Ageing skin is a big industry, there must be a gazillion lotions and potions available, all claiming to improve your complexion, smooth our skin and reduce the ‘signs of ageing’. Now, there is a genetic link to how our skin ages, of course, but there are also other factors which affect how your skin ages beyond what we smear on it every morning.
The first thing is good old stress. It’s a huge factor which is often overlooked – and just because you’re not experiencing the hair-pulling image of stress, doesn’t mean your body is not experiencing stress.
Increased levels of stress hormones for the long term will contribute to increased blood sugar levels, which correlate with the speed of ageing. And excess cortisol can cause degradation of collagen and connective tissues, both of which will contribute to how your skin looks.
Oestradiol levels drop considerably during menopause, which results in drier skin with reduced elasticity and lower collagen content.
Looking at the nutrition side things, we know that a diet high in grains and gluten can weaken connective tissue. We also know that eating sufficient good quality fat, particularly linoleic acid from nuts, seeds, avocados and oily fish is a good thing for reducing age related skin dryness.
Eating a good variety of veg is always going to be helpful too, and low intakes of vitamin C have been significantly associated with the prevalence of wrinkles. Vitamin C is needed to make collagen, and generally higher intakes of antioxidant rich veg is thought to reduce the effect of advanced glycation end products.
Advanced glycation end products, AGEs, are proteins or fats which become glycated after contact with sugar. This is all a bit sciencey, but essentially, we want to reduce our exposure to AGEs as they can make your collagen lose its flexibility and become more susceptible to damage. AGEs can also damage your elastin which is responsible for keeping your skin ‘plump’, so damaged elastin can lead to sagging and wrinkled skin. AGEs are also associated with liver spots on the skin.
A positive change would be to change the way you cook your food in order to reduce your exposure to dietary AGEs and slow the speed your skin ages. Regularly eating food exposed to high and dry heat contribute to production of AGEs, with things like crackers and cookies being shown to be the biggest producers.
Marinating your food for a few hours before cooking you can reduce AGEs by about 90% – which is pretty good going! Use lemon juice, vinegar and herbs for marinating. Also consider stopping frying food frequently and instead boil and steam where possible.
Smoking, sun damage and a generally poor diet high in sugar will also contribute significantly to AGEs. There is a link between higher HbA1c levels and higher AGEs – the higher and more sustained the blood sugars, the more accelerated the process of ageing.