Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Aging: What You Need to Know to Look Youthful Longer


“Your skin always looks amazing! What is your secret?!”

“Nothing special. My mom has amazing skin, though. I guess it’s genetic!”

Have you had a similar conversation with a friend who never seems to age, no matter how many candles are on their birthday cake? 

Well, that taps into the very heart of the intrinsic vs. extrinsic aging topic. 

In today’s blog, we will discuss the differences between the two. You might be asking yourself, “why do I need to know this?”

Because the #1 concern patients have is aging skin. 

“How can I slow down aging?” 

“What can I do to look younger?”

These are the types of questions we hear in our clinics all of the time. But to truly make the right decisions about preventing and treating the signs of aging, you have to understand how and why our skin ages.

So let’s jump right in.


Intrinsic aging is the natural aging process determined by your genetics. It is also affected by:

  • Free radical damage to your DNA and your skin’s collagen and elastin structure
  • Hormonal changes
  • Your body’s slowly decreasing ability to repair itself (from, say, that free radical damage we mentioned above)

It’s helpful to think of intrinsic aging as aging from the inside out.

We’re happy for you if you won the genetic lottery. But if you’re looking at your family tree and not seeing good things in your (skin) future, don’t despair! Researchers have found that genetics play a 15% role in skin aging. That means that the majority of skin aging falls into the extrinsic category, which may not mean much to you now, but keep reading, and it will.


Extrinsic aging is caused by external factors such as lifestyle. Here are some of the major external factors that contribute to extrinsic aging:

  • Sun exposure
  • Smoking
  • Pollution
  • Chronic stress
  • Lack of sleep and poor sleeping positions
  • A poor diet (fried foods, sugar, alcohol, and more)
  • A lack of exercise

Not only does extrinsic aging negatively impact the appearance of your skin, but it also speeds up intrinsic aging. Personally, this is a two-for-one deal we can do without.

If the majority of skin aging is due to external factors, as research shows, that means that it is within your control to slow down the aging process. That’s good news! We’ll get into the steps you can take to slow down this process further below, but first, let’s go over what each form of aging means for your skin.


The visible signs of intrinsic aging include:

  • Sagging skin
  • Hollowness in the face
  • Thinning skin
  • Wrinkles and folds in the skin
  • Skin that doesn’t bounce back the way that it used to
  • Loss of firmness in the skin


What does extrinsic aging do to the skin? It creates:

  • Fine lines and wrinkles (especially premature wrinkling)
  • Dark spots and freckles
  • Rough, uneven skin texture
  • Redness and blotchiness


We can’t choose our DNA, but we do have an influence on external factors that mess with our skin. With a few lifestyle changes, you can minimize extrinsic aging. Here are the top ways: 

  • Wear sunscreen daily! UV exposure is the meanest, baddest extrinsic aging culprit of the entire lineup. So wear sunscreen and don’t forget to reapply every two hours. And take additional measures, like limiting your time in the sun and wearing a hat.
  • Manage stress. Stress is inevitable, but chronic stress is a lifestyle that impacts not only your health and relationships but also your skin! So pick up a hobby or activity that helps you de-stress. Take a walk, enjoy a relaxing bath, talk it out with someone you trust, or pick up kickboxing—find what works for you and do it often.
  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol. Smoking and alcohol consumption prematurely age your appearance.
  • Exercise. Engage in different forms of movement. A bonus to exercise is that it’s a great way to de-stress as well!
  • Catch those ZZZZs. Get adequate sleep and quality sleep.
  • Eat well. There’s no way around it—diet impacts your skin, so limit sugars and junk food and get lots of fruits and veggies.
  • Stay hydrated. Get yourself a cute tumbler to help you stay on top of your daily water intake. 4 to 6 cups a day is the general rule of thumb, according to Harvard Health Publishing.


Preventative Treatments:

  • Wrinkle relaxers (BOTOX and Dysport) don’t give wrinkles a chance to form.
  • Chemical Peels soften lines and brighten complexion in addition to stimulating collagen production that has slowed down due to intrinsic aging.
  • Sculptra revamps your body’s natural collagen production, which gradually diminishes due to intrinsic aging.
  • Microneedling (SkinPen and Potenza RF) is especially good at targeting textural issues in the skin. It’s also an effective preventative treatment because it boosts collagen production.
  • Laser resurfacing (FRAX, Pico, Erbium) brightens pigment, improves texture, softens lines, and boosts collagen in the skin.
  • IPL Photofacial lightens pigment (like sun spots) and improves diffuse redness in the skin. It also eliminates ruptured capillaries that result from both intrinsic and extrinsic aging. IPL heats up the skin, which triggers collagen production.

Medical-grade Skincare:

  • SPF is essential for slowing down intrinsic and extrinsic aging. We carry the best sunscreens on the market at each of our three locations so that you can choose the best option for your skin and lifestyle. EltaMD UV Daily Broad-spectrum SPF 40 is a good everyday sunscreen that works for most people.
  • Antioxidants help counteract free radicals that contribute to intrinsic aging. They help prevent damage to DNA and cell membranes. Vitamin C is a prevalent antioxidant in skincare because of its effectiveness and its additional benefits, like the gorgeous glow it gives your skin.
  • Retinoids increase cellular turnover for smoother skin and stimulate collagen production. They also promote hydration and inhibit hyperpigmentation. 
  • Growth factors and peptides help treat and prevent both intrinsic and extrinsic aging in the skin. They’re particularly effective in promoting collagen production.
  • Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) stimulates hyaluronic acid and enhances your skin’s ability to retain moisture.

If you want to give your collagen production the boost it needs as you get older and wiser, book a free consultation with one of our Registered Nurses. They’ll help you determine which treatment we discussed above is right for you. 

Call us at (916) 941-9400 or book online at

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