Here is your guide for combating Skin Sins that can damage your skin, age it prematurely, and make you look older.

The rate and effect of skin aging is strongly influenced by diet, nutrition, muscle tone, habitual facial expressions, stress, skin exposure to environmental pollutants and sun, and lifestyle habits, such as smoking and alcohol. Yikes!

Over time, aging skin cells produce excess free radicals; which are normally removed by naturally occurring antioxidants within the skin cells. Aging skin has less antioxidants, leaving the free radicals unchecked to damage cell membranes, proteins, and DNA.

Free radicals eventually breakdown collagen, a protein in connective tissue, and release chemicals that cause inflammation. The first areas that typically show aging are the delicate skin around the eyes, cheeks and lips.
With aging, skin becomes thinner and dryer, making it more prone to wrinkling and damage.

The good news is that there are things you can eliminate, from your life and diet, that are accelerating the skin’s natural aging process. The best news is that you can harness the power of plant-based foods and essential nutrients to restore and nourish your skin; while helping to improve your overall health.

1. Sun Worship: Protect your skin, no single thing ages skin faster than sun damage!

  • Sun exposure dries out the skin and leads to the generation of free radicals that damage skin cells.
  • 70% of sun damage occurs during everyday activities, like driving and running errands. Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays do the damage and are present all day long, in all seasons.
  • UVA rays erode the elastic tissues in the skin causing wrinkling, and cumulatively contributing to aging of the skin.
  • A little sunlight, early or late in the day, can help your body produce necessary levels of vitamin D. No more than 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure is necessary.
  • Use sunscreen and/or Beauty Balm (BB) cream with UVA/UVB protection and do not forget neck, chest, ears and exposed hands and arms. Reapply after 4 hours.
  • Eat more antioxidant rich foods. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals, turning them from an unstable particle that can damage healthy cells, into a stable particle that is harmless.

2. A Sedentary Lifestyle. Like all organs of the body, the skin gets its nourishment from the bloodstream. Exercise stimulates circulation and improves every aspect of your health.

FYI — Your skin is the largest organ in your body.

  • Exercise increases oxygenated blood levels in the body, boosting detoxification and cell renewal in the skin.
  • Exercise can literally make you younger at a cellular level; reversing the damage caused by stress on the body’s aging process.
  • Exercise improves sleep. During deep sleep, the body secretes growth hormones that helps repair and rebuild body tissue.
  • Exercise outside? Be sure to use sunscreen to protect the skin. Avoid exercising outside between the hours of 10am-2pm when the Sun’s damaging rays are the strongest.

3. Dehydration. Water is undoubtedly the most important essential nutrient for the body. Water keeps you hydrated and helps to flush toxins.

If you register thirst, you are already dehydrated.

  • Be sure to consume at least 64oz of filtered water daily, and an extra 8oz glass for every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage you drink. Like all organs, the skin is made up of cells, and skin cells need water to function properly.
  • If you are not properly hydrated, your skin will become dry and flaky. Dry skin has less resilience and is more wrinkle prone.
  • Eat your water by consuming lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. This will also provide you with micronutrients to nourish your cells.

4. Poor Sleep. One-third of your life is spent sleeping. This is important time when your body and brain need to detox and restore. Sleep is vital to every aspect of health. Good sleep promotes good health, and poor sleep contributes to a weakened immune system and inflammation, which degrades health.

Quality sleep is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health; and, besides, you always look and feel better after a good night’s sleep.

5. Stress. Chronic, psychological stress lowers the body’s ability to regulate inflammatory response. Inflammation can promote the development and progression of disease. Scary sh*t!

  • Find 5 minutes, twice a day, to just sit quietly. You can pray, meditate, or do yoga. Amazingly, even if you do not think you are doing it right or getting any benefit, you are.
  • Mindfulness is a practice and a discipline.

Just do it!

6. Not Eating the Rainbow. What you eat directly affects the health of your skin and its appearance. Humans are designed to be omnivores, with a preference for plant foods — indicated by our long intestinal tracts. Basically, our bodies function optimally with 1.5% of our diet in the form of animal foods and the rest from plants. Shockingly, Americans get well over 50% of their calories from animal products. Double down on eating colorful fruits and vegetables to get all the vital micronutrients and phytochemicals that contribute to optimal health, wellness and happy skin.

Colorful fruits and vegetables provide powerful antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids and other chemical compounds that each work to fight free radicals in their own way.

  • Vitamin A rich foods. Cooked sweet potato, cooked carrots, steamed kale, cooked butternut squash, romaine lettuce, cantaloupe, colorful sweet peppers, cooked tuna fish and mangoes. These foods help with healing and construction of new skin tissue.
  • Vitamin C rich foods: Strawberries, citrus fruits, chili peppers, red bell peppers, papaya, kiwi, blackcurrants, guava, Brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens. Plant foods provide necessary micro and macro nutrients that help to fight dreaded free radicals, strengthen the capillaries that feed the skin and form collagen, a protein that gives skin its flexibility.
  • Vitamin E rich foods: Almonds, raw seeds, swiss chard, mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens, kale, wheat germ oil, coconut oil, olive oil, pine nuts, avocado, broccoli, parsley, papaya. Vitamin E protects the skin against free radicals that can cause damage and age skin.
  • Essential fatty acids: Omega-3s and omega-6s are the building blocks of the skins cell membranes. Polyunsaturated fats also contribute to the skin’s natural oil barrier and are key to helping the skin stay hydrated which improves its appearance. Nuts, seeds, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, grains, and avocados are all excellent sources of essential fatty acids.

7. Inflammatory Habits.

Behaviors that increase inflammation in the body can actually make sun damage worse and contribute to premature aging of the skin.

Some of the worst foods for skin — dairy products, sugar, processed foods and artificial ingredients — also have an opiate like affect on the brain that makes them addictive. Horrifyingly, artificial ingredients end up stored in the soft tissue of the body affecting hormones and causing inflammation.

  • Stop eating crap. It is bad for every part of you and will show up in your skin.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking will age your skin, ruin your health and give you ugly wrinkles around your mouth.
  • Find a good cosmetic dermatologist to make sure you are using the right products and getting the best treatments to keep your skin at its healthy best.

Remember skin is your body’s largest organ. Protect it, nourish it, keep it healthy, and it will love you back.

I am a passionate advocate for food as medicine, life navigator and culinary coach. This is my space for sharing what excites, inspires and motivates me to live my best life. It began as a recipe blog for nourishing, simple, weekday meals and has become something much bigger… a guide to resilient wellness. I am excited to share my knowledge of how daily habits can cumulatively help you to live like you mean it and age like you want to.