As much as we’d love for the fountain of youth to exist—especially when we cross big milestone birthdays—the truth is, it doesn’t.
And while we can spend huge amounts of money on creams, lotions, and ‘miracle’ treatments, we’re all going to age eventually. That’s nature.
Recent discoveries have helped us understand how ageing works. A study led by Mark Birch-Machin, Professor of Molecular Dermatology at Newcastle University, and Dr Amy Bowman, found that activity in mitochondrial complex II decreases with age. In short, the batteries in our skin cells get run down as we get older.
“Our study shows, for the first time in human skin, that with increasing age there is a specific decrease in the activity of a key metabolic enzyme found in the batteries of the skin cells,” Professor Birch-Machin explains.
This manifests in wrinkles on our skin and sagging, as well as other processes we can’t see in the mirror.
Eventually, anti-ageing treatments may be developed and tailored to different skin types. The research could also provide useful information on the way other organs in our body age.
Treatments and products that harness this research might still be a while away. But for now, there are other options for ageing gracefully.
Prevention the best protection
Naomi Ferstera, an accredited exercise physiologist, exercise scientist and nutritionist says that preventing sunburn is critical to slowing down skin ageing and what we eat can help protect our skin.
“Research has shown that diets that are higher in omega 3 offer natural protection against sunburn. Foods that are high in omega 3 include salmon, mackerel, oysters, cod liver oil, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts,” Ferstera says.
She warns that we also shouldn’t neglect our water intake.
“As we become dehydrated, our skin loses its effectiveness as a barrier and becomes more sensitive to external reactants. It also loses its firmness leading to fine lines and wrinkles.
“UV is able to dehydrate our skin and it damages the elastin in our skin further contributing to fine lines and wrinkles. As we drink more water, it adds moisture to the top layer of our skin, plumping it up and improving its physical appearance.
“Therefore, protecting our skin against UV (such as with omega 3) and then drinking more water will aid in preventing premature ageing of the skin.”
What foods are best for your skin health?
Nutritionist and nutrigenomics expert Dr Carlotta Petti says there is some scientific evidence that certain nutrients in our food have the potential to fight the signs of ageing.
“A diet that’s full of fruits and vegetables, particularly Vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables and any green and yellow coloured vegetables has been shown to help decrease wrinkle appearance and may protect from developing age spots,” she says.
Petti recommends: citrus fruits, strawberries, rockmelon, papaya, mango, broccoli, kale, spinach, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, zucchini, asparagus, green beans, butternut squash, and corn.
“A high intake of Vitamin E-rich foods has also been shown to help fight the ageing effects of the sun on the skin,”
Petti recommends: avocado, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, salmon, trout, fish roe, wheat germ oil, almond and sunflower oil.
Petti also says some studies have shown that drinking green tea with its antioxidant properties might counteract the wrinkling effect of the sun—but you would need to drink a lot of it.
Other antioxidant-rich food include blueberries, broccoli, pumpkin, and seafood. And rejoice—red wine and dark chocolate are included in foods found to have antioxidants. Fantastic news all round.
Adjust your skin regime
When it comes to anti-ageing, there are some simple lifestyle changes you can make to benefit a youthful, or at least younger, appearance.
Avoiding prolonged sun exposure and reducing the harmful impact of the sun will help keep your skin in good shape—and reduce your risk of skin cancer. In fact, Australian and New Zealand sun safety peak body now agree we should all apply sunscreen daily as part of our morning routine.
An article published in the Journal of Public Health led by Professor David Whiteman and Associate Professor Rachel Neale from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute found that Aussies get a lot of sun exposure.
“In Australia, we get a lot of incidental sun exposure from everyday activities such as walking to the bus stop or train station, or hanging out washing,” Professor Neale said.
“At last year’s Sunscreen Summit, we examined all of the evidence around sunscreen use and we have come to a consensus that Australians should apply sunscreen every day when the maximum UV level is forecast to be three or higher.”
Stop smoking. The Australasian College of Dermatologists tells us smokers are more likely to develop deeply wrinkled, leathery looking skin than non-smokers, including wrinkles around the mouth from puckering your lips to hold a cigarette. The complexion of someone who has smoked for years tends to develop an unhealthy yellowish sallow hue.
Even though we mentioned red wine as an antioxidant, that’s not a green light for over-indulgence. Alcohol dehydrates your skin and causes inflammation—which as mentioned earlier, causes cell damage.
Three step approach
Of course, a little extra secret weapon in your fight against ageing can’t hurt, but really the best skin routine comes down to keeping it simple—cleanse, moisturise and apply sunscreen daily.
Look for a cleanser that is sulphate free, soap-free and pH balanced. For a moisturiser pick the one that best suits your skin, and for sunscreen a broad spectrum SPF 30+ is always a great choice.
The best advice to fight ageing is to look after your diet and avoid prolonged sun exposure. It’s safer and cheaper to protect the skin you’ve got rather than search for the elusive elixir of youth.