Posted on August 08 2018
If you’re reading this, it’s very likely you’re already a fitness convert and know how to take care of your body. A lot of physically active individuals work hard to ensure their heart, lungs, muscles and bones are healthy and in optimal condition. But how many of you look after the biggest organ of your body…. your skin.
Our Incredible Skin
Skin accounts for one sixth of our bodyweight1. It’s not just there to contain our body parts, it’s an incredible organ which provides protection for our internal tissues, it is involved in regulating body temperature, it acts as a sensory organ detecting touch and temperature, it reduces the harmful effects of UV radiation, it has a role in the immune system in protecting us from disease and it produces Vitamin D1, 2.
What Happens to Skin as we Age?
As we get older, there are internal and external factors which affect how our skin ages. Skin ageing occurs at different rates in different people and this is largely determined by genetics. Throughout life, cell metabolism results in toxic reactive oxygen species which can damage skin cells1. Hormones are also important, particularly oestrogen in women. When oestrogen levels start to fall in middle-age, our skin integrity is affected1. In addition to this, skin cells can’t divide as quickly as we age1. External factors which play a role in damaging our skin include the sun’s UV rays, air pollution and cigarette smoke1.
Older skin becomes thinner, particularly in women, on faces, neck, upper chest and parts of the arms and hands1. The water and fat content of the skin is reduced, there is less collagen and elastin and there is decreased delivery of nutrients and oxygen1. All of these factors result in skin which may be wrinkled, fragile and saggy.
How to Look After Your Skin
Looking after your skin follows most of the same principles as those applied to leading a healthy life. Some of the best advice to follow is described below.
- Drink enough water. Water is essential for many of our body’s functions. If we get dehydrated, this shows in our skin, making it appear dry and sallow. Drink enough so that your skin stays plump and radiant.
- Healthy diet. Our skin needs wholesome goodness just like the rest of our other vital organs. Choose a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and make sure to include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to get your daily doses of vitamins and minerals.
- Sleep well. Beauty sleep is important! We all know that if we haven’t slept well it shows on our faces — we look tired and often have bags under our eyes. It is during deep sleep that our bodies repair damaged cells3. If this can’t happen, the signs of ageing appear sooner.3
- Don’t smoke. This goes without saying. As well as increasing the risk of many diseases, cigarette smoke damages our skin. This is yet another reason to avoid it at all costs.
- Sun cream. Wear sun cream every day throughout the year, not just in the summer. Sun cream helps to protect us from UV rays which can accelerate the ageing process. You should cover up as well when the sun is strong— wear a hat and sunglasses and avoid being exposed between the hours of 11am and 4pm. It’s very important to do this as UV rays not only cause the skin to age, they also increase the risk of skin cancers.
- Good skin care routine. Choose a routine and products which work for you. This will vary between individuals. I like to have a quick and simple skin care routine that I can easily stick to.* I protect my skin during the day and allow it repair and recover at night. In the mornings I use a cleanser, toner, a drop of a serum containing hyaluronic acid, which holds on to water to make my skin look fuller, then I put on a lightweight sun cream with SPF50. At night I remove my make-up, then use a cleanser, toner, an antioxidant cream around my eyes, and finally serum and night cream containing retinoids, which are chemicals that have been proven to improve the appearance of wrinkles by enhancing the amount of collagen in the skin and encouraging cells to divide. 4 I also try to use an exfoliating face wash twice a week, to help get rid of any dead cells.
As with most things in life, prevention is better than cure. Look after your skin from an early age to keep it healthy and you’ll reap the benefits in the future.
- Farage M. et al (2013). Characteristics of the Aging Skin Advances in Wound Care 2(1), 5-10
- Darlenski R. et al (2010). Topical Retinoids in the Management of Photodamaged Skin: from Theory to Evidence-Based Practical Approach Br J Dermatology 163, 1157-1165
*My entire skincare routine takes less than 5 minutes in the morning and evening! I use: Simple Face Wash £3.49, Simple Toner £3.49, The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% £5.90, La Roche-Posay Ultralight Sun cream SPF50 £16.50, Simple Make-Up Remover £3.80, Nivea Q10 and Vitamin C Sleep Cream £12.99, Superfacialist Retinol Serum £16.99, Superfacialist Retinol Night Cream £19.99, St. Ives Apricot Face Scrub £4.19.
Thank you to Dr Emma Short for this article.