As we find ourselves getting older, hair starts graying and skin starts wrinkling. Besides the impact this has on us emotionally, skin health is important for our protection. After all our skin is the largest organ in the body and the first line of defense in our immune systems. In aging, the skin produces less collagen and loses skin cells, becomes drier, and becomes less elastic. Much of this is due to hormone changes and causes wrinkling and sagging skin. For women, menopause has a strong effect on skin as estrogen levels are reduced. Another skin problem hormone changes can bring on is acne. You may think of acne as being a problem in the teenage years, but according to a survey in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, many adult women also experience acne. Of the participants surveyed, women in their 20’s reported 50% having acne, women in their 30’s reported 35% having acne, and women in their 40’s reported 26% having acne. According to Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, this is due to hormone surges that increase oils leading to bacterial inflammation. Ranella Hirsch, MD, past president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery, also observes that as we age our vision gets worse causing us to squint which can create lines around the eyes and Phil Haeck, MD, a Seattle plastic surgeon and the past president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons cites the wearing down of teeth as contributing to changes in facial structure and loose skin that wrinkles and sags. With all these things working against us in the aging process, it can be a challenge to maintain healthy and youthful looking skin, but there are many things you can do to help combat this problem. Good dental health, getting glasses or contacts as vision deteriorates, eating foods for healthy skin and making healthy skin lifestyle changes are some of the things to consider.
Tips on Caring for Aging Skin
There are lots of beauty products and medications that are available to keep skin glowing, smooth and youthful. Some work for some people and some don’t. If you’ve found something in a bottle that works for you, that’s great. But there are natural solutions for things we can all do and not do, that will help in keeping skin healthy as we are getting older. Here are a few we found experts recommend.
Reduce alcohol consumption – Drinking alcohol causes dehydration in the body which dries skin out, can dilate and damage blood vessels, and cause redness and swelling on the skin. Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink and drinking water as well if you do drink alcohol can help.
Stress – You know the more stress you have, the more it can affect your health and that includes the damage it can do to skin. The chemicals and hormones released in response to stress cause a sensitivity in skin that interferes with healing of skin conditions, can cause you to break out more and cause increased production of oil on skin. Stress can also cause various skin conditions to occur such as rashes, hives, and fever blisters. Marguerite Germain, MD, dermatologist in Charleston, SC, explains that stress causes the body to have an imbalance in hormones which can cause acne. When we are stressed out, we also tend to neglect skincare and exercise. Finding ways to cope with stress are very individual and what works for one person may not work for another person. Try a variety of stress coping techniques such as exercise, yoga, meditation, hobbies, journaling, talking with friends or even professional counseling until you find what works for you. Don’t just guess at what will or won’t work for you in managing stress; give different techniques a try. For example, you may think yoga is not for you, but according to research published in The Journal of Nursing Research, participating in a 90 minute yoga class can reduce stress significantly.
Exercise – Regular exercise can help with circulation which allows an increase in oxygen and nutrients to the skin and flushes toxins from your skin cells. This helps skin in collagen production and reducing wrinkles. While any type of movement can contribute to this, exercising to the point of sweating is good for helping unclog pores. Exercise also helps keep your muscles toned and is a stress reliever.
Stop smoking – If you are concerned about dry and wrinkled skin and you are a smoker, it’s time to really put forth the effort to quit. Smoking causes collagen to breakdown and interferes with the blood flow to the skin. The act of smoking itself causes you to use those muscles around the mouth in a way that brings on even more wrinkling.
Hydrate Skin – As we age, we don’t produce as much skin oil causing skin to be dry. Using a good moisturizing cream right after bathing or showering can help hydrate skin. Showering with hot water can destroy the natural moisture in your skin so use warm water when showering, bathing or cleansing.
Get Enough Z’s – Lack of sleep can lead to puffy skin around the eyes, dark circles and pale skin color. Research shows that the best sleeping position is on your back as sleeping on the side or stomach can cause wrinkling and bags under the eyes.
Damage to Skin From the Sun – The sun is responsible for around 90% of all damage to skin. This damage can lead to wrinkles, dryness, and even skin cancer. Sunscreen, moisturizers, wearing a hat when outside, and long sleeves and long pants can help protect skin from the damaging rays of the sun. Don’t forget the sunscreen and moisturizer on your hands too and wear gloves if need be. Remember to protect the skin around your eyes by wearing sunglasses that have UVA/UVB protection and that allow you to see well enough that you don’t squint. When choosing a sunscreen, look for one that is a broad spectrum block with an SPF of at least 30. Be aware too that the sun’s rays are at their strongest from 10 am to 2 pm and plan activities to avoid being outside during these times. Isaac Neuhaus, MD, dermatologic surgeon and associate professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, warns that you often can’t depend on protective clothing to do the job as clothes light in color, wet, stretched or of unbleached cotton offer very little protection and in the case of the cotton can actually absorb UV rays, so don’t neglect the sunscreen even if you think you are dressed for sunny weather.
Cleansing Skin – Skin needs to be kept clean to stay healthy. This includes washing away the pollutants you’ve come in contact with throughout the day, removing dead skin cells and moisturizing skin to hydrate it. Find cleansers that are recommended according to your skin type to prevent extra dryness or oiliness. Dr. Gohara warns that over washing can dry skin by washing away the natural oils it has to keep it hydrated. This can cause an overproduction of oil that will clog pores and cause the skin to breakout. Emmy Graber, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine, recommends that the optimal amount of washing the face is two times a day and that scrubs and microbeads are not necessary and can have negative effects on skin and our environment. Using a washcloth and warm water are adequate with possibly a gentle cleanser.
Weather – It’s not just sunny weather that can harm skin. Cold and windy weather can also take its toll on our skin causing it to dry, flake and irritate eczema and other skin conditions. When it’s cold outside and we have the heat on inside, skin can also react negatively to that dry type of heat. Inside a humidifier can be helpful as well as drinking plenty of water to keep skin hydrated.
Foods for Healthy Skin
In the fight for healthy skin, there are certain foods that can help and those that don’t help. Eating bright colored fruits and vegetables can help provide antioxidants to reduce the damage done by free radicals which can help keep skin more youthful. Research has found that colorful veggies such as red peppers, squash, pumpkin, and carrots increases the yellow, red and orange tones of the skin according to Elisa Zied, RD, nutritionist and author of Younger Next Week. These fruits and vegetables that are high in the antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E are especially good for building collagen and nourishing skin. Adding selenium to these can help protect from sun damage and reverse wrinkles and discolorations. This mineral can be found in foods such as oysters, clams, crab, sardine and fish, nuts and seeds, lean meats, whole grains, beans and legumes. Food sources high in vitamin C include Bell pepper, oranges, strawberries and broccoli and for vitamin E include green leafy vegetables, nuts and eggs. One study published in in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reported that eating lots of foods with vitamin C reduced the chance of wrinkles, dry skin and flaky or scaly skin. If you are concerned about youthful looking healthy skin, avoid foods with unhealthy fats and simple carbs. Instead opt for complex carb foods and lean healthy proteins. Soy is another good food to add to the diet for healthy skin as it has isoflavones that resemble estrogen in the body. If acne is a concern then avoid sugars, dairy, and unhealthy fats as those have been found in research studies to contribute to acne. According to Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, any foods that have a high glycemic index increase cortisol levels which makes acne worse.
If you are not getting enough of this good nutrition for healthy skin, supplements may be an option for you. Here are a few supplements that can help you get the nutrition your body needs for healthy skin.
Stem Cell Support Supplement – Adult stem cells that naturally occur in the body are able to morph into other types of cells and go to where they are needed to repair damaged cells. When it comes to healthy skin, this is a good reason to make sure your stem cells have the nourishment they need to flourish.
Immune Support Supplement – This supplement provides a combination of 6 mushrooms and beta glucan that have been shown to support the immune system with their anti-inflammatory properties as well as the good superfood nutrition of AFA bluegreen algae.
Enzyme Algae Supplement – Contains a wide variety of plant-based proteolytic enzymes–bromelain, papain, protease, lipase, and serratiopeptidase that have been found useful in fighting inflammation, nourishing cells and reducing damage from free radicals.
Joint and Cartilage Support Supplement – This supplement provides vegetable-based glucosamine, chondroitin, UC-II® undenatured collagen and AFA bluegreen algae to aid in the support of joint and cartilage health to help your body keep up with all you do.
Don’t wait until the signs of aging catch up with you and start showing on your skin. Get started making some of these lifestyle and nutrition changes now to help keep your skin healthy and looking good. If you already have those signs sneaking up on you or even full blown in your face, it’s still not too late. You can make a difference by making a few changes now no matter what age you are.
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