4 External Causes of Aging and What You Can Do to Prevent Them

Mature Woman Examines Crows Feet Wrinkles in Mirrors for Signs of Aging

We all age—it’s just a fact of life. But while aging is natural, we’re all ears when it comes to ways we can slow the process and protect our appearance. Let’s take a critical look at how the 4 most common aging factors (stress, sugar, sun damage, and smoking) act on your body and what you can do to reduce their effects.

1. Stress

Stress can wreak serious havoc on all of the body’s physiological systems and lead to premature aging. Here are a few ways stress affects the body:

  • Heart disease. Being in a constant state of stress for a prolonged period can result in higher blood pressure and cholesterol, which can lead to hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.
  • Skin. As the body’s largest organ, your skin is the first place you’re likely to notice the impacts of stress. Have an unfinished work project due or an unforeseen expense pop up? Your heart might not be feeling much impact, but your face will certainly show it! Stress can result in undereye circles, wrinkles & lines, dry skin, acne breakouts, and other issues.

If just thinking about all this is making you stressed, take comfort in knowing there are a number of things you can do to relax and reset:

  • Sleep. Sleep (or lack thereof) can have a huge impact on your skin’s health. You’ve likely noticed bags appearing under your eyes the day after a night of tossing and turning, and perhaps breakouts, too. Making sure you’re regularly getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep can drastically improve your skin’s appearance, so minimize your caffeine intake, try to get to bed early, and refrain from using screens at least an hour before you turn in for the night.
  • Diet. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of eating a healthy diet, which should include plenty of omega-3s. A recent study shows that taking omega-3 supplements may slow stress-related aging, but most adults consume well below the recommended daily intake of this essential fatty acid. According to the study, higher omega-3 levels were linked to less inflammation and slower cellular aging. While supplementation can be beneficial if you have a nutrient deficiency, whole foods are always preferable as they contain fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants.

A recent study shows that taking omega-3 supplements may slow stress-related aging, but most adults consume well below the recommended daily intake.

So be sure to incorporate a healthy dose of wild-caught salmon in your diet to up your omega-3 intake! Or, if you’re vegan, sea plant sources like seaweed and algal oil provide plenty of EPA omega-3s (fish actually get them by eating these plants!).

  • Therapeutic facials. Practice a little self care with a therapeutic facial from Granite Bay Cosmetic Surgery! A facial is an easy way to improve your skin, reduce stress, and boost your confidence. Our facials are full of antioxidants to hydrate & smooth skin, calm acne, and tone the face & neck.

2. Sugar

When it comes to your skin, sugar is the enemy. In addition to causing breakouts, sugar can prematurely age your skin. How? When there’s excess sugar in your blood (too much for your body to convert to energy), your body produces advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which bind to cells and tissue proteins like collagen. AGEs (accurately named!) inhibit your skin’s ability to produce collagen and elastin, making skin appear saggier and more wrinkled than your age would suggest.

Instead of reaching for a sugary beverage when that sweet tooth kicks in, try a seltzer water with a twist of lime or lemon juice and a sprig of mint. Or, if you’re craving chocolate, toss a frozen banana and a few tablespoons of cacao powder (not to be confused with cocoa powder) into a blender with some unsweetened almond or coconut milk for a guilt-free chocolatey treat.

3. Sun damage

Sun damage, also called photoaging, is responsible for roughly 90% of visible skin aging. The sun emits ultraviolet radiation (in the forms of UVA and UVB rays), which can cause sun spots, hyperpigmentation, and wrinkles. UV radiation causes DNA changes in the skin, which can eventually lead to skin cancer if you’re over-exposed.

Lucky for you, the culprit most responsible for premature skin aging can be prevented by simply applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will shield your skin from both UVA and UVB rays, and should be applied multiple times a day.

UV radiation causes DNA changes in the skin, which can eventually lead to skin cancer if you’re over-exposed.

You can choose either a mineral or chemical sunscreen (or use one for your body and one for your face); mineral sunscreens deflect the sun’s rays while chemical sunscreens absorb them. Because chemical sunscreens often contain some questionable ingredients, I personally prefer mineral sunscreens.

If you’ve already experienced some sun damage (and let’s face it, who hasn’t?), find a sunscreen with ingredients like vitamins C & E, green tea, and retinol to help reverse the visible effects of sun aging.

In addition to wearing sunscreen, be sure to wear a wide-brimmed hat, UV-blocking sunglasses, and long layers whenever you’re in direct sunlight.

4. Smoking & vaping

Smoking can cause cancer, which is certainly reason enough to not smoke—but did you know it also accelerates your skin’s aging process? Here are a few ways that cigarette smoking and vaping can affect the skin:

Cigarettes can affect skin health

Vasoconstriction. Smoking causes vasoconstriction, a process where your blood vessels shrink. Vasoconstriction prevents your blood from flowing properly and cuts off oxygen to your tissues, which is the reason long-time smokers’ skin often appears grey and heavily wrinkled. Vasoconstriction may also impair your skin’s ability to heal itself after surgery, which we obviously don’t like.

Blood clots. Smoking can cause blood clots, which affect your body’s ability to pump blood to your organs. Aside from causing pain and tenderness, blood clots can cause discoloration and swelling around restricted veins and make it risky for you to undergo surgery.

Decreased collagen. In addition to impacting your blood flow, smoking reduces your body’s ability to produce collagen. Since collagen is one of skin’s main building blocks, having fewer of these essential tissue proteins may lead to poor skin quality.

Vaping can affect skin health

But what about vaping? Like cigarettes, vapes contain nicotine, which causes vasoconstriction. And although their quantities are much lower, most vapes still contain carbon monoxide, an incredibly harmful gas that can reduce oxygen levels in your blood and cells.

Vape liquids often contain or produce potentially harmful chemicals and other substances such as diacetyl, formaldehyde, and/or acrolein. When vaporized and inhaled, these chemicals can coat the lungs and cause an inflammatory response. According to the CDC, inhaling even very small doses of formaldehyde can irritate the skin, making it appear red and blotchy.

Though not a skin concern per say, inhaling diacetyl has been proven to cause bronchiolitis obliterans, a.k.a. popcorn lung, a disease in which the lungs become stiff and scarred. Ultimately, diacetyl, formaldehyde, and acrolein can all harm the lungs and suppress immune function, which can negatively impact skin health.

Another major vaping concern is that for many people, especially underage kids and young people, vaping can lead to cigarette smoking or using other tobacco products.

My best advice is to stay away from smoking and nicotine in all forms, especially if you want to undergo cosmetic surgery.

Reverse the signs of skin aging at Granite Bay Cosmetic Surgery

As your body’s largest and most visible organ, it’s critical to take good care of your skin. In addition to taking the preventative steps in this post, you can reduce visible signs of aging with the help of our expert skincare team. Contact us online or call (916) 242-2662 to schedule your Granite Bay skincare consultation today.

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