None of us is spared from the process of aging. We look in the mirror and see lines on our once youthful faces. Our skin doesn’t spring back when we touch it like it once did. Aging a physical process that many of us struggle to accept for ourselves.
Anti-aging science is still relatively new. There are some people we meet that look 10-15 years younger than they are. While we may be tempted to try the latest shockingly expensive anti-aging cream, let’s dig a bit deeper because the key to “anti-aging” is how your genes interact with your environment.
You have a lot more control over the aging process than you might think! In this article, we’re going to discuss why aging happens and how it affects our skin. We’ll explain how chronic inflammation is associated with premature aging.
Then we’ll look at the things in our environment that we have control over to reduce inflammation and slow the aging process. We’ll turn this into our holistic anti-aging plan, and you can download a copy at the end.
First, we need to start with a basic understanding of the current scientific theories about why we age.
Why Do We Age? Genes vs. Environment
The first theory about aging says that genes determine how we age and how long we live. Simply put, there are a few individual genes that control lifespan by controlling a lot of other genes that coordinate our survival systems.
When scientists “knock out,” or turn off, one of these genes, we see a significant difference in longevity. Current research indicates that our DNA is responsible for about 25% of our lifespan and the aging process.
The second theory about aging is centered around the environment. According to this theory, “wear and tear” leads to cells dying and the body’s systems malfunctioning. More specifically, chemical reactions happen in the body that cause damage.
For example, normal usage of oxygen in our bodies produces reactive oxygen species, or “free radicals,” which damage our cells. When the accumulation of small amounts of damage builds up and reaches a critical level, the systems in our bodies start to break down.
Another important factor in our environment is our diet. Foods like refined sugars, artificial sugars, alcohol, trans fats, and grains can cause faster aging. Many of these foods promote chronic inflammation, which is associated with premature aging.
Current studies show that, on the whole, it is the interaction of our genes and our environment that determine our biological age and longevity. Now let’s dive into how this interaction affects our skin.
How does our skin age?
One example of this environmental damage theory is photo-aging. This is the process of premature aging due to light, specifically ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation damages your skin’s DNA.
Repeated exposure to UV radiation leads to several signs of premature aging in the skin, such as:
- Wrinkling around the eyes and mouth
- Frown lines on the forehead
- Age spots
- Spider veins
- Uneven skin tone
Telomeres are protective caps at the end of your DNA strands. Telomeres become shorter with each replication of DNA. Stressful life experiences have been linked to accelerated telomere shortening. Not surprisingly, telomere length is a marker for cellular aging.
Once telomeres shorten to a critical length, the cell and DNA within it loses its ability to divide any further. If this process occurs at an accelerated rate, this leads to premature aging.
When cells reach this stage, called “replicative senescence” they enter a process called “programmed cell death.” This helps eliminate worn-out cells, and is the reason why exfoliating your skin removes dead skin cells, revealing brighter skin at the surface.
Another cause of aging in the skin involves the skin’s proteins. Proteins can become damaged by free radicals. Removing damaged proteins is important for cells to continue to function normally. Sometimes these damage proteins make inappropriate links with other proteins, preventing them from being broken down. This is called “cross-linking.”
When there is a build-up of cross-linked proteins, this causes damage to the tissues. Cross-linking of collagen proteins in the skin is an important factor in aging of the skin, which causes wrinkles and loss of skin elasticity.
Anti-Aging Science: How to Slow Aging
Good news! There are many things that you can control in your daily routine to slow aging. Your lifestyle, the products you use, and your diet play an important role in how young you look and feel.
Think about your body’s biological age like a bank account. The more you withdraw from this account, through poor habits, the faster your youth will diminish. The more deposits you make, through anti-aging habits, the longer you will enjoy your youthful body and appearance.
These suggestions are based on current theories in anti-aging science. Talk to your dermatologist about incorporating these anti-aging tips into your set of healthy habits.
- Avoid environmental sources of damage: excess UV radiation, smoking, and alcohol are working against you in the anti-aging battle. Apart from a few minutes in the sun for Vitamin D and an occasional glass of red wine, let them go!
- Antioxidant-rich Diet: Diet plays an important role in our overall health and inflammation levels. Avoid foods that cause inflammation, such as refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, grains, and trans fats. Seek out more of the six foods and drinks below to lower inflammation and slow aging.
- Teas contain antioxidants called polyphenols that protect your cells from free radical damage. Black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong tea, and rooibos tea are all good sources of antioxidants.
- Spirulina also helps to protect against premature aging. Spirulina is a spiral-shaped form of blue algae and is packed with 220 nutrients, including polyphenols, antioxidants, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids. An easy way to eat more of this is to add this to your smoothies.
- Green leafy vegetables – Kale, swiss chard, beet greens and spinach provide important nutrients to prevent cancers and many diseases associated with aging. This is your friendly reminder to eat your green veggies as part of your anti-aging plan!
- Wild-caught fish is one of the best ways to slow the aging process. Wild fish contains higher levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats than farmed fish. Wild Alaskan Salmon also contains high amounts of Vitamin D and an antioxidant called astaxanthin. Both of these antioxidants help fight the signs of aging.
- Berries contain another type of antioxidants called anthocyanins, which help maintain muscle and may help to prevent cancer growth.
- Tumeric is a famous herb in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, which is used for reducing inflammation and to prevent the signs of aging. Tumeric contains high levels of an anti-oxidant called cucumerin, which is what gives turmeric its vibrant orange color.
- Supplements: To slow down the aging process, Dr. Axe recommends supplementing your diet with adaptogen herbs, such as Ashwagandha and Rhodiola. He recommends protecting from cellular damage with Omega-3, Reservatrol, and Co-enzyme Q10.
- Sleep: Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do to prevent aging. In our over-stimulated society, this is one of the most overlooked health habits for slowing the aging process. Give yourself some time to wind down before bed, without any blue-light emitting screens, and aim to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily.
- Exercise: Becoming more active keeps you feeling younger physically by increasing lean muscle mass and building your cardiovascular health. Exercise also helps to lubricate your joints and helps the body’s natural detoxification processes.
- Play: Chronic stress, like inflammation, is an important contributor in aging. As adults, we often become too busy to play as we did when we were younger. We need to make time for activities purely for their enjoyment because they are a great source of stress relief. Play with your pets, learn to dance, make love to your partner, or play with your children (if they’re of the age when they will!).
- Essential oils: Essential oils are high in antioxidants and help to reduce cellular damage. Research indicates that Helichrysum italicum has high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. H. italicum has high concentrations of molecules called acetophenones, phloroglucinols, and flavonoids. These antioxidants inhibit oxidative stress and protect against DNA damage due to UV radiation. This photo-protective property, combined its ability to reduce inflammation, makes Helichrysum a superior natural solution to protect skin from aging. Make sure you use organic essential oils on your skin to avoid any chemical resides potentially left in non-organic essential oils from the manufacturing process.
- Organic Anti-Aging Skin Care: Your skin is your body’s first line of defense against environmental pollutants and UV radiation. It is also the first thing someone sees when they look at you. The skin is our largest organ and it is an indicator of our overall health and our biological age. It is important to give your skin the antioxidants it needs to fight oxidative stress. Here’s your daily skincare ritual for younger-looking skin.
- Cleanse – To start with, you want to remove makeup every night using a cleanser that is pH balanced. Keeping your skin’s natural moisture barrier intact while cleansing is important to maintain youthful looking skin. Many soaps and cleansers can strip skin of this barrier and alter the skin’s natural pH. You don’t need a face wash to lather into a foam for it to cleanse well. Look for a cleanser with activated charcoal because it helps purify your pores by drawing out environmental pollutants and makeup.
- Tone – Lift off sticky dead skin cells with a toner that contains organic fruit acids. This is the best way to gently exfoliate your skin every day without irritating it and causing redness. Many toners contain fragrances and alcohol, which can dry and irritate skin. Make sure you read the ingredient list on your products and avoid products with these ingredients. A natural toner helps prepare your skin for the next steps, increasing its ability to absorb nutrients and moisture.
- Protect – Next, protect your skin from free radicals you’ll encounter during the day with an antioxidant-rich serum. Supporting your skin in the fight against free radicals is one of the most important things you can do to keep your skin looking young. Dry skin accentuates the lines in our skin, so you should use a serum and a moisturizer. Finish in the daytime with sun protection. If your sun protection provides enough moisture, in the mornings you can skip the moisturizer and just use the serum.
- Moisturize – In the evening, finish your routine with a nutrient-rich night cream designed to reduce inflammation and fine lines. Choose a richer cream than you would use during the day to support your skin’s processes of repair and renewal. Look for products that contain Helichrysum italicum essential oil to help reduce inflammation and protect your skin’s DNA. Use organic products without artificial stabilizers, fragrance, fillers, or preservatives, which can add to inflammation.
Now you understand that it’s the interaction of our genes and our environment that determines our biological age and how well our cells are functioning.
You know that premature aging is associated with chronic inflammation. You have more control over the aging process than you might have thought, given that 70% of the aging process is determined by factors which you can control in your environment.
Your skin is a reflection of how youthful your body and cells are. It’s important to provide the nutrients your skin needs from the inside and the outside, through your diet and skincare routine.
The best way to do this is by choosing skin care products with organic essential oils and WITHOUT additives, to reduce inflammation in the skin. Support your skin with antioxidants against oxidative stress, and you will look and feel your best.
You’ve got a whole list of things to seek out to help slow your own aging, and a few to avoid. Now it’s time to put your knowledge into action and incorporate one of these eight tips for slowing down the aging process each week.
This is your holistic plan to slow down your own aging process!
Download your Free Checklist: 8 Habits to Slow the Aging Process
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Last updated Wed 12 July 2017 By Kathryn Watson
Reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT