by Laurie Wertich
There’s no doubt that healthy skin starts on the inside, but environmental factors can also have a huge impact on the health of your skin. Water is one of the most important ingredients for healthy skin, but no matter how hydrated you are, your skin may be losing precious water throughout the day as a result of your habits or living conditions.
Below are several culprits of water loss and what you can do to defend your skin.
Central Heating and Air Conditioning
Who knew that one of our most wonderful—and necessary—creature comforts can rob the skin of precious moisture? For many of us, central heating and air conditioning are non-negotiable facts of life, but they come with a price because they remove moisture from the air—and our skin.
Skin Defense: Moderation is key. Keep the temperature at a moderate, comfortable setting and avoid extremes. Use a humidifier or a bowl of water on top of a woodstove to raise the moisture content of the air to around 80-85 percent humidity, which is optimal for skin.
Of course we know the dangers of sunburn and skin cancer, but did you know that the sun also increases the rate of evaporation of water from the skin’s surface? As a result, the sun can quickly dry your skin out and accelerate the aging process.
Skin Defense: Moderation and caution are always best when it comes to sun exposure. Seek shade when possible. Apply sunscreen to block sun damage. After sun exposure, use antioxidant creams that contain vitamins A, C, and E. Jojoba oil and shea butter are also effective at rehydrating the skin.
Airline travel is a modern-day convenience many of us take for granted. If you travel a lot, you’ve probably noticed the effects of airline travel on your skin. The recycled air in an enclosed airline cabin is excessively dry—sometimes containing as little as two percent humidity. Even short flights can leave a significant impact on your skin.
Skin Defense: Drink plenty of water before, during and after the flight. Avoid alcohol, which will only exacerbate the problem. If you travel frequently and take long flights, you may want to consider misting your skin with water periodically during the flight.
As if you needed another reason to avoid smoking—it can cause almost as much wrinkling as sunshine. Smoking thins the skin by about 40 percent, which means water escapes more easily. Furthermore, cigarette smoke destroys vitamin C, which your body needs to manufacture collagen. The bottom line—smoking deprives the skin of nutrients and oxygen and can make you look 15 years older.
Skin Defense: This one is obvious—avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. If you’re having trouble quitting, there are numerous support programs to help you make the leap. Your skin—and lungs—will thank you.
Alcohol is a diuretic and causes rapid water loss. It ages the skin by robbing the body of oxygen and vitamin C.
Skin Defense: Use moderation. A little bit of alcohol can be healthy, but a lot can wreak havoc on your liver and your skin—not to mention your life. Exercise moderation—a few drinks a week—and be sure to drink plenty of water in addition to alcohol. You’ll need to drink an extra 12 ounces of water for every 8 ounces of alcohol in order to stay hydrated.
Low Fat Diets
Fat has gotten a bad rap—but the truth is, we need fat in our diets for many reasons. Essential fatty acids help keep the skin moist and pliable.
Skin Defense: Include healthy amounts—and types—of fat in your diet and avoid extreme diets that rob the body of essential nutrients. Include nuts, seeds, and oily fish in your diet for optimal skin health.