As we age, keeping our skin beautiful, youthful and radiant becomes more and more of a challenge. Over time, it naturally loses its elasticity, moisture and texture. Although what we eat can have a tremendous impact on our skin’s health, so can our environment and our lifestyle. What we expose it to on a regular basis can cause premature aging.
Sun damage is probably the most well known environmental factor that has a huge impact on skin’s aging. Not long ago, a photograph went viral of a truck driver who, over 28 years, experienced serious sun damage to one side of his face due to sun exposure through the driver side window. The left side of his face had aged much more rapidly than the right. But the sun is just one factor that contributes to our skin’s health. Here are five environmental and lifestyle factors to be aware of that can cause premature aging, and the anti-aging strategy you can take:
- Cold weather: Exposure to cold winds and low temperatures can dry out skin, causing dehydration, wrinkles and roughness. Anti-Aging Regimen: Use a good moisturizer that protects against the cold and dry heat of winter heating. Consider using a humidifier to help keep skin more comfortable.
- Sleep Deprivation: Too little sleep drains your body of needed rest and doesn’t allow skin to rest and regenerate. Lack of sleep can make you look and feel tired, cause dark circles and bags under eyes, and make skin saggy. Anti-Aging Regimen: Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep each night. Cut out caffeine after noon and avoid eating at least 2 hours before bedtime. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each night and day. If you have chronic trouble sleeping, consult your physician.
- Smoking: Smoking causes blood vessels to constrict, resulting in decreased blood flow to skin. Further, it depletes the body of Vitamin C, which is key for keeping skin plump and moist. Capillaries can become permanently damaged, causing a flushed appearance and visibly broken capillaries at the surface. Further, increased dryness and skin dehydration can occur due to a diuretic effect. Skin color can become sallow or gray, and finally, smoking contributes to wrinkles, including crows feet. Anti-Aging Regimen: Pure and simple – don’t smoke. If you live with someone who smokes, have them smoke outside of your home, as second hand smoke can still have a negative impact on your skin.
- Stress: Stress and worry cause frowning, and over time muscles in the face actually conform to that movement, causing lines and wrinkles. Anti-Aging Regimen: Be aware of your stress levels and keep stress in check. Try to vary facial expressions so your face doesn’t conform to one expression. Incorporate relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, gentle exercise or other mediums into your lifestyle
- Sun Exposure: This was already discussed, but in more detail, sun breaks down skin’s structural tissues (collagen and elastin). It can cause skin to look mottled, and freckles become more permanent brown sun spots. Skin becomes dried out, leathery, wrinkled and saggy. And, sun exposure increases your risk of skin cancer. Anti-Aging Regimen: Use a daily moisturizer or mineral based (active ingredients: zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) sunblock with an SPF of 15 (minimum) all year long (even on cloudy days). It should block both UVA and UVB rays (UVB causes sunburn and skin cancer and UVA causes premature aging). Apply sunblock generously and reapply after swimming, perspiring and at least every 2 hours (even water-resistant sunscreens need reapplication.) See your physician or dermatologist to assess sun damage you may have, and to rule out possible skin cancers. They may be able to prescribe medication to reduce existing sun damage.
Have you experienced premature aging as a result of these lifestyle choices? What have you done to reverse the damage?
Source: Strong, Slim and 30! by Lisa Drayer, M.A., RD