What Makes Our Skin Age? Lifestyle Factors That Cause Ageing
Losing our looks as we age is something that plays on most of our minds. First impressions are important and ensuring that we maintain a positive self-image is important for our self-esteem and mental health, whatever our age. But it's not all negative — if you know the common lifestyle factors that cause ageing, its easier to avoid, or protect your body against them.
What causes our body to age?
Hormone levels, poor circulation and genetics all come into effect to determine how well we age. When it comes to our skin, fine lines and loss of elasticity then become more apparent over time. This is due to a loss of hyaluronic acid, slower cell turnover and reduced sebum production in the epidermal layer and a decrease in collagen — a protein that promotes cell regeneration in our skin. While we have little control over these influences, we do, however, have a say about how external factors affect our skin.
Ultraviolet light from the sun’s rays can be one of the worst culprits for ageing our skin. Long term exposure to sunlight can cause visible signs of ageing such as hyperpigmentation, sun spots, tags and even skin cancer. It’s important to understand how the sun affects your skin in order to protect against it.
Smoking can make it seem like the skin is ageing prematurely. According to Cancer Research UK, over 5,000 different chemicals are released when a cigarette burns.i Most of these chemicals are harmful and carcinogenic, which increases a smoker’s risk of developing some forms of skin cancer. Smokers may also notice their skin losing its glow earlier on in life, with skin tone becoming uneven, often leaning towards an orange/green tone. Heavy smokers might also spot signs of premature facial ageing around the mouth known as “smoker’s lines”.
Hydrating the layers of our skin — or dermis — is vital to looking younger for longer. Applying skin care products which aim to hydrate your complexion is crucial. The benefits are notable when you use natural products with active ingredients that are formulated to nourish and replenish skin, such as rosehip oil. But its also important to hydrate our skin from within. NHS Choices recommend that we consume 1.2 litres of fluid, that’s 6-8, 8oz glasses, every day to avoid dehydration.ii
As with hydration, the foods we choose to nourish our body with can directly impact the visible health of our skin. Overindulging in sugary foods, alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate skin and accelerate the signs of ageing, so try to limit the number of unhealthy foods and drinks you consume. Everything is good in moderation, so try to make some healthier swaps such as dried fruits or fresh juices for a nutritious sugar kick.
Bad sleep hygiene
It cannot be emphasised enough just how important quality sleep is for maintaining a healthy body — especially as we age. As we get older, sleeping patterns may change. However, it’s a common misconception that we need less sleep as we age when actually, we need the same hours throughout adulthood, 7-8 hours is the aim.
Poor sleep quality may work to reduce skin health and accelerate the ageing process. As we sleep, the body undergoes a rejuvenation and repair programme, replacing damaged cells with healthy new ones. Consistently poor sleep interrupts this restorative phase and can cause early signs of ageing. Compromised sleep is also often accompanied by higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is a known factor in premature ageing. As such, where possible, try to reduce your stress levels. Meditation, exercise, even a long bath with some essential oils are all worth a try. Having trouble sleeping? Why not read our article on steps to help you drift off naturally.
Poor skin care
A good skincare routine can be the cornerstone to keeping your skin looking younger for longer. From exfoliating away dead skin cells to hydrating with creams, maintaining a healthy glow comes with a little effort but the results are worth it. Avoid leaving make-up on when you got to bed — a good cleansing balm to remove cosmetics is the most important step in maintaining a clear complexion.
Dry brushing is a popular anti-ageing skincare technique. Not only does it boost circulation and remove dead skin cells, but it also helps to drain the lymphatic system — the network of vessels which remove waste materials from the body.
A number of common lifestyle factors that cause ageing are avoidable — it just takes a little time and dedication to protect your skin from them. If you’d like to discover even more information on ways to stay healthy as you age, simply have a look around our blog.
Cancerresearchukorg. (2018). Cancer Research UK. Available online: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/smoking-and-cancer/whats-in-a-cigarette-0
NHS UK. (2011). Six to eight glasses of water ‘still best’. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/six-to-eight-glasses-of-water-still-best
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Keri Filtness has worked in the Nutrition Industry for 19 years. She is regularly called upon for her professional comments on health and nutrition related news. Her opinions have been featured by BBC3, Prima, Vitality, The Mirror, Woman’s Own and Cycling Weekly, amongst others. She has also worked one to one with journalists, analysing their diets and health concerns and recommending changes and additions, where appropriate.