by Claire Hazel
Aging of the skin occurs because the body cannot fully repair damage to your DNA. Molecules that make young skin firm and elastic are gradually altered by free radicals (molecules that devour electrons – known as atoms) and as they pull electrons from each molecule they encounter, they change its structure and its function. This has the effect of zapping collagen from the dermis (a thick layer of skin below the top layer) and making elastin looser. Elastin helps give our skin the elasticity it needs and becomes less effective as we age.
The free radicals responsible for the aging process are caused mainly by UV radiation from the sun. Glucose can also cause damage. Although it is a sugar that we use for energy, it can bind with proteins and form a molecule with the appearance of plastic that makes the skin saggy and wrinkled. Glucose is always assisted by free radicals in its fusion with proteins, so the synergy between glucose and free radicals helps skin to age. Other causes are pollution, lack of a good quality diet and smoking. While the aging process is inevitable and happens to all of us, there are things we can do to slow it down and stay looking younger for longer.
Be Sensible about Your Sun Exposure
If you live in an area that gets intense sun, try to avoid going out in peak sunshine hours, pick shady areas to sit in or wear loose fitting clothing that covers your main areas of skin. You can also wear sunglasses that filter UV light. If you are taking any medication, check with your doctor about its side-effects. Some medications can increase your susceptibility to UV rays. Don’t use tanning beds – these are ‘hot beds’ for skin cancer and can age you by damaging your skin. Tans are evidence of skin injury and if you consistently use sun beds or sit in full sunlight for long periods without sunscreen, you may get age related wrinkles much earlier.
Get Enough Sleep
This can be easier said than done if you have children, a career and housekeeping to juggle, but a persistent lack of sleep can leave you looking older than your years. Scientists at University Hospital’s Case Medical Center studied 60 women between the ages of 30 and 49. Around half of them had poor sleep quality. All the women had their skin evaluated by examination and by skin challenge tests like exposure to UV light. They also filled out a diary of their sleeping patterns. The differences between the two groups were significant with poor quality sleepers having an increased number of fine lines, sagging and uneven pigmentation. Recovery from skin stressors like sunburn was slower in the women having less sleep and inflammation in the skin remained for more than 72 hours. Try to get at least eight hours sleep a night and if you can’t, try power napping during the day to top up your ‘asleep’ time.
Eat Plenty of Fruit and Vegetables
Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables daily to get plenty of antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent the damage done by free radicals. Strawberries are the best fruit because they contain a large amount of vitamin C and vitamin C assists with the production of collagen and helps prevent wrinkles and keep your skin young and elastic. Sweet potatoes contain 384% of your recommended amount of vitamin A in a 100g serving. Vitamin A maintains and repairs damaged skin and has reduced lines and wrinkles in clinical studies. Make sure your diet contains a varied amount of fruit and vegetables of different colors (colourful vegetables contain more nutrients).
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of premature aging. The nicotine found in cigarettes causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the top layer of your skin. This impairs blood flow and deprives the skin of the nutrients and oxygen it needs to be healthy and it is this that can cause the sagging and wrinkling often associated with smoking. Impaired blood flow will also compromise your skin’s ability to withstand the effects of sunlight and environmental pollution. In addition, cigarettes contain in excess of 4,000 poisonous chemicals that destroy collagen and elastin as well as putting you at greater risk of getting cancer, lung disease, heart disease and a whole host of serious and life limiting conditions. One of the greatest decisions you can make for your over-all health - and for your skin - is to quit cigarettes now.
Get More Exercise
Exercise is a wonderful anti-aging tonic. It boosts your circulation to increase oxygen and vital nutrients to your skin and to help you detox from pollution and ‘junk’ foods. Improved circulation also enhances your skin’s ability to renew skin cells, helping you to maintain a younger appearance.
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