There’s a commercial on television that rings too true to me. In it, a kind looking elderly woman is comparing life to a parking meter – wishing that they were more similar, so that she could just keep feeding into it and stay here with her loved ones. It would be nice to know that there was something we could do to stop the aging process completely, but more realistically, what about slowing it down?
At one time or another, all of us hit a point where we look in the mirror and are surprised by the person looking back at us. When did that laugh line appear right beside my left eye? How did my skin lose that fresh look that I saw in a picture just a moment ago? When we wish that we could turn back the clock, it’s usually to improve our appearance. There are things that can be done to repair, heal, and prevent the aging effects on your skin – and it’s never too late to start.
Slow Aging – The Big “Stressor”
The entire concept of “aging” is something that doctors have studied intensively. What always comes as a surprise to me, every time I read or hear it, is that there’s no way of dying from old age. What causes a person to pass on is not age, but the damage that aging (and lifestyle) has done to the body. In fact, gerontologists claim that the passage of time alone isn’t enough to cause disease and damage. It is, instead, all outside factors that determine how we will age and the damages brought on – sun exposure, smoking, hard labor, multiple child-births, excessive drinking … and stress are the major causes of disease and damage.
Your best bet to halt the damages is to find defenses to fight their causes. Everyone knows, I think, that if you’ve just got to have a tanned body, it’s more safely gained in a beauty salon than under the frying (literally) effects of the sun – though you should do some research there, as the “orange” color that’s used in tanning lotions has never been FDA approved for the skin. Sunscreen is our friend. We also know that smoking causes multiple damages – not only does it cause cancer, but the chemicals it contains saps nutrients and moisture from our skin, causing the skin to age at an accelerated rate. So, stop smoking. Of all the damages brought on to our bodies, and our skin, the one that can be the most difficult to control is stress.
How does stress age our skin? Being a constant part of our daily lives, stress causes our bodies to start pumping adrenaline. In its basic components, the body is like a machine – every chemical it contains, every response it gives, is given for a reason and can be useful. Adrenaline is the hormone that causes nervousness, anxiety, excitement, and heightened energy levels. When we’re in danger, adrenaline is what causes the fight or flight instinct – it can be a life-saving hormone.
When stress levels start to climb, adrenaline becomes detrimental. It begins to eat away at the nutrients our bodies have stored, beginning with organs that aren’t “vital”. Internal organs like the heart and lungs aren’t deprived of nutrients so much as they begin to work overtime; our heart rate increases and our breath begins to pick up. It puts stress (yup, more of that nasty word) on our immune systems. The organ that is sapped of nutrients first is our skin.
Obviously, these nutrients need to be replenished. It’s just as necessary, though, to learn ways of handling stress properly. You will never “get rid” of stress – it too is a necessary component of life, causing us to actually go to work rather than wallow in overdue bills and not care. How you handle your stress, though, affects more than your state of mind. If you want to slow the aging process, you need to find stress-reducing techniques that work for you. Meditation, breathing techniques, even some natural supplements will help your body keep fit and fighting.
A few ways to help you overcome stress:
- Take a few minutes – as few as five will do – to just sit by yourself and listen to your favorite music. Also, surround yourself with music that soothes you. While many people will tell you that a specific type of music is “the most” soothing, your individual preferences actually determine what will work best for you. When you indulge in soothing sounds, you reduce tension, lower your blood pressure, and promote tranquil feelings that fight off stress.
- Get quality sleep – Some people can get by prefectly healthily with only six hours of sleep a night, while others need eight or twelve. Really pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you, and when you need more sleep, make sure that you get it. Cutting back on sleep causes mood swings, irritability, and physical problems beyond the effects that it has – visibly and almost immediately – on our skin and physical appearance.
- If you find that you simply can’t handle the stress in your life, that it is overwhelming, you should take some time to talk with your doctor. Our society is one that’s well-versed in stress and its effects, and there are a number of very good anti-stress medications available that you should consider. Some anti-stress products are all-natural, including Anxietol 7, and don’t require a prescription. However, it’s a good idea to start with your doctor because when you’re overly stressed, there may be underlying causes and effects that you’re not aware of.
Prevent Premature Aging
Many of us in our 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s await the first wrinkle with dread. We do a double-take when it looks like there might be something there that wasn’t there before – and take a big sigh of relief when we’re spared the worries of wrinkles for another day.
It’s silly, though, to do this. The best medicine is prevention – taking care of what we have now, so that we don’t have to try and fix it later on.
If you smoke, have spent large amounts of time in the sun, or are on familiar terms with high stress levels, you might be in the prematurely aging skin category – even as early as your 20’s. Our skin doesn’t really care how many chronological years we’ve tracked, it just responds to how it’s treated. When it starts feeling “old”, it will act old – the glow starts to fade, elasticity begins to falter, lines develop and open pores don’t go away.
So, the goal is to prevent aging now – here’s what you need to do right away.
- Stop Smoking – seriously, right now, stop smoking. Look at some of the lifelong smokers you know – how many of them have skin that is anything other than the thin, wrinkly folds of a crumpled piece of paper? Nicotine causes serious damage to the skin – it’s second only to sun damage. What the chemicals in cigarettes do is actually constrict blood vessels, restricting the flow of your blood – which then makes it hard for oxygen to get to your skin for healing and beauty.
- Use Alpha or Beta Hydroxy Acids – We learned as children to wash our face every day. What you wash it with, though, can also affect your skin. Did you know that your skin works like a sponge, actually sucking in what it comes in contact with? Using an AHA or BHA cleansere every day, then, not only removes make up but offers your skin the nutrients it needs to reduce fine lines and restore its natural glow.
- Moisturize! – Rich, nutrient-high creams are your skin’s best friend, fighting away the dry dehydration that leads to quick skin aging. More immediately, keeping your skin hydrated with moisturizers and by drinking plenty of water makes lines and wrinkles less noticeable. Always a plus. And while you’re moisturizing, don’t pull or over-rub your skin. Your beautiful face has been barraged by UV rays, stress, and air pollution – give it a gentle break.