Healthy Skin Starts With a Healthy You
The skin is the largest organ in the human body, covering about 21 square feet and accounting for approximately 15% of body weight. On average, it weighs about nine pounds and contains more than 11 miles of blood vessels! The skin plays a vital role in regulating body temperature, and it's the first line of defense between our muscles, bones, and internal organs and the outside world. It protects us from bacteria, viruses, pollution, and chemicals that we are exposed to on a daily basis. Both your age and health are reflected in your skin, so it's time to start paying attention!
Adding Insult to Injury
There are so many factors that can have a negative impact on your skin. Some, like genetics, aging and hormones, cannot be helped. You're stuck with those. Internal factors like diabetes can contribute to skin issues, as well. You can, however, control many other factors, particularly the external ones. Sun exposure and washing too frequently, or with water that is too hot, can damage the skin. Unhealthy diet, dehydration, stress, lack of sleep, and not enough exercise can all negatively impact the skin's ability to do its job. Smoking, especially, can really wreak havoc on this important organ system.
There's Good News
If you can negatively affect your skin in the above ways, you can certainly pick up healthy habits that will have a positive impact on your skin's healthy glow.
Drink plenty of water. Being even slightly dehydrated will cause your whole body to function less optimally. A little dehydration will take a huge toll on your skin, making it look dull, flaky, saggy, and loose. Not only will staying well-hydrated keep your skin looking lush and supple, but drinking plenty of water will help to flush toxins out of your body.
Eat WellAntioxidants are the best resources to assist your body in fighting disease and reducing the signs of aging. They minimize cellular damage and inflammation. You need a wide variety of antioxidants to help combat those pesky free radicals, and you can ensure you're getting that variety by eating foods of many colors. Some that are exceptionally high in antioxidants include:
- Spinach and other green leafy veggies
- Berries like acai, goji, raspberry
- Purple grapes
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate (that which contains 70% or more cocoa)
- Olive oil
- White tea
- Carrots, apricots, and other yellow and orange fruits and veggies
- Beans, peas, and lentils
- Salmon, mackerel, and other fatty fish
Be sure to always opt for organic. It doesn't contain toxins in the form of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
Foods to Avoid
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.
Stay Outta' the Sun
While some sun exposure is beneficial to vitamin D production, too much will damage your skin. Stay in the shade between 10am and 2pm when the sun is most intense, and wear protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Use zinc or titanium dioxide sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 on any skin that is exposed. Apply it generously, and reapply at least every two hours.
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 the smoke in your eyes) contribute to wrinkles! Smoking will also increase your risk of developing squamous cell skin cancer.
Studies show a definite correlation between stress and your skin. People with high stress levels are more likely to experience skin issues like hair loss, sweating, itchy skin, oily or flaky patches on the scalp, scaly skin, and hand rashes. High stress levels are also linked to severe acne in teenagers. Since uncontrolled stress can make your skin more sensitive and trigger acne breakouts, reducing your stress levels could lead to healthier skin. Try stress-relieving activities such as meditation or tai chi. Make sure that you get plenty of exercise.
Pay Attention to Skin CareWhat you do, physically, to your skin can take its toll. Pay attention to how you handle your skin.
- Take gentle baths and showers. Hot water can remove beneficial oils from your skin, so opt for warm showers, and limit your time. Stay clear of abrasive brushes and sponges that can damage the skin's surface
- Use mild or natural soaps. Detergents and strong soaps can strip your skin of oils.
- Shave carefully. Apply shaving lotion or cream to lubricate before shaving and always use a clean, fresh razor.
- Towel gently. Just pat or blot your skin instead of vigorously toweling off. You want your skin to keep some of the moisture.
- Moisturize. For dry skin, use a moisturizer, preferably one that contains SPF, immediately after washing (within minutes). Lotions may cause irritation, so stick with ointments or creams.
- Don't scratch! If you're particularly itchy, apply cold compresses and moisturizers.
- Don't cook your skin. Don't get too close to heat sources like air vents and fireplaces, as they can dry your skin out. In the winter time, utilize a humidifier to replenish moisture in the epidermis.