Healthy Skin Challenge #4: Ditch the Four SKIN SINS!

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Healthy Skin Challenge in honor of National Healthy Skin Month! 
Over the next few weeks, I will be posting tips on how you can improve the health of your skin, along with challenges and recipes to jump-start your progress. 

While I love focusing on the positive things you can do for your skin, I would be remiss if I didn't talk a bit about the things you may be doing each day that might not be supporting your skin's health. While it can be hard to incorporate a good habit, it can be even harder to stop a bad one. It sure sucks being human sometimes. :/

Have you incorporated some new good habits over the last few challenges? Kick ass! Keep up the good work! OK, now on to the bad stuff.

Let's start with the "Dirty 4"!

  • Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you pee out all of the fluids your body (and skin cells) need to stay hydrated.
  • Excessive alcohol can deplete the body of vitamins and minerals skin desperately needs to maintain health.
  • It causes capillaries to dilate, causing redness and flushing, which over time, can become permanently broken capillaries and veins - and permanent discoloration of the skin. 
  • Alcohol speeds up the aging process, causing premature aging by weakening skin's oxygen levels and defenses against free radicals.
  • Like, alcohol, caffeine (in the form of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate or other beverages) is a diuretic, with excessive consumption causing dehydrated skin.
  • Coffee contains tannins, which some believe prevents skin cells from receiving nutrients from food.
  • Excessive sugar intake has been shown to cause connective tissue damage in the skin, as well as inflammation, through a process called glycation (a process which creates end products called AGEs). Hmmmm. A-G-E?
  • Glycation happens when sugar molecules in your system bombard the skin cells, attaching to fats and proteins.
  • The proteins most prone to glycation are the same ones that keep your skin firm and supple - collagen and elastin.
  • Glycation also makes skin more susceptible to UV damage, as it creates free radicals.
  • For many, the results of glycation (hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, etc.) can begin to show up around the mid-30s. For diabetics, this can happen sooner (lots of information discovered about glycation was through studies of diabeties).
  • Sugar is sugar. It doesn't matter if it is spoonfuls of the white stuff, honey, agave, maple syrup, chocolate syrup, fruit or vegetables. But, ideally, to slow down glycation you should definitely stay away from things containing refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup (AKA The Devil). 
  • Skin care products that include green tea or other collagen builders/boosters can help your skin to deal with the glycation process and slow things down a bit.
  • Smoking affects the blood vessels, depleting blood/nutrients to the skin cells (which also causes skin discoloration).
  • Chemicals in cigarettes and cigarette smoke cause the breakdown of collagen and elastin, resulting in premature aging - wrinkles and saggy skin.
  • Cigarette smoke builds up in pores, causing blockages which impair skin function - leading to sallow, dehydrated, dull skin. I can usually tell a cigarette smoker by the appearance of their skin alone.
  • Smoking causes those lovely "smoker's lines" around the lips and mouth.
Man, that was a total downer. OK, I'm going to include just a few other thoughts...

A Few Other Things that Suck the Life out of Healthy Skin
  • Not taking your makeup off at night - Your skin repairs itself from the daily grind while you sleep. A face full of makeup won't allow your skin to properly breathe, detoxify and repair. Rock that stuff during the day, though, baby! ;)
  • Scrubbing your face too hard/too much - Your skin is not your kitchen sink. Excessive cleansing, exfoliating or harsh scrubbing will actually cause more issues than it will help. 
  • Washing your face too infrequently - While every skin is different, skin does need a certain amount of proper and thorough cleansing to remove dead skin cells, debris and environmental pollutants.
So, if you are still with me after all that bad news, I want you to breathe a sigh of relief now when I tell you that, while it IS possible to follow these ideal rules to a tee - and my hat goes off to those who do - I would be a total lunatic if I did! And most people I know would, too.

In a world full of DO's and DON'Ts - sometimes there just has to be some "OH, WTFs"! Now, I'm not telling you to go out a swill a box of wine or drink a pot of coffee right now, but what I'm getting at is that there is a place of healthy moderation where we can, at least for a moment, throw caution to the wind. In our house we call these "Sometimes Foods."

Have a cup of coffee once in awhile. Enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner. In fact, coffee and red wine are actually loaded with antioxidants (although this doesn't change their effects in excess)! Have a tasty treat to celebrate a special occasion. We are only human! It is when we get into excess - something our culture knows well - that we can get into a funky place. 

But you really should never smoke. For reals.

So here are a few real-world tips to navigate these guidelines (obviously, check with your doctor to make sure these are appropriate for you and your dietary needs):
  • Limit caffeine to one serving a day (one cup of tea, coffee, etc.) or go decaf.
  • Limit alcohol to once in a while.
  • Limit sweets like cakes, pies, cookies and such to only special occasions. For a daily sweet treat, focus on fresh or dried fruit, so you are also getting the fiber and nutrition. Some of my faves: Orange slices with just a drizzle of dark chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt. Pomegranate seeds with a squirt of lime juice and a sprinkle of vanilla extract. Medjool dates stuffed with walnuts. These are all decadent and delightful while still offering good stuff for the bod.
  • Throw out your cigarettes. You will be healthier for it and your body is so awesome it can even begin to repair some of the damage you may have done while smoking.
  • Have some quick, natural cleansing cloths handy for those party nights you struggle to remove your makeup. Swipe your face before your head hits the pillow. :)
  • Incorporate a nourishing and supportive skin care regime into your daily routine. More on that in our next challenge!
Remember that we are human. Remember that life is to be lived. Not from a bubble, but in the real, live flesh. Enjoy life AND be healthy and good to yourself at the same time. You deserve it. :)

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