5 Habits That Cause Skin Aging

Published on: 03/17/2023

In my last article, I lamented on the appearance of my older skin.

I still feel young on the inside, but the wrinkles, sagging skin, and sunspots reveal my true age.While aging is inevitable, there are ways to slow down the maturing of your skin. If you haven’t read it yet, here is my list of foods and supplements to slow skin aging. However, I would be remiss if I don’t discuss factors that can hasten skin aging. Nutritional support is less helpful if you sabotage your efforts with these habits that can harm your skin.

5 Skin Damaging Habits:

1. Sugary Foods

Eating excess sugar can lead to the creation of skin damaging molecules called advanced glycation end-products (or AGEs). AGEs are created when sugar attaches to molecules such as proteins or fat. Examples of AGEs created during cooking include the brown sear of a steak and the crispy edges on baked goods or fried dumplings. This caramelization process also occurs within the body.When there is excess sugar in your blood from eating carbohydrate-rich foods, these sugar molecules can attach to collagen and elastin in the skin. This ultimately contributes to sagging and wrinkling. A diet lower in sugar would therefore be protective against aging skin. (1)

Tips:

Reduce intake of refined sugars and syrups like those found in candy, soft drinks, and desserts to twice a week or lessEnjoy fresh or frozen berries with a little unsweetened whipped cream for dessertSkip the sugar in your coffee or teaReplace sweetened drinks with water

2. Barbecue

Cooking foods using dry and high heat, such as when barbecue grilling, roasting, or frying, can create AGEs (see Sugary Foods, above). This occurs primarily with meat and other foods high in protein and/or fat. When you eat these foods, you directly ingest these harmful AGEs. This can lead to skin aging and increase overall inflammation in the body. 

Tips:

Wet cooking methods and lower heat is associated with less formation of AGEs. Try braising, poaching, steaming, or stewing your meat more oftenMarinating meat with an acidic marinade, like lemon or vinegar, prior to cooking can also help to lower AGEs (2)

3. Inadequate Sun Protection

Most people know that excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can harm skin. UV rays come primarily from the sun but are also used in tanning beds and UV lamps. They can permeate into the skin causing damage to DNA within skin cells. Besides causing sunburns and increasing the risk of skin cancer, cumulative exposure to UV radiation leads to freckles, sunspots, and wrinkles.While we all know to apply sunblock before prolonged sun exposure, most of us fail to adequately cover the skin with sufficient sunblock. We also fail to reapply throughout the day to maintain protection.

Tips:

If heading to the beach, use the general guideline of 1 handful of sunblock to cover the whole body To further improve coverage and protection, apply sunblock twiceApply sunblock 15-20 minutes before going outside and reapply every 2 hours (more frequently, if sweating a lot or swimming)I prefer mineral sunblocks as these do not get absorbed into the skin and are safer for children and pregnant women. Look for products containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients. However, avoid spray or powder forms of titanium dioxide to minimize health risks associated with inhalation (3-5)

4. Too Much Screen Time

There is preliminary data that suggests excessive blue light exposure may also lead to premature aging of the skin. The major source of blue light is the sun. However, blue light is also emitted from LEDs, fluorescent lighting, televisions, computer screens, smartphones, and other electronic devices. Exposure to blue light appears to increase the creation of damaging free radicals, which can result in wrinkles and pigmentation.

Tips:

While it would be virtually impossible (and inadvisable) to completely avoid blue light exposure, the best way to avoid excessive exposure is to minimize use of electronic devicesTry implementing device-free times in your day, especially close to bedtime when blue light can also interfere with sleepApplying sunblock to the skin daily can be helpful; a mineral sunblock containing zinc oxide and iron oxide would be preferred. Some products even contain vitamin C or other antioxidants to further combat damaging free radicals (6-9)

5. Inadequate Sleep

Skin repairs and rejuvenates itself at night while you are asleep. As a result, repeated poor sleep can result in impaired healing from insults to the skin (like sunburn) and accelerated skin aging. While the optimal sleep duration is different for everyone, most people do well with around 8 hours of sleep every night. 

Tips:

Reduce exposure to blue light at night, which can disrupt normal sleep (see Too Much Screen Time, above)Try using blue-light blocking glasses and keep screens off 1-2 hours before bedtimeEstablish a calming night-time routine to prepare you mentally and physically for sleep – try meditation, emotional freedom tapping, stretching, prayer, or reading (10,11)

Summary:

Skin aging is unavoidable, but you can slow it down by avoiding excessive consumption of sugary foods as well as barbecued or fried foods.Protect your skin with sunblock if heading to the beach or other places where you have prolonged exposure to sunshine.Turn off your electronic screens to further reduce damage to your skin while also aiming to improve your sleep so that your skin can have time to heal itself and stay younger longer.

Check out my favorite foods and supplements to help reduce skin aging, if you haven’t already read it.

Looking for personalized support on how best to age healthfully and reduce the need for medications? Let’s Chat! Book a free consultation

References:

1. https://www.skintherapyletter.com/aging-skin/glycation/, accessed March 10, 2023

2. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.03.018

3. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/uv-radiation.html

4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29619938/

5. https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/, accessed March 10m 2023

6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6280109/#ref38

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4337113/

8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18798755/

9. https://health.ucdavis.edu/blog/cultivating-health/blue-light-effects-on-your-eyes-sleep-and-health/2022/08, accessed March 10, 2023

10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4926335/

11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25266053/

The information contained in this article is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not to be construed as personalized nutritional advice nor intended to be a substitute for proper health and medical care. Please consult your physician or a qualified health care professional for support with your skin health.

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Hi! I’m Dora – an unconventional pharmacist turned functional medicine nutritionist. I’m also a mom of twins and an autoimmune warrior.

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