Collagen is a protein that keeps your skin youthful and wrinkle-free. It holds your skin together and gives it firmness and elasticity. When you’re young, your skin looks plump and smooth because collagen is plentiful, but collagen production starts to slow down as you age, leading to sagging skin.
Past the age of 30, everyone’s collagen production declines, but there are lifestyle habits that could exacerbate the problem. Below are 5 habits you might be guilty of that destroy collagen and cause you to age faster.
Smoking is just about one of the worst things you could do for your health. Here’s just one of many reasons to quit smoking: it can add years to your appearance. Smoking is associated with premature facial wrinkling because it decreases collagen synthesis, according to a study performed at the University of Oulu in Finland . Smoking depletes vitamin C, which is key in the manufacture of collagen.
Smoking also disturbs the production of an enzyme called matrix metalloproteinase, which regulates collagen production. In smokers, matrix metalloproteinase destroys more tissue than it produces, which leads to wrinkle formation and a loss of firmness.
There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which lead to the destruction of collagen and elastin. Smoking or even being around second hand smoke degrades the building blocks of your skin, causing sagging skin and fine lines and wrinkles.
Exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun leads to premature skin aging. UV radiation makes collagen in the dermis break down at a faster pace. Sunlight damages collagen fibers and causes abnormal elastin to accumulate. This abnormal, sun-induced elastin produces matrix metalloproteinase in large quantities, which leads to the breakdown of collagen. This causes the uneven formation of disorganized collagen fibers, or solar scars. When this abnormal skin building process repeats itself, it eventually results in wrinkles.
3. Pollution exposure
We all know that pollution damages the planet, but pollution can also have adverse effects on your skin. When air pollution comes into contact with your skin, the tiny particles may infiltrate deep layers of the epidermis, leading to a loss of elasticity and firmness.
Pollution breaks down collagen because it creates damaging free radicals in your skin. The damage appears as fine lines and hyperpigmentation. That’s why it’s important to use a good moisturizer that creates a barrier between your skin and air pollution, and to wash your face thoroughly at the end of each day to remove potentially harmful pollutants.
4. Poor diet
You are what you eat, and the food on your plate will have an effect on what you see when you look at yourself in the mirror. Your diet can either help keep your skin youthful or make you look older. Eating too much sugar and simple carbohydrates damages your skin’s collagen and elastin molecules.
Your body metabolizes simple carbs the same way it does sugar: by converting them into glucose. The glucose sticks to collagen and elastin, causing them to become stiff and malformed. Refined sugar and simple carbs also create inflammation in your body and increase insulin levels, which accelerates wrinkling.
5. Drinking alcohol
Alcohol is one of the most destructive compounds for your skin. Alcohol has a negative impact on the level of Vitamin A in your body, and Vitamin A is extremely important in collagen production. As a result, there will be a loss of collagen and elastin in your body if you drink alcohol in excess.
Avoiding these bad habits that are detrimental to your body’s collagen levels can protect you to some extent, but there are more proactive approaches you can take to turn back the hands of time and improve your skin’s appearance. It’s never too early or too late to take steps to increase your body’s collagen production.
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Aging is kind of a bummer, am I right?
Even though our mothers gave us the heads-up that things are going to change, we then wake up one morning (approx. age 35 for me) and realize that 1) Things HAVE changed, along with 2) Mom was right…AGAIN . And unfortunately, our skin is usually where we see the effects of aging in our bodies first. From dryness, to volume loss and fine lines, to perhaps even the oh-so-unfair adult onset acne, time has a way of wreaking havoc on our once pristine skin.
But the great news is, we can reduce these effects by nourishing our skin from the inside, out. And as a registered dietitian, I’m here to provide a few proven nutrition tips and real-life tricks, to nourish your skin to help keep it glowing and healthy for years to come.
Protecting your skin from the sun is important, no matter what time of year it is, but it’s especially vital in the summertime. While you might want to bare your skin in the summer to achieve a beautiful, sun-kissed complexion, UVA and UVB radiation from the sun can wreak havoc on your skin and cause premature aging if you aren’t careful.
UVA rays, which account for 90 to 95 percent of the UV radiation that reaches the earth, penetrate deep layers of the skin and cause tanning. UVB radiation accounts for only 5 to 10 percent of solar radiation, but it damages the epidermis, or surface layer of the skin, causing sunburn.
UVA rays cause the collagen in your skin to break down at a higher rate than normal aging . They do this by penetrating the dermis, or middle layer of the skin, and lead to the abnormal buildup of elastin. This elastin accumulates and results in the production of enzymes that break down collagen.
The more sun exposure you get, the worse the damage becomes. UV radiation also creates free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules that increase the number of enzymes that break down collagen. An excessive amount of free radicals in your body can also weaken your vascular system, cause poor circulation, and lead to deteriorated eye health.