Meredith Singer | HealthGreatness
Our faces are often the most telling sign of our age. Without a doubt, skin changes over time – no one would confuse the face of an 18 year old with that of an 80 year old. While all parts of our bodies change with age, skin cells can, unfortunately, show some of the most obvious signs of aging.
Skin aging is a continuous process- it becomes dryer, age spots appear (also called sun or liver spots), thinning occurs and, most obviously, wrinkles develop. There are a number of things that cause skin to age over time. While some can be prevented or minimized (extrinsic factors), some are just due to the natural aging process and our particular genetic make-up (intrinsic factors).
Common environmental and lifestyle factors that can cause premature aging of the skin are:
- Sun Exposure. This is a significant cause of skin appearing older than it actually is. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the best way to prevent this type of damage is to avoid the sun (especially between 10 am and 3 pm) and wear protective clothing. Choosing self-tanner rather than going to a tanning bed or laying out in the sun is a much healthier choice.
- Cigarette Smoke. Smoking accelerates the aging process. According to HHS smoking can destroy elastic fibers in the skin, a sign of premature aging. It also dulls ones complexion and causes squinting (a natural response to smoke near the eyes), which can cause lines (or wrinkles), often called crow’s feet.
- Dehydration. Whether from drinking alcohol, excessive caffeine consumption, or just not drinking enough water regularly, minor dehydration over time can increase the risk of skin damage. These damages make us appear older.
What can you do?
- Sunscreen. Since it is not realistic to avoid the sun completely, the next best step is to use an SPF 30+ sunscreen that offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), premature skin aging can be prevented by using sunscreen every day.
- Stop smoking. People who stop smoking often notice improvements in their skin health. The skin aging process quickly return to that of a non-smoker. It is never too late to quit.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and minimize alcohol.
- Exercise. It not only increases circulation, it boosts the immune system and will make your skin appear brighter.
- Keep face clean and moisturized. Sweat is an irritant and irritants accelerate skin aging. By washing the face twice a day, followed by the application of face lotion to trap the moisture in, the irritants are washed away and the skin is in a healthier state.
The best way to achieve healthy skin aging is to take preventative measures. While there are cosmetic procedures (like Botox, chemical peels, and surgery) that can make skin appear healthier, they do not come without risk. The healthiest and safest option for healthy skin aging is to take care of those precious, highly visible cells.