Beauty

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Photo courtesy of Heather Hixon/The Licensing Project

A Top Plastic Surgeon on the Lifestyle Factors That Influence How Our Skin Ages

Few things are more enjoyable than warming yourself in the sun, maybe with a cold glass of rosé nearby. Or, later on, housing a couple delicious slices of pizza. But these feel-good-at-the-time habits take a cumulative toll on our skin as we age, says Dr. Julius Few, a plastic surgeon and the founder of the Few Institute for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in Chicago. Fortunately, he says, there are also great habits that can make a real difference in the other direction.

Factor 1: Sun

“Sun exposure feels good and, in moderation, can help promote the healthy production of vitamin D, but excessive exposure and unprotected exposure can lead to damaging, aging effects on the skin,” says Few. “Excessive ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun leads to damaged elastin production and a reduced ability for the skin to repair itself over time. Elastin is what allows skin to stretch and then return to its original shape and position without a wrinkle. When you lose elastin, it leads to wrinkles being visible even at rest.”

Factor 2: Smoking

“Smoking causes wrinkling of the face and neck skin by two mechanisms: One is the direct damaging consequence to elastin production in the skin. The second is the pursing of the lips needed to smoke a cigarette,” says Few. “Both create the classic ‘smoker’s mouth’ and the ashy, wrinkled skin of the face and neck in a smoker.”

Factor 3: Exfoliation

“This process is vital to healthy, youthful-appearing skin on the face and neck—and body!” he says. “Exfoliation removes dead skin and lets new, healthy skin replace it in the most effective way. In addition, it’s a power signal to the deeper layers of skin to produce more collagen and elastin. Exfoliation only needs to be done once a week, as this is the natural cycle for skin turnover. More is not better: Overexfoliation can lead to stressed skin and increased inflammation.”

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Factor 4: Food

“Dairy can be a significant factor in adult-onset acne, and the chronic acne process can also cause the face to look more weathered and aged,” says Few. “Diets high in fruits and vegetables bring a dramatic array of pro-healing vitamins and hormone-stimulating effects that allow for more healthy-appearing tissue and skin. And it’s important to remember that protein is key for collagen production—animal or plant-based works well.”

Factor 5:
Nightly Skin Care

“Moisture—and the preservation of it—is vital to healthy, rejuvenated-looking skin,” he says. “Because night is when the skin is most active in its repair function, it’s the most important time for skin care.”

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Factor 6: Alcohol

“Alcohol consumption dehydrates the body, leading to negative effects on the skin,” says Few. “Alcohol also leads to a loss of vital vitamins and minerals that aid in the repair and natural rejuvenation of the skin. In particular, there is a clear connection between alcohol and loss of vitamins B and C, folic acid, zinc, and magnesium. These agents play a vital role in collagen production and blood circulation.”

Factor 7:
Extreme Running

“Exercise is great for health, wellness, and our skin, but certain types can lead to a prematurely aged appearance of the face and neck,” Few says. “‘Runner’s face,’ for example, is the result of high-impact downward traction on the retaining ligaments of the skin combined with valuable fatty support lost under skin, leading to an overly lean face appearance. This can have a powerful aging response on the way we look. What is best for facial aging are moderate impact exercises—like yoga, stationary bikes, moderate running, and strength training. These all enhance circulation without the high impact on the retaining ligaments of the face.”

Factor 8:
Health conditions

“Any condition that tends to cause a degree of relative dehydration is detrimental to the appearance of the skin,” says Few. “Diabetes, for example, can have adverse outcomes on the way skin looks when it is not well-controlled. Hyperglycemia involves elevated blood sugar levels and causes a relative dehydration of the body. Circulating high sugar levels can increase the pro-inflammatory nature of the body and in turn stress the skin’s ability to repair itself.”

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