Skin is the largest and, in my opinion, most amazing organ in the human body. Unprotected sun exposure, free radicals, smoking, and chemical irritation can all cause skin damage. The most depressing thing of all? We can easily avoid their impact and protect our skin.
We have enough problems these days: bad habits, pollution, extra stress…. People are loading up on junk food, not getting enough sleep and, boy-oh-boy, is our skin exposed to contributors of skin damage! Think about what your skin is exposed to on a regular basis. Car exhaust and other pollutants are enveloping your skin all the time. Damaging sun rays, smoke and steam, and even irritating laundry detergents and cleaning supplies can torment your skin on a daily basis. And that’s just environmental. Think about your personal actions that may also be wreaking havoc on your skin: itching, picking, applying cosmetics, body sprays, perfumes and hair sprays that build on your skin. All of these factors can contribute to skin damage.
The result? Wrinkles, spots, redness and so much more. Let’s not give up the fight. Today, I’m going to call out the five worst culprits that can damage your skin.
Some Causes of Skin Damage – and Prevention
- Free Radicals
We hear so much about free radicals. What are they exactly? Free radicals are unstable molecules with a single unpaired electron, which makes them susceptible to oxidation. Too complicated? All you need to know is that free radical formation happens in the cells of your body all the time. Exposure to air pollution, tobacco or pesticides can lead to free radical formation, but they’re also generated as part of everyday metabolism.
The bad news is that free radicals can age your skin. The good news is they have arch enemies, in the form of antioxidants. You can load up on plenty of antioxidant-rich foods like veggies and fruits, including berries, carrots, green spinach and citrus fruits, which will help to keep free radical formation in check. You can also take a multivitamin and use skin care products that contain Vitamins C and E. Both are antioxidants and can help defend your skin against free radical damage.
2. Unprotected Sun Exposure
We’ve been talking about the importance of avoiding the sun’s damaging rays for what seems like forever now. We know that the sun’s ultraviolet rays are responsible for breaking down collagen and elastin in your skin. It’s the collagen and elastin that keep your skin looking smooth and plump. (I know, most people hate the word ‘plump’ when it comes to their body, but it’s a good thing for the skin—really.) The sun’s rays can also affect your skin’s pigmentation, resulting in age spots and uneven skin tone. Of course, skin cancer is always on the forefront of our minds, and should be reason enough to protect our skin each and every day.
So what to do? It’s easy, really. You can avoid exposing your skin to the sun. There are some great options when it comes to protective clothing. A big, fabulous hat with a 2–3 inch brim is ideal, and so are sunglasses. It’s always best to avoid the sun in the middle of the day, as this is when the sun’s rays are the strongest and can cause the most skin damage. Always wear your daily SPF moisturizer with at least SPF 30. If you’re going to be in the sun for an extended period of time, don’t forget to reapply sunscreen throughout the day for maximum protection.
You would have to live in a cave if you haven’t heard that smoking is bad for you. When it comes to skin, smoking can be your worst enemy and the catalyst for fine lines and wrinkles. In fact, the term “smokers face” is used by doctors to describe a person’s face who shows the common signs of smoking. The skin of someone who smokes generally isn’t healthy, and frankly it doesn’t look very healthy either. It can wrinkle easily, especially around the eyes and upper lip, and it can look dried out and dull. Smoking causes blood vessels to constrict, and as a result they get narrower. This isn’t a good thing, as it’s these very same blood vessels that feeds the outer layers of your skin.
When you smoke, the living layers of your skin are less apt to receive proper amounts of oxygen and nutrients that are required to stay healthy. And then, you guessed it, here come the wrinkles.
Smoking also can prevent your skin from snapping back into shape due to the thickening of elastin fibers. The more you smoke, the greater the damage to your skin. For the sake of maintaining a more youthful appearance, and most importantly, for the sake of keeping your lungs strong and healthy, put down those cigarettes at all costs.
4. Repetitive Facial Movements
Growing up, I used to make a lot of funny faces at my brother, because that’s what little sisters do. I would scrunch up my face, wrinkle my nose and stick out my tongue. My mother used to say to me, “You’d better be careful. If you keep making those faces at your brother, one day your face might just stick that way.” Boy, was she right.
As we age, our skin loses its elasticity and its ability to snap back into its original shape. So, we’re actually left with little impressions of our smiles, our frowns, ours scowls, you name it. And, unfortunately, these impressions are left behind even when we aren’t smiling, laughing or making those silly faces.
What can you do? Wear moisturizer during the day (with SPF), and apply serum, night cream and vitamin-enriched eye products. These products will keep your skin hydrated and flexible. They’ll also make those pesky fine lines and wrinkles much less noticeable. If you want to take it a step further, there are countless procedures you can have done, including chemical peels, laser resurfacing and injectable fillers. I prefer to take a gentler approach by practicing a good daily skin care regimen every morning and every evening. I eventually stopped making faces at my brother. Well, most of the time, anyway.
5. Irritating Chemicals
Have you ever spent the night in a hotel and woken up to one side of your face being red and irritated? I sure have. The reason? Hotels tend to use harsh detergents when they launder the sheets and towels. This is a good thing for hygiene, but not when it comes to your skin. Chemicals that are commonly found in laundry detergent and other cleaning products can be irritating to the skin, as can certain synthetic fragrances. Exposure to these chemicals can lead to redness, sensitivity and even breakouts. People who have sensitive skin are the most effected and will likely experience more irritation than others.
The best way to help protect your skin is to simply stay away from these common irritants. Carefully select your cleaning products and detergents to help limit exposure. Be conscientious of everything that comes into contact with your skin. If you get a reaction, you’ll know what you need to avoid in the future. Wearing moisturizer can also help, and so can cleansing your skin regularly with gentle cleansers.