Role of skin on your health
The effects of sun exposure and smoking on skin health
Why your skin wants you to eat well and exercise
The roles that sleep and stress play in skin health
As your number one defense mechanism against harmful environmental factors, your skin works overtime to protect and maintain your health. Skin regulates body temperature and homeostasis, generates vitamin D from sun exposure, provides sensory perception and immune surveillance, and so much more [1,2]. So shouldn't you do everything you can to return the "favor" and protect it?
Although there is little that can be done (yet) about the genetically-determined intrinsic factors that affect your skin's health, there are many lifestyle choices that you can make to extend your skin's wellbeing and slow the natural rate of your skin's aging .
There is a substantial amount of evidence revealing the two biggest culprits threatening the health and age of your skin: smoking and exposure to UV light . This comes as no surprise, as the most awareness has been generated around these two exogenous factors, so these next few paragraphs will attempt to reinforce those good choices that you've been making (i.e. wearing sunscreen and avoiding smoking) or make you think twice about those bad choices.
Let's start with the major risk factor that sun exposure brings to the table: cancer (duh). It is estimated that 90% of all skin cancers are directly related to sun exposure and skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US, with Americans looking at a one in five lifetime risk of developing the disease [2,3]. Not concerned with those odds? Neither was the rest of the American population, with only 6% of dermatologist visits stemming from skin cancer concerns, and a majority stemming from aesthetic interests .
So it seems that we naturally pay attention to the visible problems facing us (in the mirror) and will do more to protect against wrinkles than skin cancer - But you know what? That's okay, because advanced visible signs of skin aging go hand in hand with red flags for skin cancer. In fact, up to 90% of the visible signs of skin aging, including wrinkles, sun spots, and loss of elasticity, can be accounted for by the effects of sunlight on skin [2,4]. So, whether your primary goal is to protect from early signs of aging or cancer, you are virtually fighting the same battle! Moral of the story: choosing to wear at least 30 SPF sunscreen every day (even cloudy ones) will keep you looking and feeling amazing for a very long time.
Now, let's talk about smoking. Not only does smoking introduce a myriad of harmful toxins and chemicals right into the most permeable organ in your body (your lungs), it also has major effects on your skin. These effects are primarily caused by the fact that nicotine constricts your blood vessels, reducing blood flow to tissues, thereby restricting essential nutrients and oxygen from reaching your skin [2,4]. In addition, smoking degrades collagen and elastin in the skin, causing it to become saggy and rough, and reduces the body's vitamin A stores, leaving the skin even more vulnerable to the nasty toxins introduced by cigarettes [2,4]. Smoking also increases free radical formation and triples your risk of squamous cell skin cancer, which is the second most common form of skin cancer in the US [2,3,5,6]. Finally, smoking interferes with the body's natural process of removing old cells and replacing them with new ones, which increases the overall senescence of the skin, as you may recall from my previous post .
If we've captured your attention so far, you might want to check out the next post which will discuss how more subtle lifestyle choices can make a world of difference for your skin's health.
1. Lifestyle Factors Affecting The Health Of Your Skin. Available at: https://www.annmariegianni.com/lifestyle-factors-affecting-health-skin/. (Accessed: 27th August 2018)
2. Farage, M. A., Miller, K. W., Elsner, P. & Maibach, H. I. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors in skin ageing: a review. International Journal of Cosmetic Science30,87'95 (2008).
3. Santmyire, B. R., Feldman, S. R. & Fleischer, A. B. Lifestyle high-risk behaviors and demographics may predict the level of participation in sun-protection behaviors and skin cancer primary prevention in the united states. Cancer92,1315'1324 (2001).
4. Your lifestyle and your skin | Health24. Available at: https://www.health24.com/Lifestyle/Perfect-Skin/Natural-Beauty/Your-lifestyle-and-your-skin-20140115. (Accessed: 27th August 2018)
5. How does my daily lifestyle affect my skin health? | Skin Care. SharecareAvailable at: https://www.sharecare.com/health/skin-and-beauty/how-lifestyle-affect-skin-health. (Accessed: 27th August 2018)
6. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) - SkinCancer.org. Available at: https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/squamous-cell-carcinoma. (Accessed: 28th August 2018)
7. Here's Exactly How Bad Drinking Alcohol Is for Your Skin | GQ. Available at: https://www.gq.com/story/how-bad-is-drinking-alcohol-for-your-skin. (Accessed: 27th August 2018)
8. How Resveratrol May Fight Aging. National Institutes of Health (NIH)(2015). Available at: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-resveratrol-may-fight-aging. (Accessed: 28th August 2018)
9. Chiu, A., Chon, S. Y. & Kimball, A. B. The Response of Skin Disease to Stress: Changes in the Severity of Acne Vulgaris as Affected by Examination Stress. Arch Dermatol139,897'900 (2003).
10. Stress-Induced Changes in Skin Barrier Function in Healthy Women - ScienceDirect. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X15413296. (Accessed: 27th August 2018)