Habits That Age Your Skin

Habits That Age Your Skin
Habits That Age Your Skin

Article Highlights

  • Ninety per cent of aging on the skin is caused by UV radiation from the sun and/or tanning beds
  • Ultraviolet radiation is progressively and relentlessly destroying the collagen and elastic tissue in their skin and in their blood vessels
  • It causes an increase in the pigmentation of their skin, so it gets wrinkled, saggy, creased, blotchy, brown and red with brown spots and broken vessels

What To Know And What Needs To Go

The Oxford Dictionary defines a habit as “something that you do without thinking because you have done it so often; a settled way of behaving.” A habit is sometimes a difficult thing to break. Now, this doesn’t mean that all habits are bad. In fact, a habit can sometimes work in your favour. Putting on sunscreen and avoiding alcohol, smoking and junk food are habits that can keep you health1y and looking, and feeling good throughout your life. Then, there are the bad habits. It goes without saying that these ingrained patterns of behaviour can be far less beneficial, leaving you – and your skin – worse for wear.

Dr. Ian Landells, a dermatologist and medical director at The Landells Clinic in St. John’s, Newfoundland and a past president of the Canadian Dermatology Association said that UV radiation and smoking are the two main factors that contribute to premature aging of the skin.

“Ninety per cent of aging on the skin is caused by UV radiation from the sun and/or tanning beds. The main thing to prevent aging of the skin would be to protect it from ultraviolet radiation and not use tanning beds,” emphasized Dr. Landells. “After that, smoking is another thing that can contribute to aging of the skin, as it seems to contribute to the degradation of the collagen and the elastic tissue in the skin. So it makes it crease and wrinkle more, and it becomes thinner.”


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Indeed. A 2013 study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery compared the skin of 79 pairs of identical twins over a three-year period, where only one twin smoked or where one twin smoked for at least five years longer than their sibling. The results were significant. Compared with their nonsmoking counterparts, twins that smoke had worse upper eyelid skin redundancy, lower lid bags, nasolabial folds, jowls, upper lip and lower lip vermillion wrinkles.

In addition to smoking, tanning can wreak major havoc on your skin, causing it to look far beyond its chronological age.

“Someone who deliberately tans is just going to look older,” stated Dr. Landells. “Because we know the ultraviolet radiation is progressively and relentlessly destroying the collagen and elastic tissue in their skin and in their blood vessels; and it also causes an increase in the pigmentation of their skin, so it gets wrinkled, saggy, creased, blotchy, brown and red with brown spots and broken vessels. These are the things we associate with looking older.”

All tanning is bad for your skin, but tanning beds and stand-up tanning devices are even more detrimental than the sun.

“Tanning beds are much worse for aging of the skin,” continued Dr. Landells. “They actually deliver much higher doses of UV radiation and they do that so that you tan more efficiently, because most tanning devices were designed to have very, very low amounts of ultraviolet B radiation, which is the one that burns our skin, and high doses of ultraviolet A, which tans our skin much more. So they get very large doses of UVA without UVB. The idea was that we can tan our skin very quickly and efficiently without burning.”

Habits That Age Your Skin
Habits That Age Your Skin

The reason why tanning devices were structured this way, noted Dr. Landells, is because many years ago we thought that if you didn’t burn, then you weren’t going to get skin cancer. We now know that isn’t true. UVA also causes skin cancer and in fact, is the main source of aging. Dr. Landells stated that a 20-minute tanning bed session is the equivalent of about four hours of noon-day sun in terms of the dose of UV radiation received.

Along with UV radiation and the toxins from tobacco, tanning and smoking can also age the skin further through muscle contraction, which can contribute to making apparent signs of aging, such as crow’s feet around the eyes and deep frown lines between the eyebrows.

“You generally need that repeated muscular contraction caused by such actions as drinking from a straw or sucking on a cigarette a lot, which contracts the muscle around your mouth and eyes,” mentioned Dr. Landells. “When it contracts, it’s like a purse string. As you pull it in with the purse string, the material wrinkles and folds. The same thing happens to your skin.”

Even though muscle contraction can contribute to skin’s aging, Dr. Landells noted that it generally needs to be combined with ultraviolet damage of the elastic tissue, so that it doesn’t snap back anymore.

“Skin has a natural elasticity. When you pull it, it snaps back, and those elastin fibers (elastin) are chewed up into little tiny, useless fragments by UV radiation.”


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Although UV rays and smoking are the primary culprits in skin aging, they are not the only ones. Dr. Landells informed that topical steroids could potentially thin the skin and make it more wrinkly, as well as lead to fading of the skin and the development of fine, broken blood vessels. Although people with inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis of the face and seborrheic and atopic dermatitis need to use these steroids, Dr. Landells cautioned that only low potency steroids should be applied to the face and they should be used intermittently, as opposed to continuously without a break.

Furthermore, applying moisturized creams properly is good for the skin. Dr. Landells recommended putting them on the skin when it is wet, so that they can lock in moisture.

“Applying moisturizer to wet skin is very important. It will prevent further water loss from the skin and help preserve the barrier function of the skin, so that we don’t lose as much moisture,” asserted Dr. Landells. “If skin is dry, moisturizer reduces evaporation of moisture from the skin, but that’s about it. If you add it when the skin is wet, you’ve already added the moisture to the skin, it’s absorbed in, and you’ve locked it in or sealed it with the moisturizer.”

Additionally, to help your skin look its best, it is a good idea to get enough sleep, take your make-up off at night so that your pores are left unclogged, minimize stress and have proper nutrition. Dr. Landells recommended a well-balanced diet that’s rich in vitamins A, C, E and D and minerals such as zinc, as they are important for the overall well-being of the skin.

Still, when it comes to what truly ages your skin, it always comes back to those two well-known antagonists: smoking and especially, ultraviolet radiation.

“I would just hammer the point home,” reiterated Dr. Landells. “If you protect your skin from the sun and don’t use tanning beds, that is the best way to ensure your skin looks young for your lifetime.”



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