The status of your skin health is to a large extent a reflection of your lifestyle. Everything we put in our body, from carrots to tobacco smoke, affects your skin. That is why some lifestyle habits can cause premature skin aging and result in unhealthy skin. Our lifestyle is thought to account for 75% of our skin status, while our genes account for a mere 25%. Because of the huge impact, your lifestyle has on your skin, we have put together a science-based guide that will hopefully help you in creating positive lifestyle habits for your skin.
Several skin disorders, such as vitiligo, psoriasis, and eczema, are worsened by stress. In studies made to investigate how stress affects the skin, it has been observed that people suffering from acute stress have less moisture in their skin. Studies of people going through a divorce and of students with exam stress have also shown that the skin heals more slowly, the negatives stress is causing a defect in the barrier function. Stress isn’t good for the brain, the heart, the stomach, and skin is not an exception from other human organs.
Mindfulness is often recommended as the perfect antidote to stress. There are studies of the impact it can have on the skin and one study even shows that mindfulness can help wounds heal better. In this study, small wounds were made in participants’ arms, after which they were divided into two groups. The half who took part in mindfulness therapy for eight weeks healed better than the half who received no therapy at all. Some scientists advocate mindfulness as a therapy for patients with anything from acne to psoriasis and vitiligo. However, it’s a long way from observing positive effects from mindfulness to the conviction that it can be used to treat an autoimmune illness such as psoriasis.
Is exercise good for our skin? In Canada, skin scientists brought together about 30 volunteers of both sexes, aged between 20 and 84, to study the impact of exercise. About half of the participants were physically active, engaging in at least three hours of moderate or demanding physical activity a week, while the rest were inactive, spending less than an hour a week exercising. As the researchers wanted to look at skin that hadn’t had much sun exposure, they opted for taking samples from the volunteers’ buttocks. Samples from all participants were examined under the microscope and showed that both men and women over 40, belonging to the group that exercised frequently, were found to have a noticeably thinner and healthier skin in the outermost layer, while both epidermis (first layer) and dermis (second layer) were thicker and denser.
Sleep is key for healthy skin! Why? The hormone which makes our skin healthier through sleep is melatonin. Melatonin is a multi-faceted hormone – but above all, it’s an effective sleep hormone. It makes us tired and helps us fall asleep more easily. It also works as an antioxidant and is one of the factors that counteract aging. Melatonin levels rise in the evening as darkness falls and while we’re asleep, melatonin is busy repairing the damage done to our skin, such as damage caused by the sun. It also boosts the immune system. People who sleep too little or who sleep in a room that’s too light, often have low melatonin levels in the bloodstream. This condition can lead to apathy, fatigue or even depression. Melatonin is in some markets sold in skin creams claiming that it has an anti-aging effect. However, few clinical studies show it has any such impact.
In a small-scale Italian study of just over 30 women aged over 55, melatonin cream was applied to one side of each participant’s face over a three-month period. The skin on the melatonin side was found to be better hydrated, to have fewer wrinkles and to be both firmer and smoother.
Have you ever heard someone saying that dry skin comes from failing to drink enough water? We’re sorry to say that it’s not true. The idea that water keeps the skin hydrated and youthful is actually a myth.
By 2018 there were no fewer than 216 conference articles and 23 studies published on the impact of water on the skin. What can be stated is that if you are seriously dehydrated, your skin hydration level will naturally be affected by drinking water – but only under those specific circumstances. Clearly, becoming dehydrated to this degree is dangerous, and fortunately, it’s rare. A possible exception is vulnerable older people, who have a higher risk of becoming seriously dehydrated. But merely ‘forgetting to drink enough’ during the day will certainly not leave you suffering from dehydration. Daily water intake of one to two liters, as often recommended, is quite adequate. You’ll get half of this amount from the food you eat, so it’s enough to drink about a liter of water per day.
5. SCREEN TIME
Can blue light from screens speed up the aging process? There are products on the market that supposedly protect you against blue light. However, there is no proof that it causes wrinkles. What has been observed is that blue light can cause hyperpigmentation on people with darker skin. It has also been shown to break down the important carotenoids in the skin. Can you protect yourself by applying ordinary sunscreen? Yes, studies have shown that physical sunscreen provides some protection against blue light. However, we have to look at this realistically. Compare how your skin feels if you spend all day in the sun with how it feels after the same amount of time in front of a computer. The difference in strength and impact is obvious. Bearing in mind that blue light has also been claimed to damage the eyes, it’s better to get a light filter for your computer, tablet, and mobile than to try to protect your skin by applying sunscreen. Having said this, not nearly enough studies have been carried out yet into blue light and the skin.
Today we know that smoking speeds up the skin’s aging process and it also forms free radicals as well as causes inflammation in the skin. Clinical studies have shown that heavy smoking results in premature wrinkles. You might think those wrinkles form primarily around your mouth and in your face, where you have sensitive skin, but it’s been shown that smokers also develop more wrinkles on their arms. Smoking leads to the development of elastosis, meaning that the elastin fibers in the skin lose their elasticity. The skin becomes wrinkled, sallow and less firm. Male smokers develop both elastosis and telangiectasia (visible blood vessels near the surface of the skin, also known as spider veins). Female smokers are not affected to the same extent by telangiectasia.
There’s a great deal of research on how exhaust fumes and pollution affect the skin. The results leave no doubts about the negative impact. The World Health Organization, WHO, published a report in 2016 according to which over three million people die annually from air pollution, making atmospheric pollution the world’s number one environmental health risk. Airborne particles are one of the main components of this pollution, and there are increasingly clear signs that they have an adverse impact on human skin; they aggravate inflammation and enzyme activity in the skin, thereby reducing the amount of collagen and elastin in the skin. One of the world’s largest cosmetics firms has invested massively in research into air pollution, particularly in China as more extensive pollution has been recorded there. The skin status of people living in areas with high pollution levels has been compared with that of rural people from areas with cleaner air. People living in the polluted areas have more wrinkles, more patches of pigment and drier skin.