How to Prevent Aging Skin
When we think of aging skin, we tend to picture skin that has become wrinkled, crepey, saggy, and even discolored by age spots. None of us want our skin to suffer from the effects of age, but what can we really do about it? What causes our skin to age, anyway? On the topic of skin aging, there are two main categories of damage to consider: intrinsic and extrinsic aging. Intrinsic aging is due to a body’s unique genetic makeup, and is not something that can be prevented or changed. Each of us will endure some forms of aging as time goes by. Extrinsic aging, however, is the result of damage that causes the skin to suffer aging to a greater degree than would have occurred naturally over time. The most common causes of extrinsic aging include:
Sun damage is the #1 cause of skin aging. The sun’s rays penetrate deep into the skin, causing wrinkles, age spots and other discolorations, and dangerous cancers. If you want to find out how much the sun is influencing your aging process, compare an area of your skin that never sees the sun (your backside is probably a great choice) to an area that sees a lot of sun, like your forehead or forearms. If you see a difference in your skin’s tone and texture, you should probably step up your sun protection habits.
In order to fully protect your skin from sun damage, it’s vitally important to fully cover any exposed skin with an SPF 30+ sunscreen. Avoid the sun whenever possible, especially when the sun’s rays are at their most powerful. (Sunscreen use doesn’t mean that it’s safe to spend hours outside, even if sunscreen has been applied thickly and often enough to work as well as it should--and it usually isn’t.) Wear long sleeves and long pants, and consider investing in clothing that has been created with a high SPF factor. Tanning beds and sunlamps should be avoided entirely.
The second greatest contributor to premature and excessive aging is smoking. Obviously, skin damage isn’t close to being the greatest health concern associated with smoking, but it might be the most obvious sign of the extensive damage smoking can cause. So why is smoking so bad for our skin? Nicotine causes the blood vessels to constrict, reducing the flow of oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to the skin’s outer layers.
Additionally, some of the more than 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke damage the skin’s collagen and elastin, which are responsible for the skin’s strength and elasticity. This, combined with squinting to keep smoke out of the eyes and pursing the mouth around cigarettes can increase and accelerate the formation of skin wrinkles.
Smoking also causes a large amount of free radical activity. Free radicals are atoms and molecules that cause a chain reaction of damage throughout the body. Antioxidants can mitigate this damage somewhat, but the best policy is reduction of free radicals wherever possible.
Excess Alcohol Consumption
Alcoholism, or long-term, chronic alcohol consumption, can cause both premature aging and exaggerated aging. Alcohol ages the whole body and causes additional stress on most of our major organs; the skin is just one of the organs that suffers damage. Alcohol consumption causes the blood vessels to dilate, or become excessively relaxed and open. This can cause permanent damage to the skin, and exacerbates existing conditions like rosacea. Dehydration from alcohol consumption can cause the skin to become more prone to damage, and can leave skin looking dull and flat. The liver stress that we most often think of when we consider alcoholism also has a deleterious effect on the skin’s health: yellowing, sagging, and pore dilation are all skin effects associated with liver damage. What Can You Do? The best way to take care of your skin, aside from protection from sun exposure, is to take care of your body from the inside out.
Get sufficient, high-quality sleep as often as possible.
Exercise to improve your cardiovascular health and add a glow to your cheeks.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to counteract free radical formation and equip your body with the macro and micronutrients it requires to look and feel its best.
Moisturize, and slather on SPF 30+ every single day.
Drink alcohol only in moderation, and choose drinks low in sugar and additives whenever possible.
Drink more water.
Don’t smoke. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about the smartest ways to quit.