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As our body’s first line of defense against the world at large, our skin is exposed to the harshest elements:
- UV radiation
- environmental toxins and microbes
- frigid temperatures
- harsh chemicals in skin care products
But it’s not just the outside world. Our stress levels, diet and health also have a direct impact on our skin. Over the course of a lifetime, these damages accumulate, and eventually our skin gives in, paving the way for fine lines, wrinkles, acne, uneven skin tone and persistent redness and rashes.
The good news is that, despite our past skin sins and constant inner and outer threats, we can still make a difference in our skin. A good skin care routine—though it won’t necessarily undo past damages—can go a long way. Many people prevent skin damage from becoming visible by staying dedicated to a potent daily regimen. With the right products, you can keep your skin looking healthy longer.
Before we dig deeper into the right skin care regimen for you, let’s explore the four main factors responsible for the changes in your skin. While some of these factors are unavoidable and part of our natural aging process, some are actually preventable. From your daily lifestyle choices to your monthly hormonal cycle, see how the vicissitudes of life affect the quality of your skin.
According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to skin aging are caused by the sun. Chronic exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays—both UVA and UVB—breaks down collagen fi bers and elastin (vital to the skin’s supple appearance) and interferes with the body’s immune and repair systems. It also contributes to the formation of free radicals (unstable oxygen molecules that attack healthy cells and permanently damage our DNA), leading to premature skin aging and, in some cases, cancer.
From the teenage-blemish phase to aging skin, the ebb and flow of hormones has a key effect on the way we look.
For instance, during puberty, our bodies start ramping up production of sex hormones estrogen and androgen, which results in excess oil and enlarged pores—the infamous birthplace of teenage acne.
Meanwhile, fluctuating hormones during pregnancy can cause acne, dark spots, spider veins and various skin rashes to appear. As one approaches the menopause stage, when estrogen starts to decline, you’ll notice that your skin becomes dry, less elastic and more prone to acne and hyperpigmentation. Aside from estrogen, other hormones are at play. When your body senses a threat, it releases cortisol, epinephrine and other stress hormones.
This process causes your muscles to tense up, heart rate and blood pressure to spike and digestive and immune systems to slow down, making you more vulnerable to free radical damage and toxin buildup. In other words: cellulite, breakouts and a sallow complexion.
LIFESTYLE AND DIET
While it hasn’t been proven that certain food like nuts, potato chips and pizza can trigger acne breakouts, there is some solid evidence that your diet has a direct impact on your skin. For instance, sweets and refined carbs like white bread and pasta can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and accelerate your skin’s aging process.
Glycation is when sugar binds to other molecules in your body, such as protein and lipids. These sugar by-products do two things: They stop your cells from functioning properly, and then they create free radicals, which further damages your cells.
Moreover, processed foods that are high in sugars, also known as high-glycemic foods, can trigger acne.
High-glycemic foods contribute to acne by elevating serum insulin concentrations. This ramps up oil production and triggers inflammation. Dairy foods have also been shown to be a trigger.
Even wines and other alcoholic beverages make you vulnerable to glycation. Alcohol causes the blood vessels to swell, and the high levels of sugar found in alcohol can lead to glycation, which has been proven to hinder collagen fibers from regenerating.
Likewise, cigarette smoking plays a major part in the formation of wrinkles. Studies of identical twins have found smokers to have thinner skin (in some cases by as much as 40 percent), more severe wrinkles and more gray hair than their nonsmoking twins.
SKIN CARE CHOICES
Your skin care routine can make or break your skin. The wrong products—those laden with harsh chemicals or that don’t match your skin type—are not only a waste of hard-earned money, they can also make existing skin conditions worse. But the right formulas for your skin—applied in the proper amount and in the correct order—may help reverse the damages mentioned above and even prevent them from happening in the first place.