Cutaneous aging is an unavoidable condition, but it’s still good news that we can interrupt its progress and slow its effects! In order to do this, it is necessary to understand the different sources of the beginning of its aggression and stress. Certainly, you can’t do anything about your genetics, but you can work on the environmental factors that have a major impact, and which expose your skin to this stress, turning it lackluster, withered, aged, and oxidized…
Before giving you a list of factors that damage our skin, know that whatever the origin may be, the result on the skin is oxidation stress, like rust which oxidizes a piece of metal until it disappears, meaning damage, then death of healthy skin cells through malignant little molecules called free radicals. These free radicals are produced regularly by our skin, from the oxygen we breath, but are regularly destroyed and neutralized by other antioxidant molecules. The oxidation stress appears when there is an over production of free radicals and our skin cannot neutralize them anymore.
In this article, we will explain the external environmental factors to you (and not the internal organic workings of the skin) which generate this excess and will give you some advice on how to prevent it. You should know that it will be your responsibility for certain specific factors like tobacco, alcohol, etc… So we will only be teaching you about factors such as pollution or UV radiation.
External Factors : pollution, UV radiation, and blue light
Pollution, with its toxins and tiny particles of carbon that stick to our skin and damage it, creates dehydration, inflammation, rendering it more sensitive, fragile, and aged….
Create a shielding effect against pollution is not very complicated. The first unbreakable rule is about detoxing one’s skin every morning and night of all the tiny particles, certain ones of which are pretty tough! So go ahead and use a makeup remover or gentle purifying cleanser every day (even if you don’t wear makeup) and once or twice a week, according to your skin type, apply a gentle exfoliant in order to remove impurities and get rid of dead skin and unwanted substances. Eliminate stubborn impurities with the help of a (clay, if possible) purifying mask, which has the ability to leverage its minerals against toxins in the skin. The second rule is to use products which « sheath » your skin with products rich in polysaccharides or other actives, wrapping your skin in a protective film against pollution. The last (but certainly not least) rule is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The more your skin is hydrated, the more it will flush out toxins and prevent others from infiltrating.
UV rays attack all of our skin’s functions: it changes the protective hydrolipid film, destroys its collagen and elasticity, oxidizes our cells, alters the composition of certain molecules- proteins, lipids, etc…. The body knows how to create its own defenses, which are melanocytes, tiny shields that absorb ultraviolet rays from the sun and capture those free radicals. But it is not sufficient by itself! So any antioxidant substances reducing this kind of oxidation stress are gladly welcomed, particularly vitamin E and carotenoids. These are not actually created by the body and are found mostly in plants that survive in sunny environments, such as the palm tree. They protect the epidermis and the derma against potential dangerous effects from the sun. In general, skincare creams with a polyphenol base are actually pretty useful for fighting against oxidation stress.
Also take advantage of foods rich in vitamin A, like liver, fatty fish, carrots, melon, dates, etc., to make your dishes well-rounded and nutritious.
A little note on blue light! The effect of this light, close to ultra-violet light, which we often hear about more and more, is not a recent phenomenon. However, what is recent, is the growing exposure to more of this light, since it is also emitted by all screens with LED functions, like computers, tablets, smartphones, television, and other high-tech equipment. A large over-exposure to this light (6 to 7 hours a day) could have some negative effects on the skin.
Specific external environmental factors: Tobacco and Alcohol
The effect of tobacco on the skin has been widely demonstrated. Epidermal studies have shed a light on the disastrous effects of these toxic substances on the skin: a more highly pronounced oxidation of cells, a greyer, duller skin tone, and more pronounced wrinkles. And its known by now that with every puff of a cigarette, surrounding “cellular” stress increases by 10%!
There are so many different kinds of therapy out there to help smokers quit tobacco and similar products that its hard to pass it up (relaxation, reflexology, acupuncture, cognitive and behavior therapy, floral elixirs, etc…).
Too much alcohol is also a major source of accelerated skin aging. We’re talking about a lot of excessive amounts, such as daily consumption of hard liquor or more than three glasses of red wine a day (in small quantities red wine has some good benefits with the polyphenols from grapes). Alcohol abuse has a dehydrating effect, creating an overload of toxins in the body and the skin, as the liver is unable to properly perform its cleaning function. It also can add to rigid tissue conditions, and thus, the skin loses its softness, and becomes dull, wrinkled, and inflamed.
The body has prepared with its own resources to use, so take advantage of it! In fact, working out is a great way to eliminate all these toxins. You should also know that its during sleep that the skin repairs and regenerates itself. Factors are in place that reduce inflammation, eliminate toxins, renew defenses, and regenerate cells. The height of cellular regeneration activity is between midnight and two in the morning. And so we leave you with that little word to the wise.