Your skin is under daily assault from a whole host of harmful forces like stress and pollution. So if you're serious about looking after your skin, think about your lifestyle, as well as the products you're slapping on.
We all feel and look healthier with a bit of tan, right? Undoubtedly... but devoted sunbathers can age their complexion prematurely and put themselves at risk of skin cancer. And you don't even have to be beach-bumming in the Costa for your skin to suffer - the UV rays that are responsible for the damage can still reach you on a cloudy wet day in Clapton. They are made up of: short UVB rays, which tan and burn the skin, and can also lead to fine lines and crow's feet because they deplete your stores of youth-giving collagen; and UVA rays, the longer ones chiefly responsible for life-threatening skin damage. And if you thought this was another issue to file under 'something to worry about when I'm older,' think again. Scientists say that up to 80% of sun damage to our skin happens before we reach the tender age of 18.
Look for a moisturiser with an added SPF of 15+ to protect your skin on a day-to-day basis. And if you're spending time outside in strong sunshine follow these protection rules:
- Slap on a sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go outdoors (if you've got fair skin this means an SPF of 25+);
- Avoid exposure when the sun's at its strongest between 10am and 3pm, stay in the shade and cover up where possible;
- Make sure you eat plenty of brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables - they supply your body and your skin with plenty of the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, which help soak up the damaging 'free radical' substances produced by sun exposure.
Up in smoke
When you light up a cigarette, it releases thousands of chemical compounds - and your skin can't escape their evil clutches. The external smoke itself has a drying effect, while internally it unleashes ageing free radicals and reduces blood flow, depleting the stores of all the things your skin needs to look soft and peachy, including oxygen, collagen and essential nutrients like vitamin C. In the short term, smoking leads to a yellow-grey pallor, spots, broken veins and can exacerbate existing skin complaints like eczema and psoriasis. And in the long-term it spells only one thing - wrinkles. Many dermatologists say people who smoke tend to look up to a third older than those of the same age who don't, prematurely ageing the skin by between 10 and 20 years.
It goes without saying that if you want to smoke-proof your complexion you need to stub out the habit once and for all - and, where possible, avoid smoky places. As before, monitor your intake of the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E as they can help protect your skin against free radical damage and boost production of your skin's scaffolding, collagen.
Your skin is probably the last part of your body you associate with the ill-effects of alcohol, but excess amounts of booze can have a detrimentally draining impact on your complexion. Feel thirsty after a night on the tiles? Well spare a thought for your skin. Alcohol dehydrates the complexion too and leaves you susceptible to fine lines and full-on wrinkles. It also widens blood vessels, which in turn results in unsightly thread veins and a permanently flushed not-so peachy glow.
While you're out, remember to glug as much water as you can between alcoholic drinks and down a couple of pints of water before you go to bed. Your head, as well as your skin will thank you. And if you're capable, slap on some hydrating moisturiser pre-slumber and a rich facial mask, the morning after the night before.
Ever notice how your skin seems to take a turn for the worse before a really big event or in the midst of a stressful period in your life? It's no coincidence. As well as releasing stress hormones, anxiety means you're less likely to eat properly, take care of yourself, and you'll possibly smoke or drink more, so dryness, sensitivity and spots are common symptoms. We also scowl and screw up our faces when we're het up, so ongoing stress also contributes to frown lines and creases. Stress also disturbs your beauty sleep - which is essential for the renewal and repair of your skin cells. And research shows long-term skin conditions like eczema are aggravated by pressured living.
Take time out to relax, zone out and do something you enjoy. Pamper yourself, get active, switch off your mobile... anything that gives you a momentary respite. And try and have a few early nights. If you find it difficult to nod off, avoid caffeine in the evenings, have a warm bath and a milky drink before you go to bed, spritz your cushion with lavender essential oil, turn off the TV and try reading to induce drowsiness.
It's debatable whether what you eat can boost the health of your skin but research shows unequivocally that a bad diet and a lack of exercise, vital for boosting your circulation and blood flow, can result in an unpredictable and dull complexion. And it makes sense; if your body's waste disposal unit, comprising your digestive system, liver and kidneys, aren't treated with nutritional kindness it won't be able to process and remove harmful toxins. In addition, if you're deficient in certain essential nutrients your skin will tell you. If you're low in iron, you may have a pale complexion, lacking in vitamin C and your skin may find it difficult to repair itself. If you don't get enough essential fats, like those found in oily fish, nuts and seeds, your skin may be dry and prone to fine lines.
You know the rules and we're not talking a vice-free, taste-free diet, but one that's packed with skin-enhancing goodness. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and veg, choose wholefoods rather than processed and refined ready meals and drink plenty of water. That's not too difficult, is it?
Written by Antonia Kanczula
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