Most Australians are well aware of the dangers of excessive sun exposure. It's the major cause of skin cancer and skin damage. We know that the best way to reduce the risk of skin cancer and keep the skin looking healthy and young is to avoid ultraviolet radiation. But there's more we can do to keep the skin in good shape.
Lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking and exercise can improve the appearance of skin and reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Diet and nutrition
Many diet and nutrition-related factors affect the health of the skin.
- A diet with a high intake of vegetables, olive oil, fish and legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils, and a low intake of sugar and dairy products has been shown to reduce the development of sun-damaged skin (Purba 2001).
- A diet high in vitamin C and linoleic acid (found in oils such as safflower oil, sunflower oil and evening primrose oil) results in fewer wrinkles and less skin dryness (Cosgrove 2007).
- People who drink coffee may have a lower risk of developing several types of skin cancer (Loftfield 2008, Song 2011, Ferrucci 2014).
- Vitamin C has proven benefits in wound healing and improving the signs of skin ageing (Pullar 2017).
- Fish oil may decrease pigmentation associated with ageing and has been shown in some trials to reduce the risk of both melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma (Huang 2018).
- Anti-oxidants, particularly co-enzyme Q10, can reduce inflammation which degrades collagen and elastin in the skin (Baumann 2007).
Regular exercise has been shown to improve the health of skin and reverse some of the effects of ageing. Exercise increases blood flow to the skin, which allows more oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to the cells. This promotes the development of the skin's collagen framework, which prevents sagging and wrinkles (Buiscemi 2021).
Exercise has been shown to reverse changes in mitochondria found in our muscles and skin (Szelinski 2021). The skin of people age 65 and over who exercise frequently more closely resembles healthy skin for individuals of much younger ages, between 20 and 40 (McClung 2020).
Smoking damages the skin, increase the risk of squamous cell carcinoma (Whiteman 2019), delays wound healing and contributes significantly to skin ageing.
- Nicotine narrows blood vessels and blood flow, reducing the amount of oxygen and nutrients that reach the cells.
- Many other chemicals in tobacco smoke increase the activity of enzymes that break down collagen and elastin.
- The heat from burning cigarettes and the facial muscle movements associated with smoking contribute to wrinkles (Ernster 1995).
- The skin of smokers is thinner (Sandby-Møller 2003)
- Chemicals in cigarettes, such as nitrosamines and tar, have been shown to cause cancer (Ayer 2018).