Beautiful, healthy, glowing skin, this is what we aspire to maintain as we age and our body transforms. It can be difficult to watch those changes slowly happen through the years as we move into our thirties and forties. Hormones change and collagen production begins to decrease.
Over time, as you look in the mirror, you start to see small lines forming on your face that were not there last week or areas of your body where the skin does not bounce back with as much elasticity as it did last summer when you put on that bathing suit. Aging is inevitable and our skin will transform as we age through the years. Although, we can ensure a more graceful transformation and help keep our skin youthful and vibrant by making healthy choices that will slow the aging process.
Did you know that your skin is your body’s largest organ? It’s a protective shield that has to deal with all of the outside environmental elements, while at the same time is affected by what is going on in your body internally. Externally, each day it is hit with a barrage of sun, air pollution, make-up and skin care products. Internally, our skin is affected by the foods we eat, inflammation, medications, dehydration and hormone changes.
The top three culprits, which we can control, that affect the youthfulness and vibrance of our skin are sun damage, sugar consumption and stress (which creates inflammation). There are vitamins and skin care products out there that will also help keep the skin youthful by replenishing collagen, which helps to keep the skin springy and resilient. Taking these alone, without managing the other three areas (sun, sugar, stress) will only provide minimal results. Below are some tips on how to create a whole wellness plan for your skin.
Sunshine & Skin Health
· Research shows that UV exposure is the reason behind 80% of skin’s aging and wrinkles. UV rays break down collagen and elastin, two proteins that keep the skin firm and smooth. The number one defense for your skin is to wear sunscreen, protective clothing, hats and stay in the shade when possible.
· A certain amount of sun is recommended on a regular basis in order for the body to produce vitamin D. Each skin type differs slightly to the length of time it should be exposed without damaging the skin. On average, 15-25 minutes, three times per week with your legs and arms exposed to the sun between 11am-3pm is adequate for vitamin D production. It is a good idea to still keep sunscreen on your face and wear a hat. If you would like a more accurate estimate for your skin type you can get an app on your phone (Sun Safety, UV index & Sunscreen).
· Beta Carotene is an antioxidant that can make the skin more supple and flexible, thereby reducing sun-related wrinkles. Foods containing beta carotene are fruits and vegetables such at carrots, spinach and cantaloupe or may be taken in supplement form.
Sugar & Skin Health
· According to dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone, “Sugar causes insulin levels to spike, which leads to a burst of inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, resulting in sagging skin and wrinkles.”
· Sugar rich diets also generate more free radicals (rogue molecules) that pinball through the body damaging cells and stimulating the immune response, which leads to inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels. This type of chronic underlying inflammation not only accelerates aging but can lead to heart disease, obesity and Diabetes.
· Simple carbohydrates to avoid: foods that are high on the glycemic index, high in saturated fat, fried food, candy, white bread, ice cream, fruit juice, pasta, cream cheese, jam, pizza, sugar (white & brown), sodas, packaged & processed foods.
· Complex carbohydrates to incorporate into your diet: foods high in antioxidants (berries), low on the glycemic index, vegetables, brown rice, beans & legumes, nuts, whole grains, healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado), alternative sweeteners – agave, malted barley, stevia (limit to 3 teaspoons/day)
Stress & Skin Health
· High stress, pollution, smoking, lack of exercise and lack of sleep are all causes of chronic inflammation.
· It is important to incorporate stress relieving activities into your daily and weekly routine in order to prevent chronic inflammation and give the body an opportunity to heal. This could be breathing exercises, stretching, yoga, tai chi, meditation or cardio vascular exercise. There are plenty of apps you can download to your phone or instructional videos on Youtube.com. Try putting aside 10-20 minutes per day for a stress relieving activity.
· Try acupuncture, massage, chiropractic or reiki. Each of these alternative healing modalities help the body to alleviate stress by taking tension off the nervous system, reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Lastly, remember to smile, breathe deeply and relax. Your skin will radiate a healthy glow when you have a positive & joyful attitude.