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“Schagen, Silke K., Vasiliki A. Zampeli, Evgenia Makrantonaki, and Christos C. Zouboulis. “Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging.” Dermato-endocrinology 4, no. 3 (2012): 298-307.”
Don’t you sometimes wish that those extra candles on your birthday cake didn’t add up to lines and wrinkles on your face? Your skin is the largest organ in your body and it showcases the most visible signs of growing older. But everyday things that you do could actually be accelerating this process. Spot the unhealthy habits that age you and get a handle on this problem before it’s too late.
What Happens To Your Skin As You Age?
3 Layers of skin
- Epidermis, the outer part, contains proteins, skin cells, and pigment
- Dermis, the middle part, contains nerves, blood vessels, oil glands, and hair follicles
- Subcutaneous layer, lying beneath the dermis, contains blood vessels, sweat glands, fat, and hair follicles.
Each of the 3 layers also has connective tissue with collagen fibers which provide structure and support and elastin fibers that give skin strength and flexibility.
As you age, the outer layer of skin becomes thinner and connective tissue loses elasticity and strength, leading to saggy, wrinkled skin. The oil glands in your skin also start producing less oil. This reduces the protective coating of oil which covers your skin and leaves it dry and itchy.
The changes in your skin are influenced by your genetic makeup, but there’s a lot that you do which can either accelerate or slow down aging.[ref]Aging changes in skin. National Institutes of Health.[/ref] Here are 9 everyday habits that can contribute to aging your skin.
1. Skimping On Sunscreen
Exposure to sunlight is the most important factor that causes your skin to age before its time. Both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays of the sun can damage your skin, a process that’s known as photoaging.
Sunlight works on more than one level to age your skin. It can damage both collagen and elastin, the two main proteins which are responsible for maintaining the structure, strength, and elasticity of your skin. When elastin gets damaged, your body produces extra amounts of enzymes known as metalloproteinases. These tend to degrade connective tissue in your skin. Sun exposure can also lead to the production of harmful oxidants known as free radicals which can cause cellular damage. And oxidation can activate metalloproteinases which damage your skin.[ref]Skin wrinkles and blemishes. University of Maryland.[/ref]
What to do: Use a sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or higher to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun. Try to stay avoid going out in the sun when it’s at its most intense, between 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. It’s also a good idea to wear clothing that covers and protects your skin when you do have to face the sun. And remember, tanning beds and sunlamps are a strict no-no.[ref]Sun Exposure. National Institutes of Health.[/ref]
2. Smoking Excessively
Smoking causes damaging free radicals to form in the body. The oxidation that results from smoking can lead to the production of higher levels of metalloproteinases, which break down your connective tissue. This leads to wrinkles and other skin problems related to aging. Smoking can also increase your chances of getting non-melanoma skin cancers.
What to do: Quit smoking! Self-help guides, online programs, and counseling can be helpful if you’re looking to quit. Research also indicates that using medications that help to fight withdrawal and lessen cigarette cravings can double your odds of quitting. Of the medications used to help you quit smoking, nicotine replacement therapy is the most common. This helps ease withdrawal by giving you controlled amounts of nicotine in small doses.[ref]Using Nicotine Replacement Therapy. National Cancer Institute. [/ref]
3. Stepping Out In The Smog
If pollution is never on your mind when you go out, it’s time to change that. Air pollution is a common culprit that can age your skin. Ozone, a common pollutant that’s the main component of smog, may lower levels of vitamin E in your body. And vitamin E is a key antioxidant which protects your cells from damage by free radicals.[ref]Skin wrinkles and blemishes. University of Maryland.[/ref]
What to do: Avoid stepping out when air pollution is high. Ozone has a greater chance of reaching harmful levels on sunny hot days in an urban setting. However, cold months or rural areas cannot be definitively ruled safe either. So it might be a good idea to check the air quality before you step out. Air quality forecasts are likely to be available online, in the newspaper, or on TV, often along with weather forecasts.[ref]Ozone Pollution. Environmental Protection Agency.[/ref]
4. Not Sleeping Enough
Your body needs sufficient sleep to renew and replenish itself. And your skin’s no exception! In fact, research indicates that chronic poor quality and insufficient sleep speed up intrinsic aging, measured by factors like uneven pigmentation, fine wrinkling, and skin laxity. Poor sleepers also have reduced ability to recover from exposure to UV rays.[ref]Oyetakin-White, P., B. Koo, M. Matsui, D. Yarosh, C. Fthenakis, K. Cooper, and E. Baron. “In Effects of Sleep Quality on Skin Aging and Function.” J. Invest. Dermatol (2013): S126-S126.[/ref] So all those late nights can leave their mark on your skin.
What to do: Make sure you get a restful night’s sleep. The amount of sleep that’s ideal differs from person to person, but an average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of shuteye a night. Don’t cut down on your beauty sleep. One barometer for judging if you’re getting enough sleep is whether you wake up feeling refreshed and well rested.[ref]Insomnia. National Health Service.[/ref]
5. Not Drinking Enough Water
Many of us forget about getting enough fluids in the hustle and bustle of the day. And this can be detrimental to your skin. One effect of aging is that your skin tends to become drier. Studies also show that dry skin tends to have more wrinkles and deeper furrows.[ref] Choi, Jae Woo, Soon Hyo Kwon, Chang Hun Huh, Kyoung Chan Park, and Sang Woong Youn. “The influences of skin visco‐elasticity, hydration level and aging on the formation of wrinkles: a comprehensive and objective approach.” Skin Research and Technology 19, no. 1 (2013).[/ref] By making sure you drink sufficient fluids, you can keep your skin hydrated and supple.
What to do: You need around 2.1 liters of fluids in a day if you’re a woman and around 2.6 liters if you’re a man. But do keep in mind that you might need more fluids when the weather’s hot or if you’re quite active physically.[ref]Water – a vital nutrient. Department of Health & Human Services.[/ref] You don’t need to get it all from plain water, though. For instance, adding a squeeze of vitamin C-rich lemon can help make plain old water more interesting.
6. Using A Harsh Soap
How you clean your face can impact your skin. Harsh soaps can strip your skin of oils and leave it dry.
What to do: It’s better to wash your face with a mild cleanser and warm water than soap. Also, avoid scrubbing your skin when you cleanse as this can damage your skin.[ref]How to create an anti-aging skin care plan. American Academy of Dermatology. [/ref]
7. Eating Excess Sugar
Can’t stay away from dessert? You should know that sugar can bind to proteins to form advanced glycation end products – rather appropriately abbreviated to AGEs! These can damage collagen and elastin, the proteins that keep your skin looking youthful and lead to sagging skin and wrinkles. To make matters worse, most sweet foods also contain butter, another component that’s associated with greater photoaging.[ref]Purba, Martalena br, Antigone Kouris-Blazos, Naiyana Wattanapenpaiboon, Widjaja Lukito, Elizabet M. Rothenberg, Bertil C. Steen, and Mark L. Wahlqvist. “Skin wrinkling: can food make a difference?.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 20, no. 1 (2001): 71-80.[/ref]
What to do: Instead of processed sweets foods like cakes and ice creams, try a piece of fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth. While fruits do contain sugar, they aren’t as harmful as refined sugar. They also have beneficial compounds that are good for your skin. For instance, papayas and mangoes contain β-carotene while berries and pomegranates contain ellagic acid. And both these compounds can protect your skin against the damaging effects of sun exposure.[ref]Schagen, Silke K., Vasiliki A. Zampeli, Evgenia Makrantonaki, and Christos C. Zouboulis. “Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging.” Dermato-endocrinology 4, no. 3 (2012): 298-307.[ref] [ref]Bae, Ji‐Young, Jung‐Suk Choi, Sang‐Wook Kang, Yong‐Jin Lee, Jinseu Park, and Young‐Hee Kang. “Dietary compound ellagic acid alleviates skin wrinkle and inflammation induced by UV‐B irradiation.” Experimental dermatology 19, no. 8 (2010): e182-e190.[/ref]
8. Forgetting To Moisturize
This is one ally you should have in your corner to fight aging! Using a moisturizer can trap water in your skin and help keep it hydrated. This can stop your skin from drying out and make it look more youthful.[ref]How to create an anti-aging skin care plan. American Academy of Dermatology.[/ref]
What to do: Make sure you use a moisturizer on not just your face but your body as well. Also, use a lip balm to keep your lips plump and youthful. And remember moisturizers work best on slightly damp skin, so apply a moisturizing lotion right after your shower.
9. Having Long Baths
Soaking in a hot bath at the end of a long day can be relaxing. But that long soak can remove protective oils from your skin and cause moisture loss.[ref]9 ways to banish dry skin. Harvard Health Publications.[/ref]
What to do: Don’t spend longer than 5 to 10 minutes in the shower or bath. Also, keep the water temperature at lukewarm rather than hot to retain your skin’s protective oily barrier.