Nichole Sweetsur November 04, 2014

How you look in your 40s, 50s and beyond is partly pre-determined by your genes, but lifestyle factors also play a vital role in holding back the visible signs of skin ageing, says Nichole Sweetsur.

Lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, sleep and stress, all take their toll on general wellbeing but can also affect skin health. Your skin is a vital organ – it helps to control your body temperature, makes vitamin D on exposure to sunlight and contains special nerve endings that can detect light touch, sustained pressure, cold, warmth or pain.

1. Nutrition matters

’While topical skincare is important, I believe that it is pointless spending lots of money on expensive creams if you don’t provide your skin with the key nutrients it needs to grow, repair and defend itself,’ says nutritional therapist Caroline Farrell.

A balanced diet is key and there are some specific nutrients that will help to hold back the skin ageing process for longer. Caroline recommends, for example, that you increase your intake of the anti-ageing vitamin E by snacking on almonds or swapping peanut butter with almond butter. ’Vitamin E helps to boost skin elasticity and reduce wrinkling.’ Meanwhile, it is worth keeping levels of vitamin C topped up. That’s because vitamin C helps our body to make collagen, which gives skin a youthful bounce.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that women over 40 with the highest amounts of vitamin C in their diet are less likely to develop wrinkles than those with lower levels (i). Vitamin A, found in leafy greens, and foods such as tomatoes, broccoli and carrots, that are rich in B vitamins are also important for smooth healthy skin.

Oily fish such as salmon and mackerel is another skin friendly food to put on the menu. It is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which studies show can help in the war against wrinkles.

2. Sleep better

The term ‘beauty sleep’ is no myth. In fact US research suggests that poor sleep patterns can interrupt the skin’s detox process that peaks at night-time. Known as catabolysis, skin cells rid themselves of debris while we sleep and poor sleepers have been shown to have higher levels of wrinkles and reduced skin elasticity than those who sleep more soundly.

Collagen production is also boosted by growth hormones, which are produced during the deep sleep stage. If you feel the quality of your sleep could be better, good tactics include removing electronic devices from the bedroom, keeping the room as dark as possible and avoiding stimulants at bedtime. All worth a try if you are having trouble getting your eight hours a night.

3. Move more

Regular exercise has many skin benefits. ‘Exercise boosts circulation, which brings a glow to skin, making you look and feel great,’ enthuses Joslyn Thompson-Rule, a top personal trainer and founder of Fit Girl About Town. ‘Sweating through exercise also helps to open up your pores, which in turn rids the skin of debris, but do cleanse your skin well afterwards to ensure the skin doesn’t become clogged,’ she adds. Don’t get hung up on what type of exercise is best, though. It’s more important to get moving and pick something you enjoy. ‘Any exercise that suits your lifestyle is good for your skin,’ says Joslyn.

4. Get into a routine

A good daily skincare regime also plays a vital role in delaying lines and wrinkles. Skincare guru, Lesley Reynolds recommends looking for retinol and vitamin C in skin care products. ‘Retinol helps increase collagen and elastin production. Vitamin C helps reduce the damage caused by free radicals and the sun and helps cells to regenerate themselves,’ explains Lesley. Skin supplements can be helpful, too, if they contain omega 3 and antioxidants such as A, C and E (often available in a single tablet). Lesley also recommends vitamin B to keep skin well hydrated.

5. Keep Cleansing

Last but not least, getting the basics right is crucial for glowing skin. ‘Cleansing the skin properly is key to a good skincare routine and helps products to penetrate and work properly. Massaging in your moisturiser helps bring nutrients to the skin surface making it look smoother and younger.’ And of course, using a broad spectrum SPF every day is a must. ‘It is thought that 90 per cent of skin ageing is due to UV damage and 10 per cent is intrinsic, or down to genes. The sun is the single most damaging factor to the skin, along with smoking, alcohol and an unhealthy lifestyle,’ sums up Lesley. That sounds like good advice to us.

Drink green tea to give your skin a spring-time boost - it contains chemicals thought to protect skin from sun damage.

6. Super supplements

Omega 3 is high in EPA, an essential fatty acid that blocks enzymes that break down collagen. It also helps to repair skin and keep it hydrated.

Selenium is an antioxidant that helps protect skin from UVA damage.

Lycopene is found in some red fruit and vegetables. It has qualities that help to combat the damage done to skin by UV rays.

Soy Isoflavones or phytoestrogens are especially useful for skin around the time of the menopause as they contain natural plant oestrogens. Oestrogen plays an important role in collagen production, but our natural levels of this hormone fall when menopause hits. So taking a supplement can be beneficial to help promote collagen synthesis and keep skin smooth and firm.

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