Protect Your Skin From Ageing

Wanting healthy, youthful skin is natural. It makes a person feel confident and well, and is an important part of self esteem. It is true that looking after the inside helps the outside. I have a strong interest in this area and last year I performed extensive research on the subject and gave a lecture on it at an international conference. This article is a summary of the lecture.

The skin has an important role as the natural barrier between the inside and the outside world. It protects against pollution and the external environment. Skin structure, texture, thickness, density, hydration, colour and function vary with age, internal and external factors.

Skin deteriorates in its appearance due to intrinsic ageing factors (internal health factors) and then there is an overlay of extrinsic factors (factors you can control).

Intrinsic factors include exercise, stress, hormonal depletion, medical conditions like diabetes and underactive thyroid, drugs like steroid and finally, diet and nutrition.

Extrinsic or external influences on ageing include smoking and sun damage.

When the skin ages due to intrinsic or internal factors, what is seen under the microscope includes dryness, laxity and thinning. There is a loss of collagen producing cells and blood vessels, along with the matrix around the cells. There is also a reduction of immune cells in the skin.

Intrinsic ageing contributes to the problems of ageing skin that include:

  • Slow wound healing
  • Poor response to skin treatments
  • Reduced immunity of the skin
  • Reduced protection against UV rays
  • Increased skin cancer
  • Compromised ability to keep warmth in the body
  • More fragile blood vessels.

Smoking is an important cause of extrinsic ageing of the skin. It causes premature thinning and wrinkling of the skin. When combined with sun exposure, the ageing effect of smoking is multiplied!

Smoking causes skin ageing by starving the tissues of oxygen and causing damage to elastin (the elastic tissue in the skin) as well as reducing collagen. Smoking also influences the messengers in the skin that help immunity and proper skin cell regulation, thus causing the dull, grey, lax appearance of the skin.

Oral Vitamin C and E supplements have been found to help smokers skin somewhat, but stopping smoking is preferred.

The other main cause of extrinsic ageing is UV rays which cause effects including:

  • Brown and red blotches
  • Fine and larger veins
  • Freckles and pigmentation
  • Thick leathery skin
  • Sagging skin
  • Skin cancers.

Your skin protection strategy should be:

  1. Protective clothing and glasses
  2. Skin Sunprotection agents
    • Chemical Sunscreens
    • Physical blockers eg Zinc in a sunscreen
    • Antioxidants in skincare.
  3. UV protective agents in the diet and supplements
    • Vitamins- C, E, Zinc, Selenium
    • Dietary animal and botanical extracts
    • Genistein from Soy
    • Omega 3 PUFA’s
    • Green Tea
    • Lycopene – from food including Tomato paste
    • Probiotics.

Diet and wrinkling studies overseas have found important themes in the diet that protect the skin and can amount to an SPF of 4 level of preotection all over the skin. This is important because a good, UV protectant diet will affect all of the skin, where as a sunscreen must be reapplied.

Studies have shown lower wrinkling has been found to be associated with a higher intake of vegetables, tomato paste, olive oil, and legumes. There was increased wrinkling with a high intake of milk and milk products, butter, margarine, sugar, potatoes, soft drink, cordials, red meat (especially processed meat), cakes and pastries.

Certain dietary influences have been seen to reduce wrinkling and include adequate monounsaturated fat, usually in the form of olive oil. Protective vitamins are vitamin C, Retinol, as well as the minerals, calcium, phospherous, magnesium, iron and zinc.

So, eat a varied health diet and your skin will reap the benefits!

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