When Allure magazine announced they were no longer using the term “anti-aging,” it caught my attention. Because dare I say, aging is good. Looking back at the terrible decisions of my 20s is pretty embarrassing.
I want to get older and wiser — just with a dose of “aging gracefully.” And it’s possible to age well while still looking refreshed and not worn down. Helen Mirren is still hot!
What’s the key to aging well? Look at stress. Stress of all different kinds—mental, physical, and emotional—ages our cells and slows down our body’s ability to stay healthy.
And as we age, our ability to repair and rebound diminishes, and uncontrolled stress takes an even bigger toll. It’s way more difficult, now that I’m 40, to bounce back from situations that tax my internal systems.
I’ve been battling a cold for 2 weeks, and sadly, wine nights are over because one drink makes me feel awful the next day.
7 Skin Stressors
We’ve heard a million times to eat right, exercise, and start meditating to manage stress. But here are a few things stressing (read: aging) your body and skin that you might not have thought about.
1. Sun (ultraviolet radiation)
No surprise—the sun is not your skin’s friend. Back when the average person lived to age 40, the sun was necessary for vitamin D production and hormone balance. Now that we are living much, much longer, the detrimental effects of this radiation in the long term have become much more evident and concerning.
Since our skin plays such a huge role in protecting our bodies from external toxins and infections, it is vital to protect it. Chronic radiation damage destroys this barrier and breaks down the supportive collagen and elastin that are part of the skin’s architecture. The result of sun damage is dryness, discoloration, broken blood vessels, deep wrinkles, sagging, and an increased risk of infection and cancer.
What to do:
Drum roll… wear hats and clothing as a first line of defense, plan your activities for the early mornings and evenings, and wear sunscreen every day before leaving the house! (And don’t even think of going to the tanning bed.) Along with preventing skin damage, sunscreen gives your skin a break so it can spend energy repairing instead of protecting.
You should wear a chemical-free, mineral-based, broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks UVB and UVA rays, with an SPF of 30 or higher every day. Don’t forget the tops of your feet, neck, and the backs of your hands.
2. Collagen loss
As we age, the body produces less collagen. That’s bad news because collagen is the structural support of your skin. Gravity plus diminished collagen equals skin that starts to sag, looks hollow, and gets wrinkles.
What to do:
Start your day with a collagen or bone broth latte. To optimize your collagen health, the absolute best thing you can do is avoid sugar! Sugar circulating in your bloodstream binds with proteins, such as collagen and elastin, to form AGEs (advanced glycation end products), and that results in stiff, wrinkled skin. This process is irreversible, so every time you think about what you are putting in your mouth, make a purposeful determination of whether it is improving or harming your skin.
You can also try derma rolling; it can stimulate blood flow and collagen production.
3. Metabolic stress
Our cells do a lot of work in the metabolic process of converting food to energy. When our metabolism is running smoothly, it does everything from breaking down sugar and burning fat to supporting healthy DNA, detoxifying free radicals, and making the lipids that our skin needs to regenerate.
Eating too much food (taking in more energy than we expend), drinking alcohol, consuming processed foods loaded with chemicals, and changing time zones all stress our cells, making them work overtime.
It’s impossible to get rid of all metabolic stress—and you don’t have to. Just be smart about your decisions to optimize your metabolism and not wear it down. After all, I’m not skipping my vacation just because it causes jet lag!
What to do:
When my body is stressed, I take over-the-counter supplements to support cellular health and help my body deal with metabolic stress. Intermittent fasting may also be beneficial in allowing your cells to recharge and take a break from metabolic stress.
4. Lack of sleep
This is another no-brainer: sleep is essential to a healthy, functioning body. It’s the time when we reset our brain, repair cells, and flush out toxins from our liver and kidneys and skin (there’s a reason you have to pee first thing in the morning!).
Cell repair and renewal occurs during sleep. Awakening well-rested will also encourage you to eat healthier, be more active, and have a better mood. We can’t say it enough: Don’t skimp on sleep!
What to do:
Adjust your nightly routine to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep. Give yourself a screen curfew, try an Epsom salt bath with sleep-inducing essential oils, or take a melatonin supplement. Melatonin can assist with jet lag or be taken for that occasional difficulty in falling asleep.
It is important to try to stick to a regular routine for the best sleep habits. Check out these common sleep issues to figure out what changes you can make to get more zzzzzz’s.
Acute inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect itself from infection and heal. When the body’s initial inflammatory response is prolonged, it can lead to chronic inflammation, a sign that the immune system is stuck in overdrive. That can lead to all kinds of problems, including accelerated aging.
What to do:
First, don’t smoke. Seriously. Reduce your intake of inflammatory foods like refined sugar and booze.
Then start adding inflammation-fighting foods like ginger, turmeric, and probiotics to your diet. The more types of good bacteria you have, the better defense you have against the bad guys, reducing your risk of inflammation and infection.
6. Free radicals
Think of free radicals as the waste products created during the natural chemical processes of the body. These uncharged, highly reactive molecules are produced via oxidation—which occurs when your body breaks down damaging types of food or is exposed to ultraviolet rays or external toxins like cigarette smoke, pollution, and radiation.
If they build up so much that the body can’t neutralize them, they cause damage everywhere, including the skin, and can make new cells grow incorrectly, which contributes to aging [source].
What to do:
Make sure you’re adding antioxidants to your skin care and diet. These little superheroes are natural, plant-derived compounds that protect our cells from and minimize the damage caused by free radicals.
Antioxidants vitamin E and vitamin C are especially helpful in repairing sun-damaged skin and wrinkling. Get antioxidant-rich foods into your diet with plenty of blueberries, green tea, and other colorful plant foods.
7. Repetitive motions
Small day-to-day actions add up. Think about how many times you blink your eyes each day! (Hint: it’s almost 30,000.)
We can’t—and don’t want to—stop blinking, smiling, and laughing just to avoid a few wrinkles. The good news is that a couple of simple changes to your daily routines can add up over time.
What to do:
Wear sunglasses to avoid squinting. Stop using straws. Not only are they terrible for the environment, but they contribute to lines around the mouth.
Change your cotton pillowcase to a satin or silk one to avoid wrinkle formation, and try to sleep on your back to avoid wrinkles on one cheek being compressed all night.
This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Haley, a board-certified dermatologist with extensive experience in medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical reviewers here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Photos by Ana-Maria Stanciu64