Anti-ageing tips: rejuvenate ageing skin and hair
There is an old saying that you have the skin you were born with in your 20s and the skin you deserve in your 30s, 40s and 50s. Your skin and hair mirror your inner health. The holy grail of cosmetics, the anti aging cream or serum can help you fake it only for so long. Aging skin and wrinkles are an accumulation of internal health issues that are far easier to prevent than fix by adopting an inside-out approach to maintaining healthy, beautiful skin.
Below the surface
Your anti aging fight will be more effective with an understanding of the way your skin functions. Your skin comprises three distinct layers:
The epidermis This is the very outer layer of your skin and ranges in thickness from .5mm on your eyelids to 1.5mm on your palms and soles of your feet. Your epidermis is made up of five layers of cells. The cells of the bottom layer are column-shaped and gradually move upwards, dying and flattening out when they reach the surface layer of your skin. These flat, dead skin cells form a waterproof barrier to hold moisture in and protect you from bacterial invasion. They are shed and replaced every two to three weeks.
The dermis The second layer of your skin varies in thickness from 0.3mm on your eyelids to 3mm on your back. The dermis contains collagen and elastic fibres. Collagen is held together by elastic fibres of protein called elastin. Despite its name, it is collagen and not elastin that is responsible for the elasticity of your skin. Collagen is arranged in a mesh-like formation and provides the supportive scaffolding to your skin. Aging and other factors that damage collagen or reduce its production allow wrinkles to form. Vitamin C and protein are essential for collagen production. Surrounding the collagen in the dermis is a gel-like substance known as “ground substance”. It is composed of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), or moisture-holding proteins, which bind moisture to your skin and decline as skin ages. The maintenance of your collagen levels is essential in the anti aging fight.
Subcutaneous tissue The third layer of your skin consists of fat and connective tissue and is also rich in larger blood vessels and nerves. Responsible for regulating the temperature of your skin and entire body, the fatty tissue in your skin also decreases with aging and contributes to skin sagging.
Anti aging: Why does skin age?
The natural regenerative processes in your skin do not assist anti aging as we grow older. They begin to slow from the age of 25 as the rate of skin cell renewal decreases. In your 20s, skin is replaced every two to three weeks, slowing to every nine weeks in your 50s. The ability of older skin to retain moisture is also reduced as oil production drops and the breakdown of water-holding GAGs increases. A decrease in collagen results in thinner, less flexible skin that’s more prone to further damage and irritation.
The loss of skin elasticity also produces wrinkles. Over time, damaged proteins accumulate in your skin due to scarring, sun damage, free radical damage and the cross-linking of collagen caused by the consumption of excess sugars, which leads to a process called “glycation”. These are factors to be conscious of when considering your anti aging options.
Meanwhile, gravity is at work, continually pulling on your skin and causing it to sag. Other forms of mechanical aging that encourage skin creases that can lead to wrinkles include pursing your lips around a cigarette, “the thinker’s pose” (resting your face on your hand), smiling, frowning and sleeping on your side or stomach.
Extremes of temperature (which can cause rapid dilation of blood vessels, resulting in broken capillaries), dehydration and sun damage, hormonal imbalances, poor nutrition, food sensitivities/allergies and excess stress all speed the rate at which your skin ages by promoting inflammation and reducing your skin’s ability to heal. Chronic inflammation going on inside your body is like a bushfire ravaging your skin. These factors are deadly in your anti aging campaign.
Anti aging: Preventing premature aging
While you can’t change your genes and prevent aging altogether, you can slow the rate at which your skin ages and promote anti aging by supporting its natural regenerative process and countering factors proven to age your skin faster.
Anti Aging: Reduce free radicals An excess of free radicals in your skin can lead to inflammation, producing leaky capillaries, pigmentation and even cell death. The antidote? Antioxidants — substances with the ability to literally mop up free radicals, halting their destructive tendencies. Potent sources include delicious fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds. There are several herbs well known for their antioxidant action, such as grapeseed, pine bark and bilberry. Culinary herbs and spices are also fantastic antioxidants, so add more oregano, thyme, basil, sage, rosemary, garlic, cinnamon and turmeric to cooking. Meanwhile, don’t forget to make yourself a cup of green tea, which is packed with antioxidant power. Reduce your consumption of free radicals to promote anti aging.
Other important antioxidant/anti aging nutrients are vitamins A, C, E and the minerals zinc and selenium. Keep in mind that stress, infection, alcohol and sugar all increase your requirements for these key nutrients.
Anti aging: Fight inflammation fire Inflammation accelerates aging by keeping your skin flooded with free radicals and damaging healthy cells. A diet high in fish, nuts and seeds, berries and leafy green vegetables along with plenty of water is the best way to promote anti aging and minimise the aging effects of inflammation and free radicals. All the cells in your body require protein to stay healthy — after all, they’re built from fat and protein and one-tenth of all the protein in your body is found in your skin. So make sure you eat some protein such as fish, eggs or dairy foods at every meal.
Some of the most common causes of skin inflammation include:
- Excess coffee and alcohol
- Dehydration from insufficient water intake or damage to your skin’s moisture barrier from harsh cleansers, soaps and hot water
- Sugar and refined carbohydrates, which promote high insulin levels, which in turn produce inflammation in all areas of your body, including your skin. Excess sugar in your diet also increases the levels of “advanced glycation end-products” or AGEs, which quite literally age your skin as they damage collagen to produce dry and brittle skin
- Excess polyunsaturated vegetable oils, which go rancid easily and produce large amounts of free radicals
Other ways to combat inflammation and promote anti aging include omega-3 essential fatty acids found in fish and flaxseed oil, and vitamins C and A. The antioxidant nutrient lipoic acid not only protects against free radical damage but also boosts energy production inside your cells and defends your skin and body against AGEs, the unhealthy, age-accelerating toxic byproducts of browned and sugary foods. Another essential nutrient for healthy skin is the sulphur compound MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), which, along with vitamin C, is essential for building strong, flexible collagen. Collagen is very important in the anti aging fight.
Anti aging: Be sun-supplement-smart Photo-aging is the term dermatologists use to describe the accelerated aging of skin caused by exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Too much sunshine can permanently alter the structure of skin, producing uneven pigmentation, broken capillaries, age spots, wrinkles and dry, thickened, scaly skin that scars easily. Two of the most researched nutrients for preventing and treating photo aging and promoting anti aging are:
- Vitamin A: If you’re suffering from the repercussions of a misspent youth basking in the sun, you might want to consider supplementing with vitamin A, which has been shown to reverse sun-damage to skin, according to a 2004 report in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
- Vitamin C: In human trials, a 5 per cent vitamin C solution applied directly to skin reduced wrinkles from photo-aging when applied daily over a six-month period. Taking vitamin C supplements will also increase levels inside your skin cells, helping to rebuild skin and collagen fibres, making your skin look plumper and smoother. Don’t overdo it, as high concentrations of vitamin C can be highly irritating to your epidermis. Look for a cream, serum or lotion that contains 5–15 per cent vitamin C.
To minimise photo-aging, avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm during daylight saving (10am and 2pm at other times), as during these hours more than 60 per cent of the sun’s UV radiation reaches the earth’s surface. Remember to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen when you go out in the sun. Look for zinc or titanium dioxide in an SPF30+ sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB radiation. Avoid sunblocks that contain PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) or that use nano-particles, which may be linked to DNA damage. For a list of nano-free sunblocks, go to the Friends of the Earth website www.foe.org.au and type in “nanotechnology and sunscreens”.
Anti aging: Hold off hormone havoc
Hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol, released as a result of stress, switch off your skin’s ability to heal. One study investigating the ability of stress to compromise healing, examined the effects of a 30-minute argument between healthy couples and found that this emotional blip delayed skin healing by a full day. This means that adopting practices such as meditation and yoga for de-stressing are as pivotal to glowing skin and anti aging success as the food you eat.
Thyroid health can also have a dramatic impact on your skin and your anti aging campaign. If you have low body temperature or suspect an underactive thyroid (due to signs such as thickened, dry skin, brittle hair and hair loss), see your doctor about testing for thyroxin and T3 and T4 thyroid hormones. For more information on the thyroid temperature test, visit www.thewolfeclinic.com/pdf/Thyroid_Temperture_Test.pdf
Anti aging: Quench your skin’s thirst
Long-term dehydration of cells is fast being recognised as one of the major contributors to wrinkles — regardless of skin type. The good news is you can radically improve the hydration of your cells by giving up dehydrating habits. Obviously, it’s important to drink water regularly to plump your skin cells from the inside. In addition to avoiding sunbaking and smoking, steer clear of harsh facial cleansers. Keeping yourself hydrated will assist with anti aging.
Diet factors such as eating salty foods and drinking too much tea, coffee and cola can also leach fluid from your body and skin. Also watch your choice of face cream. If you live in a dry climate and you’re using a skin cream that contains ingredients such as sorbitol and glycerol, it could be causing dryness. These humectants, which draw moisture to the skin, may actually be drawing it from the lower skin layers because there is not enough humidity to draw moisture from the air.
Anti aging: Pass on parabens
Personal care products such as moisturisers, skin lotions, cleansers, shaving creams and shampoos often contain a preservative called “paraben” to prolong their shelf life. They were first used in the 1950s to prevent dangerous bacteria from growing in personal care products. Cut to the present and there is evidence that, over time, parabens break down into formaldehyde — the same chemical dead bodies are preserved in. In one startling study, parabens were actually found in the biopsy tissue of breast cancers. They may also cause dermatitis and skin irritation. Where possible, choose products that contain natural ingredients that are free of preservatives, alcohol, mineral oils, fragrances and other chemicals. Natural ingredients will always be better for you and your skin, promoting anti aging.
Anti aging: Nurturing skin naturally
Effective regenerating skincare doesn’t need space-age ingredients. Nature has a wealth of treasures to nurture skin. Extracts of precious rose have been praised for use on mature skin for hundreds of years and they are particularly useful for red, inflamed skin and broken capillaries. Extracts of lavender, including the essential oil, are anti-inflammatory and help to promote faster skin healing. Calendula, often used for enlarged pores associated with mature skin, is also renowned for its ability to reduce inflammation and promote healing, while aloe vera helps to preserve the skin’s moisture balance by binding moisture to the skin. Vitamins and minerals in skincare that may help prevent and reverse premature ageing include vitamins C, A (retinol) and E, MSM, lipoic acid and grapeseed extract.
Warm face compresses are the secret ingredient used in Europe to maintain beautiful and youthful skin by improving hydration. Simply immerse your face cloth in warm to hot water, wring out and gently press over your face. Hold for five seconds while breathing deeply and repeat three to four times before cleansing. Compressing not only hydrates your skin, it also increases blood circulation, enhances skin’s detoxification and gently exfoliates surface skin cells. Add a few drops of essential oils to your compress water — lavender, sandalwood and geranium are all highly recommended for maturing skin.
- Cleansing Avoid using soap or foaming/gel cleansers, which are extremely ageing because they strip the natural oils from your complexion. Switch to a cream or milk cleanser instead or try a homemade variety using nothing but the real deal: milk or light cream. If your cleanser leaves your skin feeling tight and squeaky, it’s too harsh and could contribute to dry, flaky, irritated skin and even adult acne. For similar reasons, toners are best avoided. If you must use an astringent, try a little apple cider vinegar diluted in water.
- Moisturising Choose a cream that will keep skin hydrated and prevent external factors such as air-conditioning and heating from dehydrating your skin. Look for natural ingredients such as quince extract, shea butter, cocoa butter, aloe vera and jojoba. If your skin is dry, squalene derived from olive oil can be very enriching. Some women also find that a light application of oil such as olive, almond, avocado or apricot kernel oil, can be more nourishing than face cream.
- Exfoliating This sloughs off dead skin cells, but if the agent is too harsh it will only accelerate ageing by causing inflammation, so gently does it. Grind some oatmeal in a blender and add a little rice milk form a light paste, then apply and gently massage into skin before rinsing.
- Breakouts Honey has many properties beneficial to skin including healing and anti-bacterial applications. Dab a little on a pimple with a sterile cotton bud and leave overnight.
Ageing gracefully and without fear is easy when you adopt a holistic inside-out approach to healthy skin. Good health translates to beautiful, ageless skin, hair and nails. If you’re not happy with the health of your skin, look to what’s happening inside your body first. You will benefit far more from spending your hard-earned money on fresh fruits and vegetables than on a cleverly marketed and hyped anti aging cream.
Anti aging: Skin signals
Your skin can offer many important clues about the nutrients you need more of or the health conditions that are affecting your body. Be on the lookout for:
- Red, irritated skin prone to acne breakouts across your nose and cheeks — a condition known as “rosacea”. Naturopaths and doctors of natural medicine have long linked low stomach acid with rosacea. Low stomach acid results in reduced absorption of most minerals and also protein.
- Cracks in the corners of your mouth — known as “angular chelosis”, these are a sign of B vitamin deficiency.
- A red rash around your nostrils — this also points to insufficient vitamin B intake.
- Rough and bumpy skin on the backs of your arms, thighs or buttocks, a condition known as “hyperkeratosis”. This is a classic sign of vitamin A deficiency and should clear within three months of supplementation with vitamin A.
- A dry, flaky scalp — often indicating a zinc deficiency.
- Split, peeling and brittle nails — often caused by low stomach acid, resulting in poor mineral absorption.
- Dry, itchy skin – commonly due to a deficiency of essential fatty acids, found in fish and flaxseed oil.
- Red skin behind your ears — indicates a zinc deficiency.
- Thickened and brown discoloured skin on the back of your neck — known as “Acanthosis nigricans”. This indicates a pre-diabetic state known as “insulin resistance”. Insulin resistance produces very high levels of inflammation in your body. See your doctor about a test for diabetes.
- Rough and dry patches of skin on your shins — also commonly indicates pre-diabetes and insulin resistance.
Anti aging: Maximise your mane
Like your skin, you hair can show signs of ageing. The following tips can help ensure you have super-healthy, lush and shiny locks at every age and life stage:
- Eat plenty of protein Your hair is made of layers of a protein called keratin cemented together. Insufficient protein in your diet will affect the health of your hair as your body conserves essential protein for more important functions.
- Minimise the use of blowdryers and hair straighteners These frazzle your hair with heat. Similarly, chemical processing and products designed to colour and perm hair all take their toll on its structure, so are best avoided. Choose a good-quality shampoo and conditioner, ideally sulphate-free. Halve the amount you normally use and try to go longer between washes (ironically, the more you wash your hair, the more you’ll need to wash it as washing stimulates over-production of oil by the sebaceous glands in the scalp). Many people find the condition of their hair and scalp improves significantly when they stop using shampoo altogether. Investing in a shower filter that removes chlorine will also help your hair (and if you colour your hair, you’ll find the colour lasts longer, too).
- Keep your hormones in balance Healthy hormones equal healthy skin and hair. Thyroid problems often show up as thinning hair or dry, brittle hair.
- Stimulate circulation Stimulating circulation to your scalp through massage or brushing helps to draw fresh blood and nutrients to your hair follicles.
- Nurture your hair with nutrients Zinc deficiency commonly shows up as hair and scalp sensitivity and dryness. Other essential nutrients for healthy hair include silica, sulphur and iron. If you’ve been taking mineral supplements but haven’t noticed any changes, you may have low stomach acid, which results in poor mineral absorption.
Anti aging: Wrinkle-beating foods
- Spinach Can improve skin hydration and elasticity thanks to an antioxidant called “lutein”, shows French research.
- Turkey The carnosine in this white meat slows the deterioration of collagen.
- Red and yellow peppers Their antioxidants build up under the skin, offering extra UV protection, according to research at the University of Arizona.
- Olives Are a skin-boosting snack — the more olive oil you eat, the less wrinkled your skin appears, according to research by Monash University in Australia.
- Black raspberries Contain ellagic acid, which may help protect collagen; studies show raspberry extract can inhibit the inflammation response that causes some skin cancers.