Fall is here, and the change in seasons means changes in your skin that can expose signs of aging. While we can’t stop the clock, we can minimize its impact on our skin. In celebration of November as Healthy Skin Month, we present your guide to a fabulous fall face!
THE SEVEN DEADLY SKIN SINS
Avoid these seven sins like the plague and you’ll retain that youthful glow much longer.
1. Sun Exposure
The sun is your skin’s #1 enemy, and the damage done is cumulative (i.e. worsens with age). Just look at how different the skin on your left forearm is compared to your armpit or upper thighs. Harmful UV rays can damage exposed skin even when it’s cloudy, causing uneven skin tone, freckles and brown spots, dryness, sagging, wrinkles, and at its worst, skin cancer.
It’s no secret that smoking is seriously bad for your health. Even secondhand smoke wreaks havoc on your system, not least of which the largest organ – your skin. Multiple studies have shown that cigarette smoke exposure significantly increases wrinkles and dryness. Research has even pointed to smoking as on an equal level with sun exposure in terms of its negative impact on your skin.
3. Physical Inactivity
If you needed another reason to be more active, being sedentary contributes to aging skin. Exercise and activity gets your blood moving, increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients into your skin, and free radicals and waste products out of your skin. Best of all, it encourages skin cells to produce the natural oils that give you a supple complexion and allow your skin’s natural radiance to shine through.
4. Exposure to Cold & Heat
Weather extremes are bad for your skin. Winter’s harsh winds, cold weather, and heated rooms all contribute to dry, chapped skin. High summer temps can lead to dehydration, also giving skin a dry, scaly appearance. And although we all love our air-conditioning, it sucks moisture from the air – and from your skin.
Consuming alcohol causes small blood vessels in the skin to dilate and increases blood flow near the skin’s surface, both of which contribute to an aged look. Ultimately, permanent damage can occur resulting in flushed skin and broken blood vessels that are visible on the skin’s surface. Alcohol dehydrates and depletes skin of its nutrients, giving it a dull appearance.
Stress ages us in more ways than we think. Frowns and grimaces repeated over time can create deep lines of worry in the face. Even worse, during times of stress our bodies produce the hormone cortisol which raises blood sugar levels and initiates glycation, a process that damages collagen, leading to increased lines and wrinkles.
7. Sleep Deprivation
The effects of too little sleep are instantly visible on skin. Who among us hasn’t experienced a day of dark circles and bags under the eyes, with noticeably dull and droopy skin? “Beauty sleep” is a very real thing!
TOP 10 FOODS FOR HEALTHY SKIN
You are what you eat! Albeit ever cliché, it is nevertheless very true. If you want your skin to look good on the outside, you must feed it with good things on the inside.
This “fruit” is a great source of lycopene, a phytonutrient that eliminates skin-aging free radicals caused by UV rays. Cooking them releases more lycopene – tomato soup, anyone?
2. Flaxseed Oil
The oil from these tiny, hard brown seeds is the richest source of an essential Omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic-acid (ALA). Besides helping to even out skin tone and fine lines, studies show flaxseed oil may reduce skin irritation and redness, all while hydrating skin from the inside out.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Not to be confused with white potatoes, sweet potatoes are a surprisingly rich source of vitamin C, which promotes the production of collagen. A 2007 study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found individuals who ate half a sweet potato daily for three years reduced the appearance of wrinkles by 11%.
Their deep, ruby red color indicates that this superfood is a nutrient powerhouse. Beets are an excellent source of vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin E; all key nutrients that promote skin health and healing.
Tofu is rich in protein, calcium, and unsaturated healthy fats which are good at combating skin conditions. It’s also a great source of antioxidants, and minerals such as iron, copper, and manganese.
This cruciferous vegetable packs a punch with vitamins A, C, E, K, and the B-complex, helping skin glow and reviving damaged tissue. Plus, its Omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and calcium stimulate optimal skin cell function.
7. Tuna, Salmon & Sardines
Fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids keep skin supple and help to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) preserve collagen and reduce inflammatory compounds in the skin that can develop into skin cancer.
Another superfood “fruit”, avocados are a great source of vitamins E and C, which support radiant skin, reduce skin inflammation, and stimulate collagen production.
Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and plums (okay not technically a berry) have the highest levels of antioxidants that fight off free-radical damage. They are also high in vitamin C, which helps to prevent wrinkles and dryness.
Rich in pigments called carotenoids, these colorful fruits improve skin tone through their pro-vitamin A activity.
8 ANTI-AGING SKINCARE INGREDIENTS
The ideal bi-directional approach to skincare doesn’t end with what you eat. Combining a healthy diet with good quality topicals tends to yield the best results. When shopping for your anti-aging skincare products, look for these key ingredients:
Retinoids are forms of vitamin A that speed up cell turnover, helping to remove dead skin cells that can cause a dull appearance and clog pores. They also boost collagen and elastin production by stimulating cellular repair, and they increase blood-vessel formation. Prescription retinoids like tretinoin, tazarotene, and adapalene are listed under the brand names Atralin, Avita, Retin-A, Retin-A Micro, and Renova, Avage and Tazorac, and Differin, respectively. Over-the-counter products will list the ingredient retinol.
2. Alpha-Hydroxy Acids
AHAs such as glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric acids, remove dead and damaged cells, reduce fine lines, age spots, acne scars, and help even out discoloration. Glycolic acid and lactic acid are the most-researched and most popular AHAs, and both are available over-the-counter or in prescription-strength formulas.
3. Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that absorbs water – about 1,000 times its weight – and plumps up skin cells. It aids in skin repair and regeneration after damage from dryness, environmental stresses, or irritation. Look for hyaluronic acid, hyaluronan and sodium hyaluronate.
Oxidants, or free radicals, are harmful molecules that form in the body in response to UV exposure and other environmental damage. Antioxidants are just that: anti-oxidants. They counteract the negative effects of free radicals by helping preserve the integrity of DNA, collagen, and elastin.
Fortunately, the anti-aging skincare market is awash in a wide selection of antioxidants – and the more the better. Products with several different antioxidants can more effectively defend against free radical damage. Check labels for vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid is one of the most stable forms), vitamin E, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), ferulic acid, green tea, idebenone, and phloretin. Vitamin C is particularly popular because it also helps encourage collagen production.
Peptides, or copper peptides, are regarded by some as the most effective skin renewal ingredient. They are small proteins that not only act as antioxidants, but also stimulate collagen and elastin production. Look for Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Palmitoyl Pentapeptide, Prezatide Copper Acetate, and Matrixyl 3000.
Ceramides help skin recover from sun damage, dryness, and irritation. They also help regulate cell activity and may help prevent the loss of collagen and elastin. They’re listed as Ceramide PC-102 (Hydroxypropyl Bislauramide MEA), Ceramide PC-104 (Hydroxypropyl Bispalmitamide MEA), Ceramide PC-108 (Hydroxypropyl Bisstearamide MEA), and Ceramide 1, 2, 3, III, and 6-II.
7. DNA Repair Ingredients
Compounds derived from plant sources such as plankton or rose myrtle extract, DNA repair ingredients have been found to restore DNA that has been damaged by free radicals, help reverse sun damage, and stimulate collagen production. Look for the terms “DNA repair” or “DNA-repairing enzymes”.
To help even out sun spots, blotches, and mottled skin, a little hydroquinone can work wonders. It’s the old standard of bleaching creams and works by blocking the enzyme that triggers melanin production in the skin. The OTC version contains 2% hydroquinone; the prescription version contains 4%.
While hydroquinone is approved by the FDA, some questions have been raised about its safety. If you have concerns, opt for alternative skin-brightening products, such as those containing kojic acid or other non-hydroquinone skin-lighteners prescribed by your dermatologist, which can also help reduce hyperpigmentation if used regularly with daily sunscreen.
THE BOTTOM LINE
No matter your age, healthy, youthful, beautiful skin comes from the inside out. Avoid the pitfalls, adopt a healthy lifestyle with plenty of fun activity and delicious skin-promoting foods, take advantage of the best quality topicals, and your brilliant complexion will shine through the years!
Updated November 10, 2017.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.