suspect may be going on, though our study does not prove that,” Taylor, of Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, told Reuters.

If that deliberation is correct, it should give lighter skinned women more incentive to avoid major sun exposure.

This doesn’t mean African American women shouldn’t worry about preventing wrinkles, findings just show that darker skin may not show visible signs of aging as early as a white women’s.

Skin elasticity is measure with a device called a durometer. Taylor believes skin elasticity may be largely dependent on structures underneath the skin, and it’s possible that those structures are more responsive to changes in estrogen levels — whereas wrinkling at the skin’s surface may be more dependent on factors like sun damage.

This research is part of an ongoing trial called KEEPS, which is looking at the effects of hormone therapy, begun soon after menopause, and the risk of heart disease. Taylor and his colleagues are also looking into whether hormone therapy has any effects on skin aging.
 
In 2002, a large U.S. government study found that postmenopausal women given HRT had higher risks of heart attack, stroke, breast cancer and blood clots than women given a placebo. Women in that study were about 63 years old, on average; the KEEPS trial is testing the theory that starting women on hormone therapy soon after menopause, when they are in their 40s and 50s, will have heart benefits.

It is unknown whether hormone therapy has any benefits for younger women, for either their heart or their skin, but it is not recommended that women use hormones in an effort to hinder the signs of aging.

The study is published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

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