Skin is more than just the body’s largest organ, it’s often the first indication of a person’s health. We all want healthy skin and as you age it shows the signs of our past. When your skin is compromised, the effects are immediately evident by appearing dry, wrinkled, and/or sun-damaged. Sadly when skin ages, the ability to function is also compromised.
Healthy Skin: The Protective Barrier
Infections, viruses, and other contagions enter our bodies through our lungs, our intestines, and our skin. So it plays a vital role in protecting us against bacterial or viral infection, pollution, and chemicals. All these things that we may encounter daily. Skin is the first line of defense between our bodies and the outside world.
Skin also regulates our body temperature, maintains fluid balance, and controls moisture loss. It recognizes pain sensations and sends important signals to our brain, both of which protect us from danger. Such as the sensation of excessive heat will immediately alert us to move away from the source.
Aging & Healthy Skin
Like anything, skin changes with age. Some of these changes are biological in nature, while some are related to lifestyle habits. Sun exposure, smoking, diet, stress, and sleep deprivation are all a factor in how your skin shows signs of aging.
Many of the changes start taking place underneath the skin well before they become noticeable. First, the hypodermis layer of fat beneath the skin begins to diminish. This can lead to a lack of insulation, ultimately reducing the body’s ability to stay warm. This subcutaneous fat layer is also responsible for the absorption of some medications The damage of this layer can lead to major changes in the efficacy of these medications.
The Outer Layer of Skin…
The outer layer of the skin, or epidermis, begins to thin with age, and the cumulative effect of sun exposure can cause the elastin in the skin to break down. These changes in the skin occur over a long period of time, and the effects do not become apparent until later in life. The result of these effects is that the skin can appear paler, saggy, and stretched, as well as becoming more susceptible to injury, bruising, and tearing. Moreover, injuries to the skin can take longer to heal.
Essentially, skin becomes much more fragile with age, and while skin can repair itself to some extent through cellular renewal, much of the damage that comes with time cannot be undone.
How Can Healthy Skin Be Preserved
Women are flooded with anti-aging and skin repair products and the effectiveness of these products is debatable. However, there are plenty of lifestyle practices that have been proven to protect your skin.
Limit sun exposure
The healthy glow of a tan is attractive, but it comes with a price. Years of sun exposure can cause wrinkles, age spots, and other skin problems. It can also increase the risk of skin cancer.
Here are a few tips to protect your skin from the sun:
- Use sunscreen. Look for a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and apply it a least every two hours.
- Avoid the strongest rays. Moderate your sun exposure to limit the amount of time you spend outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.
- Wear protective clothing. Covering your skin can go a long way toward sun protection. Many products offer sun protection, such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and wide-brimmed hats.
With age also comes dryness. Dryness not only leads to wrinkles and itching, but it also can cause cracks in the skin that allow for bacterial entrance. Here are some ways to keep your skin moisturized:
- Use warm, not hot water. Hot water removes oils from your skin. Instead, limit your bath or shower time and use only warm water.
- Avoid strong soaps. Choose mild cleansers over strong soaps, which can also strip the oil from your skin.
- Shave carefully. Shaving can irritate the skin. To protect against this, lubricate your skin with shaving cream, lotion, or gel before shaving.
- Pat dry. After washing or bathing, gently pat or blot your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains on your skin.
- Avoid abrasive brushes, sponges, or washcloths. As these products can damage skin, opt for skin-friendly, less abrasive alternatives.
- Moisturize dry skin. To trap in moisture, ointments, lotions, and creams should be applied within minutes of drying off.
A healthy diet isn’t just good for overall health – it can also significantly improve the health of your skin. Research proves that a diet rich in fish oil and low in unhealthy fats and processed carbohydrates can promote younger-looking skin. Further research has shown that incorporating tomato paste into your meals may help protect against sunburn. Lycopene is the pigment responsible for giving tomatoes their deep red color and provides protection against UV damage to its outer layer.
Olive oil has also been known to protect the skin. Wrinkles, dark spots, and discoloration of the skin have all shown to be lessened by the use of olive oil. The addition of cocoa flavones found in dark chocolate has been found to decrease roughness and scaling and may improve the structure and function of the skin.
Polyphenols found in green tea are antioxidants and useful for healing wounds and certain skin conditions. Furthermore, green tea may slow down the production of skin cells and suppress inflammation.
Decreasing your caloric intake as a whole has also been shown to slow down the cellular aging process. Research has found that reducing the number of calories consumed by 35% had an impact on aging inside a cell.
Because it narrows the blood vessels in the outermost layers of the skin, smoking decreases blood flow and makes skin paler. In turn, smoking also depletes the skin of oxygen and nutrients that are important to skin health. Smoking also damages collagen and elastin, which are the fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity.
Get Enough Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 and 9 hours of sleep nightly, and anything less than that can be detrimental to the health of your skin. Obesity, immune deficiency, and a host of other diseases are strongly associated with chronic sleep deprivation.
Convincingly, a study showed that those classified as poor sleepers had increased signs of premature skin aging and a decreased ability for their skin to repair itself at night from environmental stressors like sun exposure. This is because deep sleep promotes the regenerative repair mode and rebuilds skin, muscles, blood, and brain cells.
Skin acts as a barrier against the outside world and, as such, it protects us from bacterial or viral entrance, as well as harmful environmental pollutants. When skin ages, its’ ability to protect us becomes compromised. However, by taking active steps like limiting sun exposure, avoiding smoking, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep, we can stave off some of the effects of aging and protect both our skin and our health for years to come.
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