By Katreena Sarmiento
Dry and flaky skin, fine lines and wrinkles, blotchiness—these are some of the most visible signs of skin aging. Aging is an inevitable fact of life. From the very moment we are born, the hands of time will keep on turning and moving forward. The many biological changes that will happen to your cells and organs are inescapable. These changes will be most physically evident on your largest organ—your skin. Because your skin plays an important role in protecting your body, you need to protect it as best you can. Learn how to take care of it as we go “skin-deep.”
How Free Radicals Affect the Body
Free radicals are not just your body’s response to toxins in the environment. In fact, these chemicals are natural by-products as our cells go about their normal processes. It is these naturally produced free radicals that help the immune system. When our immune systems are triggered, it uses oxygen to release free radicals that fight viruses, bacteria, and cellular damage.
However, free radicals can also wreak havoc on the skin. When our naked skin comes into contact with environmental pollutants and other factors, it goes into defence mode by releasing an army of free radicals. At high concentrations, the free radicals generate oxidative stress which injures the cells and damages the DNA. This process can then lead to aging and illness.
Our body generates free radicals in response to sun exposure, pollution, overeating, poor sleeping patterns, certain lifestyle habits, like smoking and drinking alcohol, and physical and psychological stresses.
The Role of Collagen
In our mid-20s, the body gradually decreases its production of collagen. Collagen is a protein that is naturally produced by the body. It is one of the building blocks for our skin and hair, bones and muscles, as well as tendons and ligaments. Over time, our skin loses its youthful elasticity and suppleness as the production of collagen declines.
What You Can Do:
- Protect your skin from the sun – Minimize sun exposure by wearing sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or higher when outdoors.
- Practice proper skin care habits – Limit washing to twice a day and after sweating. Use warm water, a gentle cleanser, and a soft towel. Ensure your skincare and makeup products are free of toxic ingredients.
- Eat healthily – Have a healthy, balanced whole food (mostly plant-based!) diet with high quality protein, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugary foods that can cause inflammation.
- Sleep well – Avoid stimulating activities and bright lights an hour or two before bedtime. Develop a bedtime routine. Keep your electronics out of your room.
- Exercise – Exercise regularly. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week.
- Manage stress – Be kind to yourself. Avoid procrastination. Keep to a schedule and manage expectations. Practice breathing and relaxation exercises.
- Consider supplements – Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients play an integral role in healthy skin. When combined with a good diet, the right nutritional supplements may help to support collagen levels and fight free radicals.
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(5) NCBI, US NLM, NIH. (2012, February 29). Free Radicals and Extrinsic Skin Aging. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299230/
(6) Wu, Dominic. (2018, June 21). Sun : The good and the not so good. Harvard Medical School. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sun-protection-appropriate-sunscreen-use-2018062114114