Skin Damage (What could be speeding up the process?)

Many external causes determined by our lifestyle and the environment we expose ourselves to can be the culprit of damage to our skin. Making unhealthy choices can prematurely age and damage our skin, making us look older, way before our time. Merely knowing what you may be doing or exposing yourself to cause this damage is an important part of the anti-aging fight. Here are 9 culprits to be aware of (and in some instances change) to wage war against the enemy:

1. Cigarette smoking: direct, as well as, second hand smoke is damaging and aging to the skin. It dries out, ages, and wrinkles the skin 200 times faster than it does a non-smoker. It compares very closely to sun damage in its severity. One reason is that it depletes the body of Vitamin C, which is a key ingredient for keeping skin plump and moist. Hence, the millions of Vitamin C face and skin creams on the market today! They may help, but if you continue to smoke, the good will never outweigh the bad. Not to mention the toxins and free radicals that you are inhaling, while damaging your arteries and blood vessels--You must quit smoking!

2. Sun exposure: sun exposure is very aging and damaging to the skin. Burning the skin causes changes in its ability to protect you and supply the body with nutrients needed for daily function. Too much sun also changes the skin’s appearance; freckles turn to brown sunspots, and the skin takes on a dry, leathery look, with wrinkles and sagging increasing. Soon, the risk of skin cancer is significantly increased, and bigger problems could be on the horizon. Luckily, there are great sunscreens on the market that can protect you. Look for ones that guard against UVA and UVB rays and an SPF of 15 or higher. Make sure you use it year-round, even on cloudy days. Clouds do not block ultraviolet ray exposure.

3. Lack of exercise: regular exercise, at any age, keeps muscles toned and blood flowing. It also requires that you consume more water, (exercise hopefully makes you thirsty) and more water cleanses and hydrates the cells, potentially keeping them from drying out as fast. Regular exercise also stirs up healthy endorphins and maintains a healthy body weight. Feeling good and looking good shows on your face!

4. Temperature exposure: cold winds, low temperature, and overly heated rooms all contribute to the aging process by making the skin dry. A good moisturizer and a humidifier can reduce the damage significantly.

5. Alcohol use: alcohol use damages and promotes premature aging by dilating small blood vessels in the skin and increasing blood flow near the skin’s surface. Alcohol also dehydrates the cells. After prolonged use, these blood vessels can become permanently damaged, creating a flushed appearance and giving a spider vein look to the skin’s surface. Many alcoholics have rosy cheeks, or at least get them when drinking.

6. Stress: stress causes hormone responses and many of them have a negative effect on the skin. Adrenalin and epinephrine are two such hormones. They cause the body to ramp up, creating a fight-or-flight response, and if these are overused can cause free radical development, which triggers damage to cells, which can trigger the body to age faster. Prolonged stress also causes anxiety and depression, these leading to sadness and sometimes illness. Frown lines and wrinkles from a sad, depressed face are no joke! Have you noticed how our Presidents age right before our eyes while in office---stress got them. We can fight stress by exercising, meditation, and by using relaxation techniques. We can also eliminate the cause of the stress to begin with, if possible.

7. Lack of Sleep: the lack of sleep adds to stress, depression, and the loss of interest in daily activities. This is usually because you are too tired to do anything. Dark circles and sagging skin under the eyes are some of the physical signs you are sleep deprived. Resolve to get 8-9 hours of sleep each night, avoid caffeine after your morning cup, and keep a regular sleep routine. You’ll feel better and have the energy you need to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

8. Age: Nothing you can change about this one! Just hope as you age, you have followed the previous suggestions and you look like you have beaten the clock!

9. Pollutants: The air we breathe is increasingly dirtier and more harmful. All the pollutants, exhaust, smoke, etc in the air doesn’t make for a healthy environment. There isn’t much we can do personally, since we aren’t going to walk around with a mask over our nose and mouth; but we do need to be aware of the harm it causes. Busier cities and more traffic cause exposure to more air pollutants, which in turn, cause you to inhale more damaging toxins, causing more free radical movement and development in the body. Less trees around to clean the air leaves smog. Little house on the prairie isn’t an option, right? So, not much you can do, except move!

Chronological aging is inevitable, but being aware of the culprits of premature aging is the key to winning the war. Take care to surround yourself with an anti-aging environment, and practice an anti-aging lifestyle. You’ll be so thankful you did!

Author's Bio: 

Julie Riggs MED RD LD
Registered and Licensed Dietician

Julie Riggs has been teaching fitness and nutrition skills to every population, from NFL players to the elderly, pre and post-natal moms to professional bodybuilders for her entire career. As a writer and consultant for and as a registered dietician, personal trainer, and mom of three Julie brings real life perspective to the every day person's fitness and nutritional concerns.