Categorized | Anti-Aging

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Skin Care For a Healthy, Youthful You

Skin care is important. We are bombarded with warnings about skin cancer and with products to help us look young and wrinkle free. But what do you really know about how your skin’s layers work and what each needs to look and function at its best?

Understanding the structure and nutrient needs of your body’s largest organ will help you look and feel your best while avoiding the many ailments that can afflict our skin.

How Our Skin Works

Our skin is composed of three layers:

Epidermis

This outermost layer is our protective barrier. Composed of cells called keratinocytes, they begin their life at the innermost part of the epidermis and slowly migrate upwards toward the surface. In the process they build large amounts of keratin to protect us from the external environment. Once at the surface they die and flake off normally.

Dermis

The next layer down, the dermis contains three important types of connective tissue. Collagen provides strength; proteins give skin its normal structure or firmness; elastin provides elasticity.

Subcutaneous Tissue

Below the dermis, this region is composed of fat cells that provide us insulation from the outside elements and also make our skin look plump and full.

Why Skin Wrinkles

Epidermal Changes

Each decade we have 10% fewer epidermal cells and they replicate more slowly. Over time these cells become thinner and less cohesive with one another. This has three effects.

First, a thinner epidermis gives skin the fragile appearance one sees in a very aged person. Next, with fewer cells the skin’s ability to repair itself drops off. Finally, less cohesion between the cells means less moisture retention and protection from the outside.

Dermal Changes

Like the epidermis, the dermis becomes thinner. Less collagen production leads to lowered skin strength. And the elastin fibers gradually wear down, resulting in less elasticity. The result is wrinkles and eventually sagging skin.

On top of this, both our sweat glands and our oil-producing sebaceous glands produce less, contributing to drier skin.

Subcutaneous Changes

With age, the fat cells in this layer also become thinner. This contributes to the appearance of wrinkles and sagging, as this layer becomes less plump.

It is not an effective skin care strategy to simply gain weight, as this thin subcutaneous fat layer is not where we add fat.

The Sun

The Sun’s ultraviolet UVA and UVB radiation is the greatest contributor to premature skin aging. Your level of exposure and natural pigment protection will determine how much damage occurs.

What You Can Do

Eat Right

Proper skin care starts with good nutrition. According to Mayo Clinic dermatologist Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D., antioxidant rich foods promote healthy skin, while fatty foods such as meat and full-fat dairy products can increase the risk of wrinkles.

Don’t Smoke

According to the experts at the world renowned Mayo Clinic, smoking both accelerates skin aging and increases wrinkles. And you do not have to be old, as these changes can appear in young adults after only 10 years of smoking.

First, smoking narrows the tiny capillary vessels in your outermost skin, reducing the skin’s supply of oxygen and essential nutrients such as vitamin A. This in turn damages the collagen and elastin, which give your skin its strength and elasticity. Finally, the repetitive facial expressions of a smoker such as lip pursing when inhaling will enhance wrinkling over time.

Practice Sun Skin Care

According to skin care specialist Scott Gerrish, MD, using a high SPF sunscreen is the single most important thing you can do to prevent premature skin aging. Both clothing and sunscreen protection are recommended when you plan to be in direct sunlight, particularly between 10 a.m and 2 p.m.

It is important to get some sun exposure, however, as your skin produces vitamin D, essential to bone and muscle health, immunity, diabetes and cancer prevention. Fifteen minutes each day during warm weather is enough, and it can be on less conspicuous areas than your face.

Wash Your Face at Night

Dirt, bacteria and makeup should be removed with a gentle face wash, so you skin feels pleasantly tight for 10-15 minutes afterward. Since skin oil production starts to drop off after age 40, washing twice daily can cause skin to dry out, making wrinkles stand out. If you have naturally oily skin, modify your routine accordingly.

Manage Stress

New York dermatologist and psychiatrist Amy Wechsler, M.D., author of The Mind-Beauty Connection, warns that emotional crises can make you look 5 years older. Persistent anxiety increases the stress hormone cortisol, causing inflammation and breaking down collagen with possible facial redness and acne. Regular exercise, deep breathing during stress (nose inhale, hold for 3 seconds and mouth exhale) and a diet rich in anti-oxidants will help.

Retinol Creams

Retinol is vitamin A and is offered by prescription as a retinoid derivative cream. Renova, Retin-A (tretinoin) Avage, and Tazorac (tazarotene) are examples. According to the Mayo Clinic, these creams may be able to reduce fine wrinkles, splotchy pigmentation and skin roughness. Possible side effects are higher risk of sunburn, redness, drying, itching and a tingling or burning sensation. Natural sources of vitamin A for skin care are animal products such as liver, kidney, eggs and diary, or dark and yellow vegetables and carrots.

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