Updated 25 August 2015

Your lifestyle and your skin

What your skin looks and feels like today, and how it will age in years to come, can be traced to your lifestyle. Brush up on the facts.

Throughout the course of your life, your skin takes quite a bashing as it protects you from the elements, primarily the sun and its harmful UV rays. So, it’s little wonder that its appearance changes over time.

But what your skin looks and feels like today, and how it will age in years to come, can also be traced to your lifestyle – your diet, your stress levels, the toxins in your environment, whether you smoke or not, how much you exercise, and how much you sleep.

Did you know?
- Your lifestyle choices can directly affect the appearance of your skin.
- A lack of sleep is immediately visible on your face.
- Excessive alcohol use and smoking leads to vascular skin-surface changes.
- High stress levels may cause itching, hives and loss of skin colour.
- A poor diet can result in a dry, lacklustre skin.
- Excessive washing with harsh soap can damage your skin.

Boost the health of your skin
A good skin-care routine and a few important lifestyle adjustments can help you maintain a healthy glow from the inside out.

Follow these valuable tips to heal and boost the appearance of your skin:

1. Stop smoking
There’s no doubt: smoking leads to premature ageing and wrinkles, and can give the skin an unhealthy yellow pallor.

There are thousands of harmful toxins in cigarettes and, every time you light up, they reduce the collagen levels in your skin, which is what gives skin its elasticity and a youthful appearance.

Smoking also constricts the blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the skin, thus depleting it of oxygen and nutrients. Plus, it reduces the body’s vitamin A stores, making the skin even more vulnerable to the harmful effects of the toxins in cigarettes.

2. Stay out of the sun
Although we all need a little bit of sunshine to boost our vitamin D levels, the harsh rays of the sun can cause lasting damage to your skin. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes wrinkles, loss of elasticity, sunspots and premature ageing. In some people, these changes start to appear in their early 20s.

Be ruthless in protecting your skin from the sun: always cover up, wear a hat, apply and reapply sunscreen with an SPF of 30+, and wear UV-protective sunglasses whenever you venture out into the sun – even on cloudy days.

3. Get your beauty sleep
Your skin needs sleep for cellular renewal, and not getting at least 8 hours results in a breakdown of collagen and a lacklustre appearance. This will highlight any minor skin imperfections, making you look older than you should.

In addition, a lack of sleep might cause dark circles under your eyes – a result of dilated blood vessels.

Be careful not to sleep too much though, or skin-cell breakdown may actually be encouraged.

4. Put a stop to stress
Stress can have a detrimental effect on your skin because it leads to the production of a hormone called cortisol. This increases the production of sebum, the oil found in your skin. As a result, your skin may become oily or spotty. Of course, stress can also worsen existing skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Read: How to manage psoriasis

Learn to manage stress with meditation, relaxation exercises, breathing techniques and/or yoga. Also take regular holidays and make time for fun.

5. Exercise more
Grab your gym gear and get moving if you want to improve the health of your skin. Sweating helps to flush impurities and clears pores. Cardiovascular exercise also improves circulation, which encourages the transport of oxygen and nutrients to the skin.

Don’t forget to drink lots of water during a workout and, if you prefer to exercise outdoors, always wear sunscreen.

6. You are what you eat
Poor diet is almost always bad news for your skin and can result in dehydration, dryness, premature ageing, puffiness and clogged pores. In some people, it may even contribute to acne.

If you don’t have acne, the solution to a healthy, glowing skin is to follow a balanced diet that’s rich in protective nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. If you have acne, following a low-GI diet to help you maintain a healthy weight is important.

Stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, unsifted grains and cereals, low-fat milk, yogurt and cheeses, lean meat, fish and eggs, and poly- or monounsaturated fats and oils to make sure you get all the vitamins, minerals and omega fatty acids you need for overall good health and a beautiful skin.

Remember that it’s never too late to start taking care of your skin. Your body’s largest organ works overtime to protect you.

Read more:

How to manage insect bites and stings

5 steps to blemish-free healthy skin

What to eat for a healthier skin


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