Our skin is a measure of our lifestyle and overall emotional and physical health
The face is the focus of attention and the immediate expression of one’s beauty. Even though our facial skin covers only about 5% of our body, it is probably the most important factor in how people feel about themselves. Beautiful, glowing, vital and healthy skin gives the indication that we are healthy, happy and balanced individuals who care about and respect our bodies.
With time, certain changes are inevitable. No one can stop the hands of time, but we can slow down the visible effects of aging. The skin is one of the first organs to show signs of aging. Although aging is genetically determined, it is also environmentally modulated, meaning you have control over how you age. Your everyday simple decisions shape how healthy you and your skin will be – it is that simple. In the famous words of George Burns “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”
What happens when we age?
Our cells divide more slowly, and the dermis, or the inner layer of skin grows thin. Fat cells beneath the dermis begin to shrink and skin’s ability to repair itself decreases with age. Wounds heal more slowly and skin becomes vulnerable to injuries and damage. The deeper layers of skin begin to lose their elasticity and ability to stretch. Older skin sags and forms furrows. Because sweat and oil-secreting glands start to waste away, the skin is left without a protective layer of water and fat. The skin is unable to stay as moisturized so it becomes dry and scaly.
Frown lines-which are lines between the eyebrows-and crow’s feet, spread from the corners of the eyes, develop because of permanent small muscle contractions. Gravity does not help the situation, by further contributing to sagging and droopiness. In our modern society, wrinkles have a profound impact on self-esteem, as evidenced by the $12 billion Americans spend each year on cosmetics to hide the signs of aging. The bottom line is that our society greatly values youthfulness.
What are some factors that help expedite the aging process?
Although we have no control over intrinsic factors of aging—such as genetics—you are largely in control of the extrinsic factors. This is where we can make life-altering choices.
The Sun: While some sun exposure is necessary to produce vital Vitamin D, excessive sun exposure is very harmful to the skin. Without protection from the sun’s rays, more than 10 minutes of exposure each day over the years can cause much damage. Freckles, age spots, spider veins on the face, rough and leathery skin, loose skin, a blotchy complexion, skin cancer and many other problems can all be traced to sun exposure.
“Photo aging” is the term used by dermatologists to describe aging caused by sun exposure. The amount of photo aging that develops depends on different factors such as a person’s skin color and their history of long-term or intense sun exposure. People with fair skin are more susceptible to photo aging than those with dark skin. This phenomenon occurs over a period of years. With repeated sun exposure, the skin loses the ability to repair itself, and the damage accumulates. Studies have shown that repeated ultraviolet (UV) exposure breaks down collagen and impairs the synthesis of new collagen. The sun also attacks our elastin causing the skin to become loose, wrinkled, and leathery.
Now, for some good news: how much sun damage you acquire is up to you. You must limit your exposure to the sun as much as possible. When outside, use sun protection products like Vivoderm Zinc cream on your skin to minimize sun damage.
Smoking: You cannot have truly vital skin if you smoke, period. Smoking cigarettes causes biochemical changes in our bodies that accelerate aging. As shown by research, a person who smokes 10 or more cigarettes a day for a minimum of 10 years is statistically more likely to develop deeply wrinkled, leathery skin than a non-smoker. Also, people who smoke for a number of years tend to develop an unhealthy yellowish complexion. Cigarette smoke has also been found to deplete your body of Vitamin C.
The good news is that these signs can be greatly diminished, and in some cases avoided, by quitting. Even people who have smoked for many years, or smoked heavily at a younger age, show fewer facial wrinkles and improved skin tone when they quit smoking. Our bodies have amazing repair capabilities, and once we stop our toxic behaviors, the body will be able to repair itself.
Exercise: Exercise gives you vitality. If you want fresh and youthful skin, physical activity is a must. It not only tones your muscles, but it increases blood flow to all areas of your body, especially your skin. Regular exercise reduces your stress levels, increases levels of oxygen circulating throughout the body, promoting rejuvenation and repair.
Alcohol use: Alcohol contributes to aging of skin by dilating small blood vessels in the skin’s surface. Over time, these blood vessels can become permanently damaged, creating a flushed appearance.
Stress: Not only does stress cause hormonal changes that negatively affect the skin, it also causes undesirable facial expressions that if repeated often enough, do not go away. Simply put, worry and stress cause frowning, and over time, the muscles in the face conform to that movement.
Being conscious of facial expressions can help, but it is more important to monitor your stress level. A good anti-aging skin care and way of life includes meditation, yoga, relaxation, exercise and most importantly, self love.
Lack of sleep: Too little sleep makes you look and feel tired.
Signs of lack of sleep show up on the face in forms of dark circles, baggy eyes, and saggy skin. Sleep deprivation is also a major factor in memory loss and can lead to symptoms of depression including low interest in daily activities and negative thinking.
Research has shown that most adults function best with eight to nine hours of sleep each night. Reduce your caffeine levels, avoid eating at least two hours before bedtime, and maintain a sleep routine that includes going to bed at the same time each night. While we sleep, our skin gets a chance to rest and rejuvenate. Your skin truly does need its “beauty sleep.”
To summarize, here are some very simple concepts for basic skincare:
- Keep your skin clean so that it can breathe
- Give your skin plenty of moisture to keep it looking young and healthy
- Feed the skin key nutrients that it requires to rejuvenate and repair itself repeatedly
- Rid only the top layer of dead cells to promote rapid birth of new cells
- Protect against outside elements to prevent deterioration and/or damage
- Live a healthy life style
In life, there are things we have no control over, such as genetics or the weather, but every day choices that we make have tremendous effect on the quality of our lives. We will all get older, but how we get old is our choice. Some signs of aging are inevitable, but there is much you can do to look your best at any age. Taking good care of yourself is the most important step in your anti-aging program. Choose the right steps, and choose the right products for your skin.