The Glaring Facts of Sun Damage
Past sun damage catches up with you in the form of age spots and wrinkles -- no matter what your skin type. "Some of this happens naturally with age, but you don't want to accelerate the wrinkling process," dermatologist Marilyn Berzin, MD, says.
"What can accelerate the process is sun exposure and damage to the skin from the environment. Sun exposure is the number one cause of harm to the skin," she says. And no type of skin is immune to sun damage.
The sun cases 90% of skin damage. Wear sunscreen every day.
- Pick a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays (it should say "broad-spectrum" on the label). An SPF of at least 30 provides protection against both these rays.
- Apply sunscreen before going outdoors.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, and more often if you are sweating or getting in and out of the water.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and protective clothing, like a long-sleeved shirt and pants. Even with sunscreen, you should take precautions, such as limiting your time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun's rays are the strongest.
Your Skin Care Choices
Chronic stress can also take a toll. "Stress produces hormones that increase the levels of free radicals in the body, suppresses the immune system, dehydrates the body, and thins the skin," Berzin says. It can also lead to acne, upset your body's ability to help skin renew and replenish itself, and cause hives, eczema, itching, or redness. Stress also wears down the body's ability to fight free radicals and bacteria.
Making better lifestyle choices can help you reap the rewards of healthier skin.
- Exercise. Exercising can reduce stress and help you sleep better, leading to healthier skin.
- Get plenty of sleep. "Sleep is your skin's chance to repair damage done during the day," Halem says. Seven to eight hours a night allows your face to relax and smooth wrinkles, avoid dirt and grime in the air, and rejuvenate.
- Eat healthy, look healthy. "We definitely know foods can affect skin because we see it when there is a deficiency," Berzin says. "If there is a deficiency in vitamin C, it can cause scurvy. A deficiency in zinc can lead to a scaly, red rash. An iron deficiency can lead to hair loss. The best thing you can do for your skin is to eat well-balanced meals."
- Think before you drink. Dermatologists recommend drinking water to moisturize your skin from within. "When you drink water, the cells absorb that water and look plumper, smoothing out wrinkles," Halem says. The opposite is true of beverages that dehydrate the body and skin, especially alcohol and caffeinated drinks. Coffee, alcohol, and soda can also deplete the body of nutrients that keep skin from looking tired and dull, cause facial flushing, and worsen skin conditions such as rosacea.
- Don't smoke. Smoking is second only to sun damage in causing wrinkles and dry skin. Studies have shown that smokers have significantly more fine wrinkles than nonsmokers.