Beautiful Skin Is An Inside Job

by Jeanne Rhodes

There are two good reasons to be concerned about lifestyle factors that affect skin health: cancer prevention and prevention of premature aging of the skin. A healthful lifestyle can help keep skin healthy, reduce the severity of many dermatological disorders and slow skin aging.
Protecting skin from the sunís damaging rays will help prevent both premature aging and cancers of the skin. Sunlight is responsible for wrinkles, age spots and many of the changes in skin texture that occur as we age. These changes occur at a much slower rate in people who are rarely exposed to sunlight.
But we love to be outdoors. The benefits of outdoor exercise and recreation far outweigh the health risks of skin damage, if you take reasonable precautions to protect your skin. When possible, schedule outdoor time for the early morning or late afternoon, avoiding the intensity of midday rays. Look for shady walking, jogging and cycling routes.
The most effective skin protection is some form of sun block. Tightly woven clothing (hold it up to a light and see how much shines through) helps keep the sunís rays from reaching your skin, and wide-brimmed hats provide some protection. Zinc oxide blocks the sun, and is good for areas that canít wear clothes, like noses and lips.
When a sun block is not practical, a sunscreen should be used. These do not shield the skin completely, but they do reduce the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays. Evidence suggests that the skin can repair some damage when sunscreens are consistently applied. But other researchers warn that sunscreens can provide a false sense of security. Since they prevent burning, they may lull us into thinking the sun is not hurting us, while damage may still be occurring.
A sunscreen with SPF-15 is generally recommended, although people with fair skin may need something stronger. Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before exposure and used conscientiously whenever outdoors, even on cloudy days since some radiation penetrates cloud cover. It is especially important to use sunscreen on your face, ears and shoulders, which are the most commonly burned areas.
Exercise is good for everything, including your skin. When you exercise, blood flow to the skin increases as your body works to get rid of extra heat generated by the contracting muscles. This increased blood flow provides the skin with nutrients and gets rid of wastes. One study found that regular exercisers had thicker skin than sedentary people. Thicker skin ages more gracefully because it develops wrinkles later than thinner skin.
People who smoke cigarettes show premature aging of the skin, especially facial wrinkles. If you canít quit smoking for your health, do it for your vanity. Longtime smokers tend to look about 10 years older than nonsmokers of the same age. This effect may be caused by some of the chemicals in cigarette smoke, and a decrease in skin blood flow caused by nicotine.
Nutrition has a tremendous impact on skin. The best nutritional recommendation for healthy skin is not magic, just plain good sense. Itís the same phrase youíve heard a hundred times before: Eat a well-balanced diet. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are associated with skin disorders, but getting more than you need does not make for healthier or younger-looking skin.
Supplements will only improve the skin if they supplement a healthy diet. Taking too much of some vitamins can actually cause skin problems.
Stress can cause many skin problems and worsen preexisting ones. Stress-management techniques, including relaxation exercises, have been shown to improve many skin problems. These techniques may work by changing hormone levels and nervous system activity.
Rhodes B.A., MA., Nutritionist, is a Wellness Lifestyle Strategist, Author, Owner and Director of Rhodes Preventive Health Institute.