No wishing, no hoping, no incanting an ancient Druidical chant can save us from crow’s feet, laugh lines, and the odd forehead crease. Let’s face it – none of us will get through life without developing a few wrinkles. Environmental exposure, combined with repeated skin creasing that inevitably occurs throughout each day, eventually leads our skin to develop permanent lines and creases.
Think of your skin as a shirt that gets wrinkled throughout the day as you sit, twist, reach, tuck the ends inside your pants, and generally subject it to the vagaries of your daily routine. When the garment gets repeatedly creased in the same places, those creases stick around permanently as wrinkles.
The same happens to our skin over the years – it creases when we smile, frown, or bend our joints, stretches when we stretch or when we gain weight, and generally works overtime trying its best to conform to whatever position we ask.
Hanging a shirt to dry in the breeze or a quick press under a hot iron is usually all it takes to resolve garment creases. Our skin cannot be so easily cared for, so nature has provided it with natural defenses and resistance to wrinkles. A fibrous protein called collagen makes skin firm and smooth, and another protein called elastin makes it springy and elastic. Glands throughout the skin secrete oil that keeps skin pliant. Finally, a layer of fat sits beneath the skin and helps to fill out the contours, also contributing to smoothness. All of this means that, unlike that shirt, our skin can mostly rebound on its own from everything we put it through.
These defenses are great while they last, but as the years go by, parts of our skin begin to break down and leave it vulnerable to wrinkles and sags. Aging and natural cell functions that create collagen-eating enzymes are two major threats to the building blocks of our skin. Free radicals – unstable atoms and molecules – are another culprit, gradually attacking our skin’s ability to heal itself and maintain its resilient structure. Free radicals occur through natural aerobic processes, but can quickly multiply with prolonged sun exposure, cigarette smoking, or pollutants.
Wrinkles are mainly a cosmetic problem and not nearly as limiting as many other factors of aging. Even so, few things make us feel our age quite like a preponderance of wrinkles and sags, especially on our faces. Fortunately, there are ways to ways to slow our skin’s aging process by partly reversing environmental damage and limiting damage in the future. Best of all, many of the best remedies are natural, readily available, and involve choices that will improve the health of more than just our skin.
Protection from the Elements
If possible, prevention is always the way to go. If you haven’t yet begun to develop significant wrinkles, don’t ignore your skin’s health as a result. It is more effective to prevent serious damage to your skin than to try to reverse the effects of years of exposure.
Direct sunlight is a constant threat to our skin, since prolonged exposure, tanning, or burning produces free radicals and cell wall damage. Wearing lotion with SPF or simply covering your skin with long sleeves or a hat is important when you plan to be in the sunlight for a long time. Don’t stay out of the sun altogether, since sunlight also carries valuable vitamin D, but stay protected during long periods outside.
In addition to sunlight, exposure to pollutants is another common cause of skin damage. Dust and chemicals can both cause wrinkles, which is great motivation to keep indoor spaces clean and ventilated, and remove products with harmful chemicals from your household. Smoking is another pollutant that causes free radicals to multiply rapidly.
Eat Your Fruits, Veggies, and Legumes
Fruits, vegetables, and legumes have a lot going for them. Not only are they free of unhealthy things like saturated fats, cholesterol, and processed sugar, they are also chock full of good stuff like vitamins, protein, and antioxidants.
Antioxidants are particularly important to preserving and promoting skin health since they are one of our best defenses against free radicals. The reason free radicals are so dangerous is that they frequently steal electrons from nearby atoms, which can cause the atoms and eventually the molecules in your skin to become unstable. When that happens, skin is unable to effectively regenerate those layers and proteins that keep our skin looking young.
Antioxidants come along and provide free radicals with electrons, so that the free radicals stabilize without having to steal from nearby molecules. This is a great way to prevent further damage, and certain kinds of antioxidants have even been shown to stimulate cells that produce collagen and help to heal previously damaged areas.
If you eat a large daily quantity of the afore-mentioned foods, chances are you are getting lots of antioxidants without thinking about it. However, if you want to suffuse your diet with the highest possible antioxidant levels, sources like WebMD and Medical News Today have lists of common foods with the highest levels of antioxidants per serving. Three types of beans are in the top five, along with wild and cultivated blueberries.
Who Are You Calling Fatty?
Omega-3 fatty acids – found in high levels in fatty fish, nuts, and seeds – play a large role in strong cell membranes. Healthy membranes are good at retaining water, happily swelling up like plump little water balloons. When our cells are plump and happy, our skin is at its most smooth, firm, and elastic.
Salmon, tuna, and herring are a few of the oily fish that contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. They can also be found from vegetarian sources such as flaxseed, walnuts, tofu, and sunflower oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids are most widely celebrated for anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce our risk of heart disease, cancer, and other serious medical conditions. So while we improve the look and health of our skin, we can enjoy many other benefits from these compounds at the same time.
Sleep More, Stress Less
This is one of my personal favorites. I love to sleep, and I love learning that sleep may have benefits apart from the obvious one – making me less tired. In fact, sleep is a time during which your body works to undo wear and tear that occurred during the day. One of the ways it does so is by secreting human growth hormone. This hormone has been dragged through the mud a bit because it has become popular with athletes looking to artificially boost their performances. However, it’s a completely natural substance that our bodies use to grow healthy tissues, including skin tissues.
Stress, on the other hand, makes our skin more fragile and vulnerable to damage. None of us enjoys feeling stress, and wrinkle-prevention is just one more motivating factor to resolve or eliminate the major stressors in our lives. One of those common stressors is lack of sleep, another reason while getting plenty of shut-eye is good for us!
Your face has muscles, too, and keeping them in good shape is another way to make sure that your skin stays strong and supple and in good rapport with the muscles underneath. Additionally, healthy muscles in your face will help to add definition to your features and fill out areas that have begun to sag. This can be a particularly effective tool for someone in the process of losing a significant amount of weight, since muscle can help to give contour to skin that would otherwise begin to sag when fat disappears.
Many commercial creams and serums designed to reduce wrinkles contain the same compounds – vitamins, antioxidants, etc – that are in foods that promote skin health. For the most part, these compounds can be more effectively absorbed into your cells when ingested rather than when applied topically. Before purchasing a commercial product – even one with natural ingredients – consider whether a visit to the grocery store would be more effective.
Other commercial compounds may contain chemicals that are effective in the short term but can provide the same damage as other chemicals in the long term. Make sure that you know each ingredient in anything you purchase, and understand what the effects of long-term use might be.
My overall preference is to rely primarily on nutrition to keep my skin looking great, while supplementing with natural topical remedies. Great sources of vitamins that can be absorbed through the skin are egg whites and coconut oil. The plant comfrey combined with an essential oil can help to moisturize cells and remove layers of dead skin. Foods with antioxidants and fatty acids can be made into a moisturizing cream with the use of fresh cream and honey.
©2012 Off the Grid News