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, 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. Now that I’m 40, it’s way more difficult to bounce back from situations that tax my internal systems. I’ve been battling a cold for two 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. When the average person lived to age 40, sun was necessary for Vitamin D production and hormone balance. Now that we are living much, much longer, the effects of this detrimental 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 your skin from chronic radiation damage that destroys this barrier and breaks down the supportive collagen and elastin in your skin. The result of chronic sun damage is dryness, discoloration, broken blood vessels, deep wrinkles, sagging, and increased risk of infection and cancer.
What to do:
Drum roll… wear hats and clothing as a first line of defense, plan your activities in the mornings and evenings and wear sunscreen everyday 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, which blocks UVB and UVA rays, with an SPF30+ 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, look hollow, and get wrinkles.
What to do:
Start your day with a collagen or bone broth latte. To optimize the health of your collagen, the absolute best thing you can do is avoid sugar! Sugar circulating in your bloodstream binds with proteins, such as collagen and elastin, forming AGE’s (Advanced Glycation End Products) which 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 decision if 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 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 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 Espom salt bath with sleep-inducing essential oils, or take a melatonin supplement. Melatonin can assist with jet lag or for occasional use but should not be used nights. It is important to try to stick with a regular routine for best sleep habits. Check out these common sleep issues to figure out what changes to make.
Acute inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect itself from infection and heal. When the body’s inflammatory response is prolonged, it can lead to chronic inflammation, which is 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 inflammation-causing foods like refined sugar and booze. Then start adding inflammation-fighting foods like ginger, turmeric and probiotics to your diet. The more good bacteria you have, the more of a defense you have against the bad bacteria, reducing the incidence of inflammation and infection.
6. Free radicals
Think of free radicals as the waste products created during the natural chemical processes of the body. The uncharged, highly reactive molecules are produced via oxidation—which occurs when your body breaks down food, or is exposed to sun or external toxins like cigarette smoke, pollution and radiation. If they build up and the body can’t neutralize them they cause skin damage and can make new cells grow incorrectly, which contributes to aging.
What to do:
Make sure you’re adding antioxidants to your skincare 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 in your diet with plenty of blueberries and green tea.
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 pillow case to a satin one to avoid wrinkle formation and try to sleep on your back to avoid wrinkles on one cheek being compressed all night.34