Avoid Too Much Sun
One of the best, least expensive and easiest things that you can do to avoid prematurely aging your skin is to avoid too much sun exposure and protect your skin when you are exposed to the sun. While completely isolating ourselves from the sun is not possible or even a good idea since our bodies use the sun to create vitamin D which is an essential nutrient, there are several things which we can do to optimize the benefits we receive from the sun while minimizing the risks to our skin. One simple practice to keep in mind is to simply avoid the sun between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm when ultraviolet rays are the strongest due to the position of the sun. If you are unable to avoid the sun during these times, it is best to use sunblock with an SPF of at least 30 as well as sunglasses and protective clothing. If you use an SPF of 30 and still notice redness or tanning when you expose yourself to the sun, you should opt for a stronger sunblock since both redness and tanning are actually signs of sun damage. Tanning occurs when the body releases melanin as a way to protect the skin from further damage. You might appreciate the look of bronze skin now, but when it turns into wrinkles years down the road, you will almost certainly regret it. Remember, too much sun damages the integrity of our skin which ultimately ruins collagen and creates saggier, older looking skin. If you want to keep your youthful appearance, you should absolutely keep this in mind.
Do Not Smoke
At this day in age, everyone is acutely aware of the fact that smoking is bad for our overall health, but some may not realize that it is actually extremely bad for the appearance of our skin as well. Smoking depletes the body of oxygen and this generally affects the most outward extremities of our body, including our skin, first. Smoking constricts blood vessels, including the smallest blood vessels in our skin, which deliver oxygen and nutrients. Without the proper amount of oxygen and nutrients, our complexions become duller and grayer and the collagen and elastin which keeps our skin supple begins to erode. Also, the external smoke which inevitably touches the faces of smokers contains over 400 chemicals which, like any pollutant, can damage the skin. For these reasons, quitting smoking, or better yet never smoking in the first place, is one of the best things we can do to prevent the premature aging of our skin. Although our lungs may take years to recover from smoking, the skin tends to bounce back to its original healthy state one year after abstinence from smoking with gradual improvements beginning in as little as one week after cessation of the habit.
Drink Plenty Of Water
In a time where coffee and meals on the go have become the norm for many people, chronic dehydration is a common and often overlooked problem which affects the skin negatively and leads to signs of aging. In fact, some experts believe that up 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated and this can wreak havoc on our skin. While the general recommendation is to consume at least 5-8 glasses of water every day; exercise, caffeinated drinks and anything else which promotes fluid loss can increase the amount of water needed daily to maintain good health and more youthful skin. Not only does drinking adequate amounts of water prevent aging by improving the overall elasticity of the skin, but it also actually provides several other skin benefits as well such as flushing toxins and moisturizing the skin from within.
Avoid Too Much Sugar
While most of us realize that sugar is not good for our teeth, few may realize that too much sugar is also bad for our skin and can age us prematurely. You may have heard of insulin with respect to diabetes but insulin is actually important for all of us as it is the manner in which our body deals with and processes sugar. Even as healthy individuals, when we consume more sugar than our natural insulin is capable of dealing with, the process of glycation occurs. When glycation occurs, the excess sugar in our blood stream begins to bind with various proteins including collagen and elastin. When sugar binds to collagen and elastin, these proteins become weaker and the appearance of the skin becomes duller and more wrinkly. For this reason, scientists have noted that diabetics (whose insulin response is impaired) appear to age faster than the general population. Therefore, for the appearance of our skin, it is best to cut out refined sugar and one of the best ways to begin doing that is to replace soft drinks and sodas with water.
Get Adequate Sleep
More and more, scientists are discovering the importance of getting adequate amounts of sleep. From reducing the risk of brain diseases like dementia later in life to maintaining the healthy appearance of the skin, the necessity for quality sleep seems to permeate almost every facet of life. However, why is sleep so important for the appearance of our skin? For one thing, not getting enough sleep elevates the levels of the stress hormone “cortisol” in our bodies and too much cortisol is negative for many aspects of our physical health including our skin. Aside from the damaging effects of cortisol on our aesthetically important proteins such as collagen and elastin, too much cortisol is thought to lead to more acne breakouts, more oily skin, inflammation and even worsened skin allergies. Therefore, it is important to keep our cortisol levels low for the sake of our skin. Studies have been conducted which conclude that people who receive quality sleep not only have objectively fewer signs of aging but also report more overall satisfaction with their appearance.
Sleep is not the only way to reduce cortisol levels as we discussed above. Reducing stress also reduces cortisol levels. Nicknamed “the stress hormone,” cortisol increases during both physiological and psychological stress. Elevated cortisol levels from stress also disrupt the homeostasis of the skin in the same way elevated cortisol from a lack of sleep does. Therefore, for the health and appearance of our skin, it is vital that we reduce stress in healthy ways such as exercise and meditation.
As we can see, there are a number of practices which we can use to prevent and reduce the visible signs of aging on our skin. Many of them, such as using sunblock, cost very little and others, such as not smoking, will ultimately save your money and your skin. Therefore, it is important to remember that aging is a process which will happen to all of us regardless of what we do or do not do. However, if we want to look as youthful as possible for as long as possible, the practices discussed in this article are good to keep in mind.