9 “Harmless” Habits That Age You (Yahoo! 26/7/10)
Too little time in bed, at the gym, or with your friends can make you look and feel older. How sweets damage skin
The Skin Guru
Let’s count down the top five barriers between you and healthier, younger-looking skin:
5. The enemy: Lack of moisture. Dry skin isn’t just uncomfortable – it’s also a sign that your skin isn’t holding on to enough water to allow its repair enzymes to work properly. That means that your skin is less able to naturally heal the inflammation caused by external attackers like the sun, excess sugar intake, and pollution.
The solution: Moisturize! Not all creams and lotions are created equal, though: Ideally, a moisturizer should not only temporarily hydrate, but also strengthen skin so that it can retain moisture more effectively. Check ingredient lists for ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids (stearic acid is the one you’ll see most often) – those are the very lipids found naturally in your skin barrier, a layer of the epidermis that keeps moisture in and irritants out. Deliver those powerhouse moisturizers topically, and you’ll bolster skin’s ability to prevent further dryness.
4. The enemy: Pollution. The exhaust-belching cars and other pollutants in our modern environments are among the major causes of free radicals in the skin (the sun and cigarette smoke, which you’ll read about below, also make the list of free-radical producers).
So just what is a free radical? In a nutshell, it’s an oxygen molecule that has been stripped of one of its electrons … meaning that it’s on the hunt for replacement electrons. As a result of that hunt, free radicals attack vital skin components like collagen, resulting in skin aging.
The solution: Chances are, you can’t take off for the less-polluted climate of a pristine desert island, but antioxidants can help mitigate the damage that pollution causes. Antioxidants calm free radicals by delivering the electrons they seek – and as a result, they also stave off free radicals’ aging effects. Get them through your diet (through green tea, dark chocolate, and lots of fruits and veggies, particularly berries and pomegranates) or topically with skin-care ingredients like coenzyme Q10, green tea, coffeeberry, and idebenone.
3. The enemy: Genetics. Yes, to some extent each person’s aging process is the unavoidable result of the genes they inherited.
The solution: Obviously there’s not much to be done about this one. We are, however, looking into the genetic component of skin aging at the University of Miami Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute and hope to pinpoint the exact genes involved.
2. The enemy: Smoking. If you need another great reason to quit smoking, here’s one: Smoking breaks down collagen, one of the most critical structural proteins in your skin. The result is premature aging in the form of lines, wrinkles, and loss of skin firmness. Smoking also decreases blood flow to the skin, which leaves the complexion sallow and less radiant, and allows damaging toxins to build up.
1. The enemy: The sun. The No. 1 saboteur of healthy, youthful skin is the ultraviolet light of the sun. UV rays induce skin-aging inflammation and generate free radicals, which make the sun the biggest threat to skin’s collagen, not to mention the fact that UV exposure puts you at a dramatically increased risk for developing skin cancer.
UV light also worsens and causes hyperpigmentation (they don’t call ’em sunspots for nothing!). I have found in my years of practice that dark spots and pigmentation irregularities age people as much as – if not more than – lines and wrinkles.
The solution: Protecting your skin from the sun requires a combination of avoidance and vigilant sunscreen-application. Try to stay out of the sun when it’s strongest, at midday, and wear sunscreen every day, even if you’re not planning a lot of outdoor time. Incidental sun exposure – on the way to lunch, as you walk to and from your car, while you’re waiting for the bus – adds up.
And if you are going to be in direct sunlight, invest in hats and sun-protective clothing. (And don’t for a second think tanning beds are the solution – they use concentrated doses of UVA rays, which penetrate deep into skin, and are actually even more damaging than the sun.)
Wishing you great skin!
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Dr. Baumann is author of the best-selling book, “ The Skin Type Solution.” To learn more about her revolutionary skin typing system, visit her Web site, SkinTypeSolutions.com.