Skin Protection: How To Avoid Premature Aging

Published on 9 June 2021 at 13:38

As summer approaches you might want to get your sunscreen out and cut back on those brunch cocktails, or at least try to stay hydrated during those late nights out. For what may now feel inherent to the taste of summer, might give you long lasting issues for your skin.


    Skin provides a barrier for our bodies from our outer environment. As cutaneous cells change with age, wrinkling, roughness, loss of elasticity and laxity may appear. Eventually, the skin gets dry as our bodies head towards atrophy. Terrifying right? 


    Now, aging is a natural part of life. No one can avoid it. That being said, skin aging, the appearance of it, can be made worse by external factors such as pollution, smoking, poor nutrition and yes sun exposure. 


UV radiations attack the ‘integrity’ of the skin in the sense that they cause DNA alterations, and they cause 80% of facial aging. So, you might want to apply sunscreen and not spend too much time in the sun. That could prevent dry skin, especially on your face, neck and hands. That’s usually the bit of skin you look at to tell someone’s age. For this reason, some celebrities, out of vanity, wear gloves. 



Another major factor in skin aging is pollution. Essentially because it causes the skin to dry, it causes it to age faster. An apparently unexpected aggravating factor linking pollution to skin aging is make-up. 



While make-up is not directly responsible for skin aging, it can push polluants further into the skin. So, you might want to avoid concealer, foundation, bronzer, and yes even blusher. As pollution and bacteria embed themselves into your skin, its integrity is compromised. 



Of course, traffic rooted air pollution is the first cause that comes to mind. Indeed, PM or particulate matter, soot and nitrogen dioxide or NO2 do wonders. That is to be combined with UV radiations for a luxurious cocktail of skin aging. Another element not disregarded is ozone, indeed tropospheric ozone is responsible for wrinkle formation independently of PM, UV and NO2. 



Most importantly, don’t forget to sleep. While we sleep our cells regenerate, it is an important time for our skin which takes a break from external aggressors, the skin literally resets itself. What’s more, lacking sleep might increase the level of cortisol in your body. In other words, the ‘stress hormone’ might increase, contributing to aging. 



In other words, you need a healthy lifestyle. As part of it, nutrition was bound to factor in. Eating sugar can accelerate skin aging. It damages proteins in our body, attaches to them by producing harmful free radicals: AGEs or Advanced Glycation End products. They accumulate with sugar consumption. Unfortunately, sugar can be found in a lot more products than you’d think. Beware of sugar added to bread, flavoured waters, tinned soups and breakfast cereals.   



Within the remit of nutrition, I guess one could mention the devastating consequences of abusing alcohol for the skin in the long run. Once again, it all leads back to dehydrating your body hence your skin. 



If there is one habit to get rid of, it’s smoking. Nicotine narrows blood vessels and thus affects blood flow thus reducing oxygen and nutrients reaching skin cells. Furthermore chemicals in tobacco increase dermal MMPs and decrease collagen and elastin which are responsible for the skin’s elasticity. The heat of burning cigarettes and muscle movements associated with smoking can also cause wrinkles.    



Not everything related to skin aging is avoidable, part of it is purely natural and there are many ways to look after our skin.


Nutrition once again is key to fighting early skin aging. Eating fruits, vegetables, herbs and drinking teas provides us with antioxidant compounds. A higher intake of vegetables, olive oil, fish, legumes such as chickpeas, beans, peas and lentils provide resilience to photoaging. Also, the consumption of fish oil can also confer some sun protection.


Again, high levels of vitamin C and increased linoleic acid intake have been associated with decreased wrinkling, dryness, and atrophy of the skin. The issue is mainly with higher fat and carbohydrate intake which have been associated with an increased risk of wrinkles and skin atrophy. Finally, Vitamin A, which can be applied topically and it has been observed to decrease the production of MMPs.


There are genetic particularities and environmental factors which aren’t always within our control. Those who have Fitzpatrick sun-reactive skin types I-II are commonly at a disadvantage. This classification is classed as red- or blond-haired or blue eyed. 


Again, people who live in the tropics or subtropics are more vulnerable to skin aging due to sun exposure. The same goes for those who live at high altitudes but also those who spend long periods outdoors for work or recreation. Though, living in a cloudy place doesn’t prevent you from dangerous levels of UV exposure. Artificial sources of tanning can have equally detrimental effects. 



Finally, a genetic predisposition to premature ageing which is called progeria can also have an effect on skin aging. 1 in 4 million people are born with this condition. The symptoms appear in the first year or two of life such as slow growth and hair loss. In the same trend, some people suffer from immune disfunction of which skin aging is only a symptom. It can be a result of immune deficiency diseases and associated immunosuppressive agents used in treatment of systemic diseases but can also be a result of chronic psychological stress.



Though intrinsic aging is to be distinguished from extrinsic aging. Their characteristics differ. Indeed, intrinsically aged skin appears dry and pale, smooth, thin, transparent, and unblemished. Wrinkles are then due to gravitational and conformational forces which determine how proteins are folded. Skin sagging or laxity are cause by body movement, and a natural loss of elasticity which comes with age. Pigmentation in intrinsically aged skin is mild and regular compared with photoaged skin. Benign neoplasms, such as sebaceous hyperplasia and cherry angiomas are a natural result of intrinsic skin aging. 


Most importantly, enjoy the hot weather this summer responsibly and make sure to apply suncream when exposed to UV radiation! 


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