Environmental or extrinsic skin ageing affects all ages and skin types. Causes include the sun, synthetic chemical exposure, pollution, radiation, poor diet, alcohol and smoking. Here's what to be look out for and how to protect yourself.
The sun accounts for 99 per cent of premature ageing and is something we need to be even more wary of living in the Southern Hemisphere where the ozone layer is thinner and UV rays stronger. Sun damage caused to skin in our teens may not show for ten to twenty years but certainly will do in the form of age spots, pigmentation and premature wrinkles later in life.
Not only does the sun age the skin but can have more serious consequences in causing melanoma. Nevertheless, vitamin D is needed for a healthy immune system, strong bones and happiness – depression has been linked to vitamin D deficiency – so it is important to get the right balance. Avoid the midday sun, when it is at its strongest, and protect yourself with clothing and a natural sunscreen such as zinc-oxide or titanium dioxide. If you loved that bronzed glow, try an Organic Self Tanner.
Although UV is a major cause of free radical damage on the skin, free radical damage is caused by environmental aggressors in general, including radiation, smoke, smoking, pollution and even radiation from your computer monitor. It is not recommended to exercise in cities or polluted areas as you will be exposing yourself more greatly to toxins.
Certain synthetic chemicals found in cosmetics, household detergents and general man-made products can also lead to free radical damage. Antioxidants can help reverse some of the effects of free radical damage so ensure you eat plenty of antioxidant rich foods (such as fruit, vegetables and green tea). See our article Beautiful Skin From Within.
In addition, smoking can lead to cell damage and premature skin ageing. The nicotine in cigarettes causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the outermost layers of the skin; impairing blood flow and preventing oxygen and important nutrients, such as vitamin A, reaching your skin cells. Many of the chemicals in smoke also damage collagen and elastin, resulting in premature wrinkling. In addition, the facial expressions you make when smoking — such as pursing your lips — may contribute to wrinkles.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to premature ageing as it dehydrates the skin, leading to premature wrinkles, and causes small blood vessels to widen, allowing more blood to flow close to the skin’s surface. This produces a flushed skin colour and a feeling of warmth which can lead to broken capillaries surfacing on the face.
Being careful in the sun, eating an anti-oxidant rich diet, a low alcohol consumption, being a non-smoker and using chemical free, natural or organic cosmetics are perhaps the fundamental ways to protect your skin from premature environmental ageing.
By Nina Weston
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