You may not know the biological ins and outs of your skin (and you don’t really need to), but one thing you do need to know is that your skin is made up of collagen and promoting the growth and regeneration of this collagen is key to ensuring that your skin looks young and wrinkle-free. Simply put, collagen is one of many bodily proteins produced by our cells which helps to keep your skin held together and make it firm and elastic. When we are young, our skin is kept plumper and smooth because this protein, collagen, regenerates itself.

As we age, however, collagen production begins to slow down and become damaged much easier, and this can result in wrinkly and sagging skin. The slowing down of collagen production is inevitable, but there are many environmental factors under our control which can either speed up or slow down this process.

Because of this, there is a lot you can do to make sure you aren’t contributing to the slowing down of collagen production.

#1: Stop Smoking

This is the main thing that causes the rapid deterioration of skin. Smoking is extremely bad for our health anyway, and the increased aging of skin is one of the least negative side-effects of it. Smoking helps speed up the deterioration of skin by creating enzymes called MMPs (matrix metalloproteinases), which massively inhibit collagen production and damage the existing collagen in your skin. This is exactly what causes the skin to sag a lot.

Quitting smoking, especially if you are a heavy smoker, is one step you can take towards a much healthier and better quality of life. You will look and smell better, live longer, and have more money. It’s a no-brainer, really. All it requires is some willpower and determination.

#2: Get More Vitamin C

Studies have proven that increased amounts of vitamin C in the diet directly correlate with better skin and a lower likelihood of developing wrinkles than those who consume less of it. Vitamin C is a crucial component of any diet and forms a core part of collagen production. Without Vitamin C, amino acids cannot be created to form the collagen protein.

It’s very, very easy to get higher levels of Vitamin C within your diet as it comes from many delicious foods and drinks. Good sources of Vitamin C include the likes of oranges, red pepper, dark leafy greens, tomatoes and kiwi fruits. Other sources of Vitamin C include skincare products which are specifically made for collagen care and production, including hyaluronic acid serum.

#3: Exfoliate Your Skin

By exfoliating, you end up removing the top layer of dead skin, which helps speed up the natural collagen production and skin repair processes. The best way to exfoliate is to use chemical exfoliants such as glycolic and lactic acid, however, there are plenty of natural options out there too. If you don’t like the idea of putting chemicals on your face, then why not head over to a natural cosmetics shop such as LUSH?

Chemical treatments do have their place, though. The acid-based treatments help dissolve glue-like substances which form on your dead skin and completely remove it, rather than simply rubbing it into the skin like natural scrubs do. Chemical exfoliants often leave a more even result afterward, too, which adds to the healthy look and glow on the skin.

#4: Cut Back on the Sugar

Eating too much sugar also causes premature aging. Although it’s not quite as bad as smoking, having excessive sugar in the diet can cause a process called glycation to take place. During glycation, the excess sugars which are found in the blood can attach itself to our fatty lipids, proteins (collagen) and nucleic acids to form glycation end-products. These end-products work to accelerate the aging process resulting in older-looking and wrinkled skin.

We’re not saying that you should be cutting sugar out of your diet completely. You can still enjoy it as part of a balanced diet. We have been made aware of the dangers of excessive sugar intake for years (high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity). So, just like quitting smoking, cutting down on sugar intake is just one step you can take towards a happier, healthier and longer life.

#5: Add Antioxidants to Your Diet and Skincare Routine

Antioxidants are found in many food products and skin treatments and they work by protecting us against so-called “free radicals” which, amongst other things, can cause the rapid aging of the skin. “Free radical” refers to a damaged bodily cell such as the skin cells and they are missing an electron; a damaged skin cell has one electron when it’s meant to have two.

These free radicals attach themselves to our otherwise healthy skin cells and work by “sucking” out the electrons they need, leaving our healthy skin cells damaged and unable to function properly due to the loss of an electron. This process triggers an enzyme which damages and breaks down collagen. Antioxidants counteract this by destroying the free radical, so it does not attach itself to and feed off our healthier skin cells.

Good sources of antioxidants include green tea, leafy vegetables, and cranberry juice.  

Looking after your skin is easy and you don’t have to suffer from wrinkles and sagging skin as a natural part of life. Not until you get pretty old, at least. Often, the causes of wrinkled and saggy skin are environmental factors, which are well under your control.

If you’re a middle-aged smoker and are noticing that your skin isn’t looking as good as it used to be, or you are somebody who knows they have way too much sugar, it is likely these things which are causing your bad skin. By changing your lifestyle, cutting out the bad and choosing to use the right skincare products and consume a balanced diet, you can up your collagen production and have your skin looking as it should.

By Erica Buteau

Change Agent. Daydream Believer. Maker. Creative. Likes love, peace and Jeeping. Dislikes winter, paper cuts and war. She/Her/Hers.

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