The biggest skin sins aren’t using the wrong cleanser or forgetting your serum, or even (yikes!) forgetting to do your nightly routine for an evening.
Hopefully, you’re washing your face before bed, applying moisturizer morning and night, and maybe a serum too. But if you’re still not looking or feeling as good as you’d like to, it can be discouraging.
Mostly we like to be positive and take steps forward to reach a result or goal. Sometimes, though, we do the equivalent of shooting ourselves in the foot.
Your lifestyle affects your skin more than you might think. Keeping your skin healthy and looking great means not only doing the good stuff like using great products, getting exercise, enough sleep and eating a healthy diet. It means avoiding skin care sins. What are these?
The 4 Skin Sins
It turns out they all start with S (I love alliteration).
Sun exposure accounts for 90% of the visible signs of aging. We’re not against aging but there is no reason to damage your skin by not protecting it from the sun. Damaged skin isn’t healthy.
That tan? A tan is skin damage that results from your skin trying to defend itself against even worse sun damage. And even if you don’t burn, UVA rays from the sun penetrate deep into your skin layers and wreak havoc. So tanned skin is also damaged skin.
Tanning beds cause even more damage than the sun itself and are associated with a higher skin cancer risk.
The cure? Stay active, get out in the sun, but wear broad spectrum (preferably zinc oxide) sunscreen every day whether you plan on being out in the sun or not. Damaging, collagen destroying UVA rays can penetrate the windows of your home, office, and car and damage your deep skin layers without you even knowing it.
Our bodies are beautifully designed to cope with immediate life-jeopardizing threats. For example, imagine you are confronted by a large animal that wants to eat you. Your body’s stress response will automatically make the rapid physiological changes to either fight the animal off or run away. After you’ve dealt with the threat one way or the other, your body systems return to normal and life goes on as it should.
The problem in modern times is that we rarely have to worry about the hungry large animal, but instead are constantly confronted with threats or perceived threats that do not go away. Am I going to lose my job, will I get there on time, how am I going to get all of this done?
When our bodies are constantly fueled by cortisol and other stress hormones, it damages our bodies. And our Skin.
Stress hormones and the cascade of chemicals that goes along with them are second only to sun in their ability to damage the skin. Chronic stress causes inflammation which looks bad. But importantly, it breaks down collagen and hyaluronic acid. It can also break down other proteins in your skin and damage DNA.
Plus, chronic stress usually disrupts sleep.
The good news is that you can do simple things that can really help offset the stress. Being outdoors in nature is high on list. Study after study confirms that spending time in nature reduces stress hormones and improves both mental and physical health. And you get a little exercise too which also helps with stress.
Yoga, meditation, massage, acupuncture all help too.
Your skin is happier because it’s not suffering from inflammation and cell damage.
You might associate too much sugar with acne, but the truth is that it can damage your skin without making it break out. And make it look both unhealthy and older looking than it needs to.
Sugar can trigger inflammation which has the same effects as stress.
The bad news is that when you have sugar, especially refined sugar or sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, it can attach itself to proteins and fats in your body.
This is called glycation. It’s also referred to as crosslinking of proteins.
Glycation/cross-linking is bad because it causes more inflammation, the connective tissue to stiffen, wrinkles and sagging to happen.
Some cross linking or glycation is a normal part of the aging process but too much sugar, stress, sun, smoking, lack of exercise, some drugs and poor diet can really speed up the process.
This doesn’t mean you need to or even should eliminate all sugars from your diet. Just avoid high fructose corn syrup, refined white sugar, “white” flour products, and most processed foods.
There are a few things that can help slow down the glycation/cross-linking process: upping your fluid intake, drinking green tea, and making sure you get enough vitamins, A, C, and E in both your diet and skincare.
We all know there are a hundred reasons for quitting smoking. Here’s one more-it’s really bad for your skin. Let’s start with the obvious.
Wrinkles around the mouth and eyes. The act of holding a cigarette in your mouth causes the upper lip to wrinkle much faster than normal. People who smoke tend to squint because of the heat and smoke and have crow’s feet much earlier.
Smokers have a much higher incidence of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, especially around their lips.
Nicotine in tobacco restricts blood flow to the skin which slows wound healing, skin turnover, and gives smokers the telltale gray, dull complexion.
Nicotine also leaches Vitamin C from the skin which affects skin tone and elasticity. It suppresses the immune system. Not good.
If you are a smoker, the best possible thing you can do for your health and skin, is quit. Today. It’s hard, but there’s lots of help and encourage for you out there.
Help your skin look its best
The skin sins are fundamental problems that keep your skin from looking its best and being its healthiest.It’s not just your skin, it’s your whole body that will benefit from eliminating the skin sins from your life.
Once you get the sun, stress, sugar, and smoking under control, all of the positive things you do for yourself like good diet, sleep, and exercise) will have an even greater effect.
And you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much better your skincare routine works and how much better you look and feel.