10 Main Skin Stressors and How to Protect Against their Negative Effects
We put our skin through it’s paces day-in day-out, constantly exposing it to sunshine, chemicals in the air and the internal environment we create in our own bodies. Through all this, we expect it to continue to protect us as well as looking and feeling great too – it’s a tall order and one that we really need to give it a helping hand with. So, here are the 9 main stressors our skin is exposed to on a daily basis (both internal and external), along with some ideas on what we can do to give our skin a helping hand.
Firstly, lets look at the internal factors which are all dictated by our health, what we choose to put into our bodies.
- Dehydration – Our skin cells are made up of over 70% water, so it should come as no surprise that our levels of hydration have a huge impact on the health of our skin. Drinking at least 2 Litres a day will give your skin cells the fluids they need above everything else. I challenge you to keep a water diary and monitor your skin appearance once a week for four weeks – you’ll be amazed by the impact that simply drinking plenty of fresh, clean water has not only on your skin, but your general health and energy levels.
- Diet – Just like the other organs in our bodies, our skin needs to be well nourished. Many Western diets are high in processed foods, refined carbohydrates, fats and synthetic additions like flavours & sweeteners. We all know this is no good for our waistlines or general health, and our skin suffers too. A diet rich in nutrients from fresh fruit & veg and low in processed ‘foods’ will support the production of collagen helping to prevent loss of elasticity, lines & wrinkles. In addition it will improve skin tone, balance the complexion and help to prevent spots and blemishes.
- Exercise – Where there is diet, there is exercise! A good work out increases blood flow which helps all those yummy nutrients you’ve been eating to get where they are needed, as well as improving your muscle tone which of course provides the underlying scaffolding for your skin.
- Weight – You’ll be relieved to hear that for one somebody is not going to tell you to lose weight! In fact, rapid or sudden weight loss is the enemy here. When we lose weight quickly, our skin simply can’t keep up and can end up with a saggy, lifeless appearance tat accentuates wrinkles and the generally negative effect gravity has on our body as the years tick by! So, slow and steady is the way…..or of course not overstretching your skin to begin with.
- Smoking – For increasing numbers of us, smoking is now an external factor rather than an internal one, and smoke-free buildings in the UK really does help to prevent exposure to smoke as an air pollutant. If you are a smoker its worth knowing that smoking increases the breakdown of collagen which keeps our skin looking plump and elastic and this leads to more lines, wrinkles (especially around the mouth) and an uneven complexion. In addition, it destroys the Vitamin A and C that you have been trying to hard to include in your diet, not to mention all its other health impacts. Best just to give it a miss if you can!
Now that we are hopefully doing all we can to support our skin from the inside out, we can look at the external stressors it is exposed to.
- The Sun – Research is increasingly pointing at UV damage as being the number 1 factor in aging. The UV rays from the sun (and sun beds) that can give us that lovely sun-kissed look, also cause irreversible damage leading to wrinkles, sagging, dark spots and at it’s worst, cancer. It is so important to protect your skin, and most daily moisturisers now contain an in-built SPF15. One word of caution – please don’t try to create your own sunscreen at home. This really is one type of formulation that needs to be left to the experts, and with the growth in this area we are spoiled for chose with creams, sprays, once-a-day applications, organic ad natural formulations. There really is something to suit everyone.
- Inside Air – In an age of central heating, air-conditioned offices and much more time spent indoors, our skin can suffer from moisture loss and a lack of sunlight. Getting plenty of fresh air is vital for vibrant, healthy looking skin and for the production of Vitamin D.
- Pollution – There are few people lucky enough to spend all their time in the clean air of the countryside, and air pollution in towns and cities can take a toll on our skin, clogging pores and leaving skin looking dull & lifeless. It’s not so easy to protect from this exposure as it is out of our control for the most part, but thorough cleansing will make a big difference.
- Chemicals – Our skin, especially our hands, are exposed to chemicals as part of our daily routines, just think about everything you use for cleaning your house. Try to stick to gentler, eco-friendly alternatives to strong bleaches and protect your hands by wearing gloves and washing well afterwards with a gentle, skin-friendly soap to protect against aging and the potential development of contact dermatitis.
- Make Up – Whilst natural is definitely better for skin health, make-up is always a stressor for the skin, clogging pores and hindering the natural flow of the dermis. Try and give your skin a day or two with no make-up each week, and of course take great care removing all make-up at the end of the day. Castor oil makes a great, simple make-up remover, and the oil cleansing method works wonders for preventing spots from the build-up of product.
As with anything, its all about making little changes where you can, so why not just pick one or two from this list that you can tackle and build up from there. And of course – don’t forget to monitor your skin so that you can see the visible, positive effects your efforts are having.