Beyond Skincare for Men: Is Your Lifestyle Promoting Healthy Skin?
Some guys (very few) are born with naturally healthy, radiant, perfect skin. They are in the extreme minority.
For most people, it takes hard work to look and feel great. That’s why you need a solid skincare routine. Without it, your skin is all but doomed to become aged and dull sooner than necessary.
Maybe you’ve got genetics working against you. That’s ok - it can be dealt with. But how about your lifestyle? Are your daily habits helping or hurting your skincare efforts?
Take an honest look at your lifestyle and review these suggestions. No one is knocking it 100% out of the park when it comes to a healthy lifestyle, so find where you can make improvements and start planning some positive changes in these areas:
Stress. Ugh. It’s everywhere. It’s exhausting. It’s inescapable.
Some guys seem to thrive on stress. They’re always busy, constantly working on a long to-do list. That might make them seem like enviable overachievers. But be warned: stress affects your appearance - and not in a good way.
Stress Accelerates Hair Loss
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three different types of hair loss related to high stress level.
In the first - telogen effiuvium, stress puts your hair follicles into a resting phase. Eventually, the strands just fall out with washing or combing. In the second, trichotillomania, you get so stressed and frustrated that you literally pull your hair out. And the third, alopecia areata, happens because you’re so stressed out your immune system attacks your hair follicles.
Stress Makes You Go Gray Early
Yes, hair turning gray is a genetic process. And no, stress is not 100% to blame. But living a constantly stressed out lifestyle accelerates the process, leaving you with an aged appearance 10 years earlier than necessary. Scientific American reports that “stress and lifestyle give you variation of plus or minus five to 10 years” over genetic graying.
Stress Causes Acne
According to the International Dermal Institute, “the primary aggravating factor leading to adult acne is chronic stress.” Clearly it’s a major problem. Clinical studies show that amongst adults ages 20-40, up to 55% suffer from persistent acne.
The combination of a stressful lifestyle with low-quality skincare products made with irritating chemicals is a recipe for acne disaster. So make a decided effort to reduce your stress levels to clear up issues with adult acne.
Stress Dries Your Skin Out
Depending on your skin type and hormonal reactions to stress, you may deal with dry skin when you’re stressed instead of oily acne. This is especially true if you suffer from psoriasis, eczema, or other chronic skin problems.
Stress Ages You
Research shows that getting burnt out on the job causes cellular damage that speeds up the aging process. Psychological stress - in this case measured by work-related exhaustion - shortens “the DNA-protein complexes that cap chromosomal ends in cells.”
What does that mean? That your cells cannot replicate themselves as effectively and cellular damage is occurring. The results are the common signs of aging you’re all too familiar with - age spots, wrinkles, fine lines, and uneven skin tone.
What to Do About Stress
Some changes are easier than others when it comes to eliminating and minimizing stress in your life. Depending on your circumstances, some or all of these tips can work:
A regular fitness habit helps reduce stress in both the short and long term. Even if you don’t have time to get in a full workout, a 10 minute walk can do more for your stress than lounging on the couch in many cases.
With just 5 minutes per day - or even less - you can refocus your mind with a meditation practice. It may be awkward for you at first, but it’s been proven to improve mood and reduce stress.
No matter how busy or intense your schedule, you owe it to yourself to schedule in some time for fun. This means something different for everyone - it might be watching a movie, playing sports, reading, or playing video games. Whatever works for you, enjoy it!
Fresh air, sunshine, and the simple pleasure of being outdoors can do wonders for your stress and mood. Don’t underestimate the power of spending at least part of your day under the clouds instead of under fluorescent lights.
Sticking to your exercise routine is critical to maintaining your health. You need to work your lungs, heart, and muscles to stay in top shape. That’s why you get up for early morning runs and gym sessions. But did you know that exercise improves your skin too?
One of the biggest - and most well known - benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working out releases endorphins. These are hormones that give you a relaxed, pleasant feeling. Exercise also limits the production of the stress-hormone cortisol. That’s the culprit behind so many negative effects of stress - from acne breakouts to chest pain.
One study looked into the correlation between stress and acne in both men and women and showed a statistically significant positive correlation between stress levels and severity of acne. It also found that “psychological stress” plays a significant role in the formation of acne.
A word of caution: Don’t overdo it. Exercise is great for reducing stress. But pushing yourself too far can have the opposite effect. Your workouts should be strenuous and effective. Just don’t force yourself to the point that it causes pain, anxiety, or stress.
Collagen is a protein that functions as the basic building block of skin. It is also found in cartilage and connective tissue. But - bad news - your body slows down its collagen production as you age. That’s part of the reason your skin thins, sags, and wrinkles as you get older.
Science has proven that exercise can boost collagen production. That slows down the aging process. In a 2014 study, researchers looked at the skin of adults ages 20 to 84. They noticed that “men and women who exercised frequently had markedly thinner, healthier… dermis layers in their skin.” Even some participants who were 65 or older had skin similar to 20 and 30 year olds.
Exercising regularly may not magically un-wrinkle your skin. But it will make your skin younger and healthier. That will ensure that you look your best, in spite of what the aging process may bring.
An increase in heart rate leads to good blood circulation. So as your heart gets pumping hard during a tough workout, your circulation is improving.
What does that have to do with your skin?
One of the major causes of skin problems on your face is bad circulation. For example, ever get puffiness or dark circles under your eyes? These are both brought on by poor circulation. Blood gets trapped and pools under the thin facial skin. And you end up looking dull and tired.
Don’t worry - you don’t have to do strictly cardio to get these benefits. Weight lifting also improves circulation. An intense session will get your heart pumping hard and the blood flowing properly.
If you want to look and feel your best, you've got to eat better. But don't think that it's going to take a total overhaul of your eating habits. Instead, make small changes.
The benefits are going to be huge. Eating excess carbs and sugars leads to inflammation - bad news for your skin. You also need to get more vitamins and nutrients into your diet. They will support healthy skin too. Here's how to do it:
It's the easiest way to add fruit and veggies to your diet. Toss in some frozen fruit, green veggies like spinach or kale, and voila! - you've got a couple great tasting servings of fruits and vegetables.
Tend to reach for chips and other salty, oily snacks? Improve your snack habits by choosing fresh fruit and vegetables instead. It can be a simple as having an apple. Or as fun as celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins.
Pack Your Lunch
This is a big one. When you're at work and just need to grab something fast, chances are you won't make a super nutritious choice. But if you pack ahead you can avoid this trap.
Drink plenty of water. That's water, not just liquids. Switch out your soda and fancy, sugary coffees for water or green tea.
When you don’t get enough sleep, it shows all over your face. That’s because staying up late and getting less than enough sleep causes an excess of cortisol - known as the stress hormone. It also slows down collagen production, limiting the youthful, elastic look and feel of your skin.
Another issue is circulation. The thin, sensitive skin on your face needs good circulation to prevent accumulation of fluids or blood. When that happens, you get puffy eye bags and dark circles - not to mention general inflammation.
How to Get More Sleep
It’s easier said than done for sure. But adding even 15 or 30 minutes to your daily sleep routine can make improvements to your mood, health, and skin. Here are some ways to do it:
Set a Reminder
If you know you need to start getting ready for bed 1 hour before you actually fall asleep, set a reminder on your phone at that time. That way you won’t lose track of time and stay up later than necessary.
Following a Nightly Sleep Routine
This can include brushing your teeth, your evening skincare routine, a brief meditation practice, and other relaxing activities that help your mind prepare for rest.
Limit Late Night Screen Time
Staring at your phone or tablet screen is not good for falling asleep. That bright light signals your brain to stay awake. Forcing yourself to detach from screens for the last 30 minutes of your day is a great way to wind down and get ready for bed. You’ll also be less tempted to stay up swiping through social media.
The idea that cigarette smoke causes skin damage is nothing new. Research from the British Medical Journal from December 1985 describes facial features known as “smoker’s face”. That piece of research references a clinical lecture from 1856 that already had found a connection between skin complexion and smoking. In this British study, 46% of smoking participants were found to have wrinkling and other skin problems caused by smoking.
What about smoking causes these skin problems? The nicotine in cigarettes narrows the blood vessels. This limits the body’s ability to supply the skin with oxygen and vital nutrients. That includes vitamins that keep your skin healthy, bright, and smooth. Without these nutrients, your skin has a much harder time repairing itself. And the signs of aging come on faster than usual.
It’s no surprise that researchers have found that smoking is “associated with many dermatological conditions, including poor wound healing, premature skin aging, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, oral cancer, acne, psoriasis, and hair loss.” Elastin and collagen - both of which your body produces to keep skin healthy, elastic, and youthful - are damaged by the chemicals present in cigarette smoke. That’s part of the reason why “studies indicate that smoking is an important environmental factor in premature skin aging.”
Even though it may represent a massive challenge for a while, quitting smoking is one of the best decisions you can ever make for your health. Your skin will appreciate it too - and you’re sure to love the results.