1 – Stress
Stress is generally bad news for your skin as it can cause widespread inflammation, lower your immunity and upset your sleep patterns, all of which can contribute towards dried, sensitive skin that’s more prone to flare ups. Don’t believe me? Feel free to check out my blog ‘Could stress fuelling your skin condition?’ for more information.
Unfortunately, stress isn’t limited to just impairing the overall quality of your skin – it can also be a major cause of extrinsic or ‘premature’ ageing. In a 2012 study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, it was found that chronic anxiety was capable of shortening telomere length in middle aged woman.1
What exactly are telomeres you ask? Well it helps to think of telomeres as the protective caps that keep your chromosomes safe. As you age naturally, the structural integrity of telomeres weakens and they become shorter however, judging by the results of the study, stress and anxiety may play a role in exacerbating this process, ageing your skin. Not to mention stress also encourages other behaviours that can age your skin, such as poor sleep patterns and unhealthy eating habits!
What can I do to lower my stress levels?
Tackling stress can be a tricky topic, whether it’s related to your financial situation, work or family problems. Where you can, try to address the source of your stress head on, whether it means speaking honestly to a family member or navigating a tough work situation. The important thing is that you don’t bottle these emotions up as this will only make the problem worse in the long run.
Try to share your feelings with your family and friends and consider habits that may help to reduce your stress, such as mindful meditation or yoga. Both of these practices have been shown to encourage deep breathing and are techniques that enable you to recognise stressful thinking patterns and deal with them in a positive way. If you feel you need a helping hand, you could also try our gentle stress remedy AvenaCalm, which may help to gradually ease any mild symptoms, allowing you to feel more in control.
2 – Remaining too sedentary
It isn’t just our stress levels that are worth examining; sometimes our lifestyle in general is worth analysing too! If you’re not living an active life it can contribute towards premature ageing, not only for the skin but for other aspects of your health too! Again telomeres take centre stage with research finding that physically active individuals had longer telomeres compared to the sedentary control group.2
It’s also worth noting that if you’re sedentary, it means you may be more prone to experiencing circulation problems. Your skin relies on a healthy circulatory system in order to get the nutrients and oxygen it needs to remain healthy and to transport toxins and other waste products away. If your circulation is sluggish, your skin may become duller and more susceptible to flare-ups and breakouts.
What can I do to be more active?
People can start to become more sedentary for different reasons – perhaps you suffer from a muscle and joint problem or low moods have taken their toll. Regardless, getting more active doesn’t always equate to doing intense gym sessions or running marathons. If you’re just starting out, it’s important you find a form of exercise you enjoy – low impact exercises such as yoga or swimming, or even taking classes such as zumba with your friends. Less can be more so don’t push things too far – remember, constituency is key and in order to make exercise a habit it has to be sustainable. If you want more advice about how to get more active, I’d recommend checking out this blog here, ‘How to motivate yourself to exercise more.’
3 - UV radiation
When summer finally comes here in the UK, the general tendency is to make the most of the good weather while it’s here. That often means hitting the beach or sunbathing outside, which can make your skin more vulnerable to UV radiation. There are two primary types of UV rays that can affect your skin; UVA and UVB.
UVB rays are believed to cause sunburn which can seriously damage your skin cells and even place you at risk of developing skin cancer. UVB rays, on the other hand, can prematurely age your skin by causing oxidative stress, triggering the appearances of fine lines and wrinkles. You also have to bear in mind that UVB rays aren’t just found outside at the beach – they’re also found at your local tanning salon too!
What can I do to protect my skin from UV radiation?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to soak up the sun while you can but it’s important that you take precautions. Suncreams are absolutely essential if you’re going to be exposing yourself to the sun for any length of time but most high street lotions contain a whole plethora of nasty chemicals that may upset and irritate your skin. That’s why, if you’ve read my blog ‘How safe is your suncream?’ you’ll know that I always recommend trying a more natural brand such as Green People. When it comes to tanning, I’d generally say to avoid the sunbeds which can expose you to UVB rays and stick to self-tanning lotions at home.
4 – Alcohol
This one isn’t exactly a shocker – excessive alcohol consumption has been associated with so many health complaints, from liver problems to skin issues that its role in ageing your skin should hardly come as a surprise. Alcohol is already known to deprive your skin of key nutrients, more specifically vitamin A which can work as an antioxidant, protecting your skin from free-radical damage and helping to support your production of collagen.
If you’re drinking excessively, your skin will eventually become deprived of this nutrient and more vulnerable to the effects of free-radical damage. Not to mention, your production of collagen may also be affected, which can weaken your skin considerably! Alcohol is also a real trigger for skin conditions such as rosacea and psoriasis so you may find that you experience more flare-ups.
What can I do to lower my alcohol intake?
When people think of alcohol abuse, they probably imagine an individual that spends all day at the local watering hole or who goes crazy at the weekend. However, there is a new type of drinking that is just as problematic as binge drinking and it’s probably more commonplace. It’s easy, if you’ve been having a hectic day, to perceive a glass of wine in the evening as a reward. However, if you start to rely on alcohol to calm down at night this glass of wine can warp into a daily habit and you can easily find yourself drinking multiple glasses.
That’s why I’d recommend avoiding using alcohol as part of a reward system. The odd pint or cocktail shouldn’t do any long-term damage but if you do find yourself drinking alcohol each day regularly, you may need to have a more serious look at your drinking habits. For more information about how to reduce your alcohol consumption please visit DrinkAware.
5 – Sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation is a problem here in the UK, where it’s estimated that around 33% of us get by on just 5-6 hours of sleep a night! This can be a real problem as your skin relies on you getting plenty of shut-eye so it can restore and repair itself. While you sleep, your body does an enormous amount of maintenance work and, if you’re not getting this crucial opportunity to rest and repair, there will be consequences.
For example, one study that looked specifically at sleep deprivation and its effects on your skin found that sleep deprivation may be directly related to premature ageing. This study examined 60 pre-menopausal women between the ages of 30 and 49, evaluating their skin and sleep habits and discovered that those who didn’t sleep well exhibited more signs of skin ageing, such as fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin pigmentation.4
Of course, this was a very small study so perhaps more research is needed but, given everything we know about the disastrous impact of sleep deprivation on your body, it’s hardly surprising to learn that it can also play a role in premature ageing.
How can I sleep better?
When it comes to getting a better night’s rest, it may be worth taking a look at our sleep hub, A.Vogel Talks Sleep which is overseen by our sleep advisor Marianna. There you’ll find all sorts of useful tips and advice which can help you to tackle sleep problems such as insomnia and enable you to cope better with sleep deprivation. You could also try a combination of Valerian and Hops, which may help to gently soothe your nervous system, allowing you to feel more at ease and relaxed before bedtime.
6 – Poor nutrition
Finally, when it comes to ageing your skin, your diet can have a huge impact. This is because your skin needs the right balance of nutrients to function optimally and, if it’s not getting those nutrients, it can become more vulnerable to the ageing effects of oxidative stress and free radical damage.
It’s also worth noting that unhealthy foods such as refined sugar, processed fats and even too much dairy can negatively impact your skin. This is because these types of foods are often considered to be pro-inflammatory, which can upset your skin if you suffer from a skin condition such as eczema and also damage your skin cells. You can find out a bit more about inflammatory foods in our nutritionist Emma’s blog, ’10 surprising foods that can cause inflammation.’
What can I do to improve my diet?
When it comes to improving your diet, just as with getting more active, small steps first are best. Completely upheaving your eating habits all at once can lower your chances of changing your diet in the long-term. At first, just try to make simple changes; swap white bread for a wholemeal loaf, try to add a portion of veg to your evening meal and make sure you’re drinking plenty of plain water. Try to broaden your horizons and get more involved with your food – cook meals from scratch instead of relying on freezer food and ready meals and make more informed choices when it comes to the snacks you choose to eat during the day.
If you want more information specifically about what to eat to combat premature ageing, you can check out Emma’s blog, ‘Fight free radical damage and premature ageing with these 7 fantastic foods!’ Below I’ve also included a few simple meals that are loaded with antioxidants for you to try yourself!
Carrot & Ginger Soup
Cinnamon & Chia Seed Energy Balls
Classic Vegan Chilli