Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it performs highly important roles for you like body thermoregulation and prevention of fluid loss. It protects you from the negative effects of the sun’s radiation and keeps you safe from harmful toxins. It takes care of you. It is your first line of defense.
If you’re not happy with how it’s “performing”, it may be time for you to change your habits.
How you take care of the rest of your body has a huge impact on the health of your skin. What’s going on in your life and the state of your health are all reflected in the mirror. Your habits, whether good or bad, will tell all. Your skin “functions like a mirror of what is going on inside the body,” says Kimberly Snyder, author of The Beauty Detox Solution. If you rob your body of essential vitamins and nutrients, are dehydrated, and never exercise your skin is one of the first places the effects will show up.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common bad habits that affect your skin and how you can change things around.
Eating An Unhealthy Diet
Your skin requires good, nutritious support in order to function at its peak. According to Elizabeth Lipski, the author of Digestive Wellness, good digestion is directly related to healthy skin. Certain foods are associated with skin damage. Research suggests that a diet high in processed sugars and other carbohydrates and unhealthy fats promotes skin aging.
When we don’t eat well, it shows up. Snyder advises, “When our skin has to pour out so many toxins that it erupts into acne, that is a red flag.” Certain foods can damage the skin by causing breakouts, inflammation, or redness. Sugary foods trigger a surge of insulin, which can contribute to inflammation. Digested sugar attaches to the collagen in skin, contributing to aging, acne, and other problems like rosacea. Processed fats and oils (corn, vegetable, canola) can cause inflammation which generates enzymes that damage the collagen and elastin, causing wrinkles and other problems.
Solution: Change your eating habits! Follow a skin-healthy diet that is rich in a variety of antioxidant-providing foods. Avoid foods that are up there on the glycemic index charts like sugars.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
During sleep, your body goes into repair and replenish mode, regenerating skin, muscles, and blood and brain cells. It also produces new collagen. People categorized as poor sleepers had increased signs of premature skin aging and a decreased ability for their skin to repair itself at night from things like sun exposure. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a negative impact on skin function and aging.
Solution: The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults sleep seven to nine hours every day. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try to incorporate relaxation techniques before bed time and settle on a bedtime routine so that your body gets into the habit of winding down and relaxing. Put away your phone and ipad before crawling into bed, as they’ve been linked with keeping your brain active and interfering with the sleep/wake cycle.
Brittle, parched skin can be a sign of dehydration or other more serious health concerns.
Many people do not drink enough water through the day (no your diet soda doesn’t count!) to stay properly hydrated. This can have a negative impact on many of your body’s functions, including that of your skin.
Solution: This one is easy: Drink more water! The National Institute of Medicine recommends that women get about nine cups of water per day. That’s 2.7 liters! Moisture intake from fruits, vegetables, and soups does count.
Getting Too Much Sun
Most wrinkles are the result of aging, but premature wrinkles can be a tattle-tale that you’ve spend too much unprotected time in the sun, which speeds up the aging process by damaging skin cells.
Solution: Limit your time in the sun to hours that fall when the sun’s not at its peak. Keep in the shade between 10am and 4pm when you can. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day, even in the winter or on rainy days. Those damaging UV rays can still get through. Wear protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat.
Living With Too Much Stress
According to Harvard Medical School psychologist Dr. Grossbart, as many as 60% of people who seek a doctor’s help for skin problems have significant life stress. Things like acne, alopecia, rosacea, hives, profuse sweating, eczema, dermatitis, and other itchy conditions can have a physiological basis that is exacerbated by stress and emotions. If you’re suffering from any of these skin conditions, you may want to take a closer look at your mental state.
Solution: Is there stress or worry that you can remove from your life? Take a step back and work on some strategies that can help you declutter your brain. Try some stress-relieving activities like meditation or tai chi. Getting plenty of exercise is not only healthy for your skin, but it is a great stress-reliever.
Smoking narrows the tiny blood vessels in the skin, restricting blood flow and making skin paler. The lack of blood flow actually depletes oxygen and nutrient flow, contributing to an older appearance and wrinkles. It also damages collagen and elastin (the fibers that give skin strength and elasticity), causing it to lose its natural elasticity. Not only do the toxins from smoking cause this damage, but the repetitive facial expressions you make (pursing your lips to inhale and squinting to avoid getting smoke in your eyes) contribute to wrinkles! Smoking will also increase your risk of developing squamous cell skin cancer.
Solution: Quit. It sounds simple, but that step could do more than just save your life.