Just like the rest of our bodies, our skin undergoes inevitable changes over time. However, good skin care and smart lifestyle choices can help delay the natural aging process. Follow these tips to help keep a healthy glow.
“Many of the skin changes associated with aging are due to sun damage,” says Michael VanBuskirk, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic in Encinitas. “The amount of wrinkles that develop and how prominent they are, as well as other sun damage, is largely dependent on your lifetime skin exposure.”
Ultraviolet rays from the sun penetrate into the skin, where they damage the elastic fibers that keep skin firm, thus causing wrinkles to develop. Sunlight is also responsible for age, or “liver,” spots that develop on the hands, face and other sun-exposed areas.
While you can’t go back and lather sunscreen on your carefree-child-self, you can put the brakes on the damage that is occurring now, especially in the bright, dry Southern California climate.
- Stop intentionally trying to get a suntan. Any tanning means damage has already occurred.
- Always wear sunscreen. Choose a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or greater. Your hands and face most likely are the most frequently exposed, so make sure to apply sunscreen with a liberal hand about 20 minutes before you go out. Reapply every two hours and more frequently if you go in the water.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim and other protective clothing.
- Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the rays are the strongest.
“Smoking can accelerate the skin aging process, making smokers look older,” says Dr. VanBuskirk.
Smoking narrows tiny blood vessels in the outer layers of skin, decreasing the blood supply that keeps skin tissue healthy. In addition, smoking damages collagen and elastin that help maintain the elasticity and firmness of skin.
Ask your doctor for advice and treatments on how to stop smoking if you need to kick the habit.
What you eat is as important as what you apply to your skin.
“If you consistently eat junk food, it will show up on your skin,” says Dr. VanBuskirk.
Crash dieting or eating highly processed foods can deprive your skin of the amino acids needed to make collagen and elastin. Eat a rainbow of vegetables and fruits, as well as enough carbs and protein. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel can help preserve the collagen in your skin, as well as minimize inflammation. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
Hot water can strip away your skin’s natural oils, so limit your time in the bath or shower to avoid dry, itchy skin. Strong soaps can also irritate your skin, so stay gentle. After your shower or bath, pat your skin dry so that some moisture remains on your skin. Moisturizing with a cream or lotion that fits your skin type will also help with dryness.
When you get your heart pumping with aerobic exercise, your blood flow increases, helping to nourish skin cells with oxygen and nutrients. Working out can also help decrease your level of the stress-related hormone cortisol, which can cause the collagen in the skin to break down.
Of course, if you are exercising outdoors, make sure to put on your sunscreen.
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