Sadly, there’s no escaping the march of time – with each year that passes comes another birthday, and those inevitable signs of ageing. But while we will all see deterioration in the vitality of our skin, have you noticed how some people seem to age less quickly than others? Certainly, genetics play a part in this matter – but our actions in life play an equally important role. The things you do – or don’t do – to look after your complexion can have knock-on effects years down the line.
First some facts: When we are young, the collagen and elastin which give our flesh its firmness is produced in abundance by the body. As we age, the body’s ability to produce collagen and elastin slows down, as does skin cell renewal. Over time, this causes the skin to get looser, thinner and sagginess will appear. Plumpness and smoothness reduce, and by old age we are left with deep wrinkles – of course, this process does not happen overnight!
The fact this ageing process occurs gradually is what works in skin care’s favour – while we cannot stop ageing skin per se, we can stop it ageing prematurely by taking affirmative action in our lifestyles.
The biggest culprit when it comes to prematurely ageing skin is the sun. If we do not wear SPF, the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB) penetrate our skin and cause lasting damage – such as broken capillaries (blood vessels) on the surface and an uneven skin tone (hyperpigmentation). Studies have indicated the sun is able to break down collagen in our skin, impairing its ability to repair. Most seriously, overexposure to the sun has been directly linked to skin cancers. Ideally, we should be protecting ourselves from childhood, but in reality people find it difficult to resist the lure of the sun and its tanning effects. Thankfully, even if you are only just starting to protect your skin with SPF30 sun creams now, in adulthood, you will still have a better outcome than by taking no action at all.
We’re not just in danger of damaging our skin in the summer. The cold is equally to blame for ageing us prematurely. Dryness is a particular problem in winter, as low temperatures and harsh winds work to strip our faces of their natural oils. Indoors, the heating systems we rely on to warm us up simply add to the problem, soaking up air moisture like a sponge. Hydrating skin in the winter can be a losing battle, especially if you are not using products suited to your complexion.
Smoking: Wrinkled, leathery skin and a yellow-hued complexion is not something any of us would wish for – but this is the sad reality facing smokers! Unlike the sun, wind and rain, smoking is something we can – and should – avoid. Tell-tale signs of smoking will appear in the faces of smokers long before the well-publicised dangers such as cancer and respiratory illness can take effect. The kindest thing you can do is give up. If you’re a non-smoker, don’t hang out with your friends when they light up – even being around smoke can affect your complexion.
Making sure we get enough sleep may be easier said than done, but avoiding exhaustion will have a positive effect on your skin. A lack of sleep will show up as dark circles under the eyes or puffiness, and sagging skin can take effect. If you’re a person who finds it difficult to sleep well, why not try relaxing herbal teas, warm baths and calming pursuits such as yoga?
Stress is inevitable – just like ageing! But it also contributes to premature ageing. While we are stressed out, we put additional pressure on our faces by frowning and furrowing our brows. We tend to put our hands on our faces and rub our eyes vigorously when tired. All this, coupled with a heightened state of anxiety, makes it difficult for the skin to remain supple and healthy. The activities suggested above to help with sleep may also help to lessen your stress.
Another well-known antidote to stress and poor sleep is stepping up your exercise regime and improving your diet. It just so happens this will improve your skin too! Prematurely ageing skin is exacerbated by a lack of exercise. Upping your heart rate helps muscle tone and stimulates blood flow – the very things skin needs to aid renewal and repair. Making sure you get enough vitamins and minerals from a healthy and varied diet – whether or not you eat meat or dairy products – is very important to improved skin texture. Good nutrition leads to healthy cells, and the more natural the products you eat the better the effect.
If you have mature skin, or concerned with premature ageing, why not check out the Time of Life website for more advice and product recommendations, and find out all about the Dermalogica AGESmart Range.