Want to have fresh, glowing skin? Find out the good habits to incorporate into your lifestyle – and the bad habits to avoid!
Our skin is our largest organ but it’s one we often mistreat. Skipping sunscreen, “forgetting” to take off make-up and eating a few too many processed foods are pitfalls we’ve all encountered.
While all skin inevitably ages, some simple lifestyle switches can help you keep younger-looking skin for longer. Foot and hand health expert Margaret Dabbs OBE, owner of Margaret Dabbs™ London and multiple renowned foot clinics, shares her top lifestyle hacks for younger, healthier skin.
- Exercise is essential for your physical health – and your skin. A recent study found exercise can actually reverse skin ageing at a cellular level.
- A good night’s sleep will help your skin look younger. Your body repairs cell damage during sleep, reducing wrinkles and age spots whilst repairing cell damage and boosting collagen production.
- Exposure to the sun’s UV rays causes up to 90% of all premature skin ageing symptoms, including wrinkles, sagging and pigmentation. Always apply sun protection and use clothing for extra protection.
- A diet high in sugar and processed foods leads to the production of AGEs (advanced glycation end-products), which age your skin. Swap these foods for fruit, veg and food high in omega-3 and vitamin C.
- There are more than 7,000 chemicals found in cigarettes. Quitting smoking and vaping is one of the best things you can do for your skin.
Effects of exercise
We know that regular exercise is essential for our physical health, but certain activities can impact your skin positively. Regardless of age, we all reap the rewards of a post-workout glow – that gorgeous, healthy quality our skin takes on after an hour in the gym.
A recent study found that exercise not only helps keep skin looking younger, but it can actually reverse the premature ageing of your skin! The benefits are still present in the skin of people who didn’t start exercising until later in life.
Studying skin that had not been regularly exposed to the sun, experts found that the skin of those who exercised regularly retained its youthful, healthy condition well into their 60s!
As you exercise, your blood vessels expand, circulating more blood and oxygen around your body and brightening the skin on your face. Sweating during exercise can also release impurities from your skin.
Unfortunately, getting older doesn’t mean you’re immune to breakouts, with some women experiencing problem skin well into their 50s and beyond. To combat the excess sebum created during exercise, make sure to rinse off as soon as possible after your gym session using your favourite skincare products and remember to apply moisturiser as you get out of the shower.
If you are an avid jogger, you might have heard of “runner’s face” – the idea that regular running can make your jowls sag and your cheeks appear hollow. But don’t panic! Dermatologists believe this is a myth – it’s not the act of running that’s causing these effects, but outdoor runners’ regular exposure to sunlight.
The dangers of sunlight
Speaking of sunlight, the main cause of premature skin ageing is overexposure to the sun – also known as photo-ageing. Exposure to the sun’s UV rays causes up to 90% of all symptoms of premature skin ageing, including wrinkles, sagging and pigmentation issues.
Sunscreen is essential in the fight against not only sunburn but also photo-ageing. Everyone should apply sunscreen as part of their daily routine, year-round (yes, even during the British winter), regardless of the colour or tone of their skin and whether or not they’re trying to get a tan. Remember to apply it to the hands and decolletage, too. The NHS recommends an SPF of at least 30, and if you’re going for the bronzed look, try a spray tan or self-tanning water or mousse instead of sunbathing.
Dermatologist Dr Kiran Mian reveals that SPF alone is not enough – we should be investing in hats to help protect our scalps and faces and considering UV-protective clothing to help us stay safe during exercise and when swimming.
It’s not just about aesthetics either – exposure to UV radiation raises the risk of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the UK, so it’s even more important to keep your preferred sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats handy.
A good diet
What you eat can impact the appearance of your skin. For instance, consuming high levels of salt can cause your skin to feel dehydrated and thereby accelerate the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. If you’re concerned about deeper, more noticeable lines appearing on your skin, limit processed foods, as these contribute to around 75% of our salt intake. Many people think of ready meals and snacks like crisps and chocolate when it comes to processed foods, but this group also includes bread, pastries and even canned soup! We know it’s not feasible to cut out all processed foods, but limiting your intake can help boost your skin.
Studies have shown a link between high-sugar, highly-processed diets and accelerated skin ageing. Sugary, processed foods encourage your body to produce increased levels of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which form when fat combines with sugar in our bodies. AGEs are the bio-markers implicated in ageing – so these foods can actually age the appearance of our skin!
As with most things, a healthy, balanced diet is the answer. But don’t cut out all treats – instead, replace some of those overly salty, high-sugar, processed foods with more fruit and veg.
You should also add foods high in omega-3 to your shopping list. Try eating more oily fish, such as salmon, tuna and sardines and swapping your lunchtime bag or crisps for a handful of chia or pumpkin seeds sprinkled over low-fat yoghurt.
If you’ve noticed your skin sagging or losing its healthy glow, incorporate more vitamin C into your diet through foods such as kiwis, blueberries, citrus fruits and broccoli. Vitamin C is a well-known topical ingredient, and ingesting it can also help your body produce collagen for plumper skin.
Drinking water can also help to tackle dehydrated skin, but the story that you need to drink eight large glasses of cool, clear water a day is a myth. You can take in water through other drinks, such as tea and coffee, and through your food, including cucumber and watermelon.
If you smoke or vape, the best thing you can do for your skin is stop! Both of these habits have negative effects on the appearance and health of your skin.
Alcohol is another skin stressor, so limiting your weekly intake to no more than 14 units can help improve the quality of your skin.
Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals that transfer to your skin when you breathe them in. Smoking also promotes the production of the enzyme metalloproteinase, which breaks down collagen, the protein needed to give your skin elasticity and make it appear smooth. Without enough collagen, your skin can look grey and saggy.
Sleep your way to better skin
During a sleep cycle is when some of our most important cell renewal takes place, including epidermal renewal. Your skin’s blood flow increases as you rest, repairing cell damage and boosting collagen production ready for the next day. By contrast, a lack of sleep causes undereye circles and pale skin.
Ensure you achieve a good night’s sleep by investing in a good quality pillow that doesn’t scratch or irritate your skin. Good quality silk pillows are often recommended by dermatologists – they’re hypoallergenic and soft against your face. Silk sheets are also good for the skin on your body as their breathable properties help to regulate body temperature, minimising pore-blocking sweat.
Feel that glow
Try applying a few of these hacks to your own lifestyle, and watch as your skin takes on a healthy, youthful glow!