Skin is the largest organ in the human body. It is extremely active every minute of every day, which is the major reason why it’s vulnerable to diseases and injuries. Very good evidence shows that many nutrients (e.g. zinc, selenium, vitamins A, B, and C,) not only significantly impact the health and appearance of the skin, but also can slow its aging process. In this series, I’ll tell you what causes skin to age, and which treatments could help slow down this process.
The skin ages in two ways: 1) intrinsic aging, meaning internal aging, from the genes we inherit; 2) extrinsic aging, meaning external aging, caused by environmental factors such as sunlight. Intrinsic aging normally starts around the age of 25. Collagen fiber isn’t produced as much, your skin begins losing its elasticity, and the body takes longer to make new skin cells and rid itself of dead ones. The results: wrinkles, hair loss, gray hairs that turn white, dry, itchy skin, loss of underlying fat, and sagging skin.
As for external factors, sun exposure is the main culprit for aging skin. Others include smoking, sleeping positions, repetitive facial expressions, and gravity (seriously). The ultraviolet (UV) light problem is called “photoaging.” The damage done depends on your skin color and how much sun you get. Fair skin equals worse photoaging than dark skin. Also, repeated UV exposure means collagen fibers start breaking down and not being replaced. It also weakens the elasticity, causing wrinkled and loose skin. And I don’t need to mention that excessive sun exposure impairs DNA and RNA, raising the risk of skin cancer.
You can’t help genetics. You can (and should) quit smoking (Here’s some advice for kicking that nasty habit). Ten cigarettes or more each day for 10 years will produce deeply wrinkled and leathery skin with a yellowish color. Quitting smoking will limit wrinkles and improve skin tone. As for the sun, here are my suggestions:
1. Apply sunscreen year-round with an SPF of 15 or higher — 20 minutes before going outside
2. Wear protective clothes such as a hat and long sleeves
3. Avoid too much sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. if possible
4. Avoid deliberate tanning, including the use of any tanning device at home