Intrinsic And Extrinsic Aging [What’s The Difference?]

Aging is simply the process of getting older. What’s the big deal? In our youth-crazed society, it can feel like a big deal. If you’ve survived your 20s, and are firmly planted in your 30s, you know the struggle is real! Did you know there are two types of aging? It’s true! Aging occurs due to both internal and external factors. Some of these factors are based on heredity, while others are within your control. What’s the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic aging?

blonde mother and daughter

Intrinsic Aging

First let’s talk about how we age internally. This type of aging is a result of the passage of time. You’ll first start to notice reductions in your skin’s firmness and elasticity as collagen and elastic gradually start to decline. Intrinsic aging is inevitable, with heredity being a significant factor. If your parents have aged well, take heart, as your fate will likely be similar.

Hormones play a crucial role in intrinsic aging. Any woman, both young and old, can attest to this fact. If you’ve ever broken out right before your period, experienced changes in your skin during pregnancy, or have gone through menopause, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Hormones fluctuate during these times, and can negatively effect the skin.

The ratio of estrogen to progesterone dictates many of these changes. Collagen production decreases as women approach menopause as their estrogen levels wane. Collagen is the foundational support structure of the skin so it makes sense that significant changes, including wrinkles, sagging, and a lackluster complexion, will occur when that underlying support system no longer functions as it once did.

Additional Facts

Adding insult to injury, cell metabolism and turnover declines with age, leading to fewer new skin cells. This shows up as older-looking skin with all its manifestations. The rate at which you age is also dependent on how effective your body is at repairing damaged DNA. The less effectively your body can repair, the faster you’ll age.

Skin becomes increasingly drier with age. This inability to bind water accelerate aging. Decreased lipid production also contributes to dehydrated skin. Less-than-optimal blood flow doesn’t help matters, nor does impaired immunity, that accompanies aging. The result is less volume, and altered fat distribution.

Add to this visually unappealing scenario, increased formation of senescent cells. These types of cells divide less often, are inflammatory, and directly correlate with aging. In fact, senescent cells are abundant in conditions like arthritic joints, arterial plaque, and cataracts. These cells also negatively affect the fat layers in the skin, leading to wrinkles and thinning of the skin. Thin skin ages more quickly, and is more prone to sun damage.

advances probiotics bannerUnfortunately, we can control intrinsic aging only to an extent. There is good news, however. Intrinsic aging represents only about 10% of the aging process, and the effects are gradual, becoming the most apparent in middle age. Fortunately, the second type of aging is well within our control.

Extrinsic Aging

Extrinsic means “outward” or “external.” This type of aging occurs due to external factors, such as sun exposure, environmental pollution, smoking, alcohol abuse, inadequate nutrition, lack of exercise, toxic exposures, lack of self-care, poor sleep hygiene, and stress. It accounts for up to 90% of the aging process, and you’ll start to see its effects as early as your 30s. Basically, extrinsic or chronological aging, is the consequence of lifestyle habits you can control. That’s the good news. The bad news is, if you neglect to step up to the plate, your choices will be clearly seen on your face. I know that’s pretty sobering.

If you know an aging smoker, you’re familiar with the deep facial furrows and wrinkles. Photo aging, or sun damage, can mimic this effect, and is the main contributing factor to older-looking skin. In fact, it’s the number one cause of extrinsic aging. Always wear sunblock on your face, along with a wide-brimmed hat, whenever you’re out in the sun. This is your number one defense against aging prematurely.

Advanced Glycation End Products

old woman smilingExtrinsic aging of the skin is closely linked to environmental and lifestyle factors, showing up as coarse wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, skin growths, and glycation. The process of glycation is significant because it involves the crosslinking of elastin and collagen, which happens when glucose reacts with protein molecules.

This reaction leads to the formation of AGEs or advanced glycation end products. AGES negatively affect the protein matrix of the skin, namely collagen and elastin. They are inflammatory, lead to a loss of elasticity, accelerated aging, and of course, wrinkles. This is just one more reason to decrease sugar consumption in your diet because what you eat shows up on your face!

Alcohol increases glycation as do blackened meats. Maintaining a healthy weight is important to inhibit glycation because a large waist size is associated with AGEs as are unhealthy blood sugar levels. It should come as no surprise that UV radiation increases the formation AGEs. Zinc oxide is a great alternative to traditional sunscreens that are toxic.

Muscle mass declines with age, This reduction can lead to high blood sugar, and increased AGEs. Exercise is an anti-aging elixir that will keep your muscles strong, and your skin looking young and supple. It’s amazing how looking good and feeling good always point back to lifestyle strategies that support health. Common sense is cheaper than botox!

Best Ways To Prevent Aging

Although, we can’t halt the aging process, there is a lot we can do to prevent premature aging. Here are some of the best strategies to keep you looking young for as long as possible. How well are you doing in the areas below?:

  • ALWAYS protect your face from sun exposure
  • Eat a nutritious diet with moderate carbohydrate intake
  • Establish a quality skincare routine and stick to it
  • Exercise consistently
  • Find effective strategies to manage your stress
  • Get enough sleep – that’s why they call it beauty sleep
  • Decrease alcohol and caffeine consumption – they both are dehydrating
  • Reduce toxic exposure by using organic body care and cleaning products
  • Use a high-quality vitamin C serum to stimulate the production of collagen
  • Use hyaluronic acid to hold in moisture

[Read More: Hyaluronic Acid [The Ultimate Hydrator]

Key Points

There are two types of aging, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic happens internally and is biochemical in nature. Extrinsic aging happens externally, and is the result of lifestyle and environmental factors we can control. Strategies that slow aging include, sun protection, living a healthy lifestyle, reducing toxic exposure, and engaging in a consistent skincare routine. Not only will you age more slowly, you’ll also live longer. What’s not to like about that?!

How well are you aging? Let me know in the comments:)




12 thoughts on “Intrinsic And Extrinsic Aging [What’s The Difference?]”

  1. Damn, this is some eye opening stuff. My family has always had bad skin and they look extremely old even though they’re only in their 50s and 60s. I don’t want to end up like them. I want to take care of my skin so I look younger for longer, and these tips seem like a no-brainer.

    Fortunately, I already limit my time in the sun, and always aim for 8-9 hours of sleep per night.  I’ll be sure to use your other tips too! Thanks a lot!

    • Thanks for your comment Brandon. It sounds like you’ve got some great lifestyle strategies in place. Limiting sun exposure and getting plenty of sleep are such important factors in aging gracefully. Good for you!

  2. Thank goodness  to my parents, that’s why I have aged well, phew! 

    But boy do I try hard. Everyday, I drink my smoothies with tons of supplements in it. Next I put a lot of serums on my face lol then a lotion religiously. I even use some acids to get rid of my blemishes, to get that youthful look. At least two hours of my day is dedicated to that. I also use sunscreens every day to protect my skin from sun exposure. I have a lot of freckles even though I use sun screen religiously. 

    I also mask my face two times a week before I go to bed. I use royal jelly (it’s a honey product) and leave it on my face until it dries out. You will not believe it leaves your skin so soft and bouncy!! If I feel like scrubbing my face I use the sugar and slowly rub it on face in circular motion. 😉 Try it, it is soooo good. 

    That’s all I know, wanna hear everyone tips too! let’s share.

    • Wow, sounds like you’ve got an amazing skin care routine. With each passing year, you’ll thank yourself for your dedication. I haven’t tried royal jelly on my face. I’ll have to give it a try. Sounds awesome!

      I make a mask using sugar and sea salt that I use as a scrub. Sugar is incredible as a scrub, isn’t it?!

  3. This was a VERY educational article. Not only did I learn two new terms, intrinsic aging and extrinsic aging, you taught me that I have more control over my aging than I thought. Thanks. 90% is a huge amount of control.    Over the years, I have met many people that looked way older than they should have due to smoking and sun damage.   I have also suspected that maintaining a stressful life played a role as well. 

    Yet, I didn’t realize that my sugar and caffeine consumption would be among the list of things that I need to avoid. You have also made me realize that I’ve gotten a bit lazy with regards to my skin care routine and exercise .  These are all things that I can control. You’ve made me feel like I do not have to be a victim of aging at this point in my life.  

    Thank you!

    • Aren’t we lucky Sondra that we can control over how quickly we age? 90% is a huge amount of control. Most of us know that smoking and sun damage accelerate aging, but many people don’t realize the significant role stress plays. 

      It takes a daily commitment to eat well and exercise. This puts us in charge of how we live are lives as we age. Thanks for reading!

  4. Thanks for this educational article. I learned a lot. Sometimes we take little things like taking good care of ourselves for granted until the results manifest in the future. 

    Like you mentioned, intrinsic aging may more or less be beyond our control, but that which is within our capability. the extrinsic aging process, should be controlled by living a healthy lifestyle!

    • You’re very welcome. Glad you got something out of it. It’s easy to take good health for granted, expecting it to always be there, until it isn’t. Living a healthy lifestyle just makes sense!

  5. Hello there. Loved reading your article it was really informative. I am interested in anti aging very much. I loved your explanation regarding Intrinsic and Extrinsic aging. I never really noticed the difference. Also, are you familiar with HGH? What do you think about organic ways to increase your HGH?

    I can see that a lot of people are talking about protecting yourself from sunlight and also using a low carb diet. What kind of diet are you using?


    • Hi Strahinja.

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, I’m familiar with HGH. Human growth hormone begins its descent as early as your 20s so finding ways to increase it naturally is important. I like intermittent fasting and interval training to stimulate HGH. These strategies have really helped me.

      Protecting yourself from excessive sun exposure is essential to prevent premature aging. Moderating carb intake is also vital for aging well. I eat a moderate protein, moderate carb, and high fat diet. I find this way of eating supports my metabolism, and allows me to feel my best!

  6. Thanks for the very informative post.  When I was reading what you tell about Intrinsic aging I was reminded that both my parents aged well, and that I’ve been fortunate to follow in their footsteps.  In saying that, there is no way I feel perfect, or near to it when I look in the mirror and probably the reason for that is due to not always taking preventative measures, as you’ve listed.

    One thing I do recommend is to drink plenty of water.  Not only does water hydrate the skin, it also assists the health of internal organs.   It was recommended to me by a Urologist to drink a minimum of 1½ litres of water per day.  This was not something I enjoyed during winter months, but I came to terms with it for the purpose of good health.

    In the summer months I enjoy drinking plenty of ice cold water.  In fact, in summer, intake of water rather than coffee, tea or alcohol, is my preference.

    • Thanks for reading my post Valerie. You are fortunate that your parents aged well. Thank you genetics!

      Great tip on drinking more water. It’s certainly something I need to be better at!


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