Did you know that skin is the largest organ in the body performing many vital functions? Skin serves as a barrier between our bodies and the environment, preventing bacteria and viruses from penetrating our bodies. Skin regulates our body temperature.
Vitamin D, a critical hormone (really a hormone), vital to hundreds of biochemical processes, is produced when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Skin is embedded with nerve fibers that enable us to distinguish pain from pleasure and provides us wth that important sense of touch.
Why Skin Ages
Though genetics plays a role, experts now think that 75% of how we age is related to our lifestyle habits. Excessive sun exposure, smoking, pollution, and toxins create free radicals leading to aging skin. Smoking leads to premature wrinkles, too.
Overexposure to sunlight increases the risk of skin cancer and premature wrinkling of the skin. Some sunlight exposure is necessary, though, for vitamin D production. Usually 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure a day during peak sun hours is sufficient for vitamin D production.
Smoking: Turning Skin into Leather
Smoking leads to skin that is leathery and discolored by hampering blood flow, and therefore, limits delivery of oxygen and nutrients so the skin. Smokers are generally easy to identify simply by looking at their skin.
Hormones: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
Many of our hormones decline as we age. But, cortisol and insulin typically increase with aging and have damaging effects on our skin. Cortisol, the stress hormone adversely affects the skin. Insulin is produced in response to consumption of carbohydrates and drives sugar into the cells. If we consume foods high in sugar we get a spike in insulin. Insulin is inflammatory in high levels and contributes to wrinkling of the skin.
Other hormones decrease as we age, like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and growth hormone. Too low of levels in these hormones also adversely effects skin health. Loss of estrogen leads to thinner inelastic skin. Have you noticed the glow of skin of pregnant women? That glow comes from progesterone. Progesterone is produced in high levels during pregnancy improves circulation to skin and protects skin elasticity.
Declining testosterone and DHEA levels in men and women leads to dry skin. DHEA facilitates oil production of skin and stimulates production of collagen, a key component of skin.
Growth hormone is the main“healing hormone”, because growth hormone stimulates tissue repair of not only skin, but other tissues as well. Growth hormone prevents unsightly sagging of the skin. Growth hormone is mostly produced at night during sleep. Getting a good night sleep is critical to our overall health and skin health. Growth hormone is also produced in response to strenuous exercise. Exercise has its own skin benefits by improving blood flow and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the skin.
Another hormone, melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and when applied topically protects skin against ultraviolet radiation and stimulates skin cells to proliferate.
Tips to Prevent Aging Skin
Nutrition is the foundation of great looking skin and general health. Avoid foods with high sugar content. These are called high glycemic foods (see www.glycemicindex.com). Learn to better manage your physical and emotional stress. Get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly. Drink plenty of water, which improves skin hydration. Make sure you have your hormone levels checked if you suffer from aging skin. And, if you smoke, quit immediately.
There are plenty of anti-aging skin care products out there that can help you maintain healthy skin. Do your homework and read a review or two of each product you’re considering buying.