As the proportion of the ageing population in industrialized countries continues to increase, the dermatological concerns of the aged grow in medical importance. Intrinsic structural changes occur as a natural consequence of ageing and are genetically determined. The rate of ageing is significantly different among different populations, as well as among different anatomical sites even within a single individual. The intrinsic rate of skin ageing in any individual can also be dramatically influenced by personal and environmental factors, particularly the amount of exposure to ultraviolet light. Photodamage, which considerably accelerates the visible ageing of skin, also greatly increases the risk of cutaneous neoplasms. As the population ages, dermatological focus must shift from ameliorating the cosmetic consequences of skin ageing to decreasing the genuine morbidity associated with problems of the ageing skin. A better understanding of both the intrinsic and extrinsic influences on the ageing of the skin, as well as distinguishing the retractable aspects of cutaneous ageing (primarily hormonal and lifestyle influences) from the irretractable (primarily intrinsic ageing), is crucial to this endeavour.