By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
It feels great to be healthy. But if we’re all honest—I mean really honest—it’s even better when you look as good as you feel.
Taking care of your skin is a big part of that. If you’re already following a healthy vibrational energy lifestyle, good for you. You’re already reaping the benefits that those choices have on your appearance. If you’re not, then listen up—because this approach to overall health is also a great natural skin care routine that could help you look years younger.
Where Do Lines and Wrinkles Come From, Anyway?
Before I explain how the healthy vibrational energy lifestyle can help you prevent skin aging, it’s important to understand how aging happens.
The primary protein that gives our skin its shape, firmness, and overall youthful appearance is collagen. Think of collagen like the springs in a mattress. It’s not a solid structure, but rather a matrix of interlocking fibers that “hold up” the skin. The space between the collagen fibers is generally made up of water, fats, and other nutrients that support the skin.
What typically happens with aging is that the body becomes less efficient at building collagen. As the structure gradually becomes weaker, and some parts fail, we develop visible wrinkles and sagging. Some of this decline is genetic, but a lot of it occurs because of long-term free-radical damage to the collagen cells.
This is where your skin can really benefit from a lifestyle that promotes healthy vibrational energy. One of the main goals of healthy vibrational living is to reduce inflammation—and inflammation is caused by, you guessed it, free radicals.
Obviously, I recommend that you follow the entire healthy vibrational energy program. But as far as your skin and appearance go, these are the four most important rules:
Rule #1: Minimize Sugar Consumption
Sometimes I feel like I’m a broken record on this point. Then again, there seems to be no end to the ways in which sugar can damage our health—including our skin.
Whenever you have excess sugar in your blood, it’s prone to combine with proteins or fats to form something called advanced glycation endproducts, or AGEs. That acronym should be easy to remember, too, since the number one thing AGEs do is prematurely age you!
One way AGEs do this is by stoking free radical activity, which damages collagen cells and inhibits their ability to repair and/or replicate themselves. Over time, this means your body slowly loses the ability to build pristine new skin. The effect is somewhat like what you see when you make a photocopy of a photocopy. Everything looks the same, but it’s slightly less sharp. (I should mention here that UV rays from the sun are the biggest source of free radical activity in the skin, which is why the cumulative effects of sun exposure are so noticeable.)
Another way AGEs damage your skin is by adhering to the underlying collagen structure. Not only does this make the collagen more brittle and likely to break, but it also interferes with the body’s ability to build and arrange collagen, which weakens the overall matrix and gives skin a saggy, wrinkled look.
This is very much like the effect AGEs have on the arteries, as well. In addition to causing inflammation, AGEs make blood vessels stiff and brittle, which leads to high blood pressure, plaque buildup, and arterial dysfunction. It’s why a condition like diabetes will age you an average of 15 years faster than normal. With the skin, we simply see that this happens on both the inside and the outside of the body.
Rule #2: If You Wouldn’t Eat It, Think Twice About Putting It On Your Skin
Here, it’s important to remember that free radical activity can also be caused by chemicals and toxins that we ingest, inhale, or absorb through contact with our skin.
Many cosmetics, lotions, personal hygiene products, and even sunscreens, are loaded with chemicals and perfumes that I wouldn’t want anywhere near my body. Plus, when you put something on your skin, you’re putting it directly onto the cells it could be damaging!
Of course, some products are safer than others. To learn which ones, I recommend checking out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. But in general, I like to go by this rule of thumb: If I wouldn’t put it in my mouth, I carefully consider whether I’ll put it on my skin. Safest bets are edible oils like olive, almond and sesame oil. Coconut oil is another great example. It’s great for cooking, but it’s also a fantastic moisturizer. Not only does it smell good, but its antimicrobial properties make it great for killing germs. Try a dab—but a word of warning, a little goes a long way!
Rule #3: Eat the PAMM Way
Since stopping free radical damage is our goal, following the Pan Asian Modified Mediterranean (PAMM) diet is a no-brainer. PAMM is rich in foods loaded with antioxidant nutrients that can help neutralize free radicals, reduce inflammation, and repair damage caused by the sun’s UV rays. (The sun is the biggest source of free radical damage in the skin.) Three of the most essential are vitamin E (get it in almonds, olive oil, spinach, sweet potatoes, and avocados), vitamin C (get it in oranges, kale, red and yellow peppers, and broccoli), and beta carotene (get it in carrots, beets, bell peppers, squash, and sweet potatoes).
Rule #4: Think Outside the Cosmetics Aisle
What do I mean by this? Well, you may be surprised to learn that Earthing (also known as “grounding”) is actually a terrific way to support your skin and prevent aging.
When you ground yourself, your body absorbs free electrons from the Earth’s surface. And since free electrons are just what free radicals are searching for, Earthing effectively neutralizes them, stopping the damage they cause. What’s more, Earthing also enhances blood flow—which means more nutrients can be delivered to your skin for tissue repair and rejuvenation. (Read more about the research study that found this to be true.)
One More Thing—Don’t Forget About the Sun
Of course, I can’t close without mentioning how important is that you be smart about sun exposure, because UV rays are the biggest cause of free radical damage to the skin. I learned this the hard way in 2011, when my dermatologist and I discovered that the innocent-looking spots on my face were actually squamous cell lesions, a form of skin cancer. With my fair skin, Irish roots, and family history of skin cancer (my mom had basal and squamous cell carcinoma), I knew I was vulnerable, but was nevertheless surprised. Thankfully, I’m fine now, and have upped my prevention game.
I do believe that we all need to get outside every day and feel the warmth of the sun on our skin. It’s important for vitamin D production, but it’s also about soaking in the positive energy that sunshine offers. But be smart. Sun is the epitome of “too much of a good thing.” Don’t stay out more than 20 minutes without some sort of protection. Since I question a lot of the toxic chemicals in sunscreens, I like to put on a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt and a wide-brimmed hat. Any exposed skin gets a coating of good, old-fashioned zinc oxide after 20 minutes of unprotected exposure. It may not be the most fashionable look, but I know I’m doing the right thing for my health.
References and Resources:
- EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database
- Chevalier G. Grounding the Human Body Improves Facial Blood Flow Regulation: Results of a Randomized, Placebo Controlled Pilot Study. Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications. 2014;4(5):293-308.
- Ober C, Sinatra ST, Zucker M. Earthing: the most important health discovery ever? (2010, 2014).
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