Wrinkles-don’t suddenly web across our face. Aged skin develops after prolonged unprotected sun exposure, stress, poor nutrition, inadequate care, and, of course, the passing of time. All of these factors hasten or cause the skin’s underlying structures to collapse-and most of these factors are controllable and manageable.

Beneath the skin’s surface lie collagen bundles that weave together, making skin strong and firm. Elastic fibers twist around the collagen to add “bounce” to our skin. Natural aging causes sweat glands to dry out; however, it’s perspiration that carries moisture to the skin to help prevent dryness. How can we achieve a balance in our skin’s moisture level? There is good news.

Hormone imbalance can affect aging

Hormone imbalance is another factor that adds to skin dryness. As most women know, hormonal fluctuations can cause irritating water retention, resulting in that bloated feeling.

Estrogen and progesterone cause the female body to retain water, which is not all bad, as the body needs water in the tissues for health. But, as women’s reproductive hormones begin to taper off around age 40, less water is held within the body’s tissues.

Some authorities have recommended estrogen therapy as a way for women to maintain moist skin. Many women, however, fear the side effects of hormone replacement. Doctors may also warn women with a family history of breast cancer against estrogen therapy.

Plant “hormone” extracts are an all-natural option

Formulas containing phytoestrogen molecules, literally plant-derived estrogens, are synthesized into skin “hormone” creams. One form of the plant hormone is said to be extracted from dioscorea, a Mexican yam. From these wild yams, what is nearly a molecular clone of the hormone progesterone is formulated. With adequate levels of progesterone, skin stays better hydrated. A full line of wild yam products are now available at natural/health food stores.

Research on similar “hormones” began in the late 1960s with Vladimir Dilman, a Russian gerontologist. Dilman argued that since hormonal reduction mirrors the aging process, perhaps replenishment of dwindling hormones could help slow, or even reverse, the visible signs of aging, such as wrinkles.

For centuries, men and women from Europe to China have used such hormone-like plant extracts to help maintain skin’s youthfulness and beauty. Many women in the western world who use wild yam creams, and others, report better-looking skin.

Other organic anti-aging remedies to consider

Another natural skin-care ingredient to look for is aloe vera. Natural extracts from aloe vera, a plant from the lily family, contain anti-irritant properties. Skin creams infused with aloe vera provide skin-soothing ingredients. Other ingredients, like those found in the botanicals comfrey, marigold, and chamomile, help relieve redness and chapped skin, keeping skin soft.

Products that soften and soothe skin aid in preserving skin elasticity. With resilience increased, skin is less likely to wrinkle prematurely.

Delivering the power into your skin

One criticism of any skin product is that it merely lies as a coating over the skin’s surface. Some creams that are smeared on the skin can hold moisture in the skin, but do not deliver products under the skin. There are new products made from natural fatty substances, called liposomes, which help solve this problem. Liposomes consist of microscopic sacs that act as a delivery system, sending ingredients into the skin. As the sacs, or liposomes, melt, the moisturizers are set free.

Natural products generally are “hypoallergenic,” meaning they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction, such as contact dermatitis. Allergic reactions may hasten aging or cause topical infections. Chapped, irritated skin consists of breaks on the surface, through which bacteria can easily enter. In addition, rough, irritated skin cracks more easily, speeding the breakdown of elastic fibers that keep skin looking youthful.