How does my daily lifestyle affect my skin health?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Many aspects of your daily life can have a huge impact on your skin health. What you eat and how stressful your life is affects how healthy your skin is, as does ultraviolet (UV) light exposure from the sun. Good daily habits that can benefit your skin include drinking lots of water; eating fruits, vegetables, healthy carbohydrates and proteins; and making sure that you control or reduce your stress. Staying hydrated gives the skin the moisture it needs so it doesn't become dry and flaky. A healthy diet provides the nutrients that skin needs to stay strong and stretchy, and to regenerate itself. Reducing stress, either through lifestyle changes or relaxation techniques, can reduce the sensitivity of your skin. It's also important to remember to wear sunscreen or protective clothing to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

Daily lifestyle and skin health are definitely linked. Ever noticed how whatever is going on in our life seems to show on our face? If we're stressed, we can expect acne and dark circles under our eyes. If we're dehydrated, our skin looks dry and flaky. If we're sick, our face appears pale. Eat or drink too much and we wake up with puffy skin. But get a stretch of feeling great, exercising and eating right, and we positively glow with health.

There's a reason for that. Our skin is our body's largest organ -- an average of 21 square feet, to be exact. Whatever goes on in the inside shows up on the outside.

Take smoking, for instance. Studies find that smoking prematurely ages skin by disrupting the body's natural process of breaking down old skin and replacing it with fresh skin. Smoking also triples your risk of squamous cell skin cancer (not to mention numerous other cancers).

Stress can also negatively affect your face (and the rest of the body). But the opposite is also true. What you eat and how you live your life can lead to smoother, healthier skin. Overall, your best bet for your skin is also what's best for overall health: a low-fat, high-fiber diet filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, plenty of water, regular exercise and enough sleep every night (not just on weekends).
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Some lifestyle habits can cause premature skin aging and result in unhealthy skin. People who smoke cigarettes may look older than they are.

Spending a lot of time in the sun can also cause premature skin aging, leading to fine lines, wrinkles freckles, and brown spots (known as age spots) on your face and the top of your hands. Frequent sun exposure causes thickening of your skin, making it rough and leathery. It even weakens the elastin and collagen in skin, so skin doesn't spring back" as readily. And it damages skin cells, putting you at increased risk for skin cancer. 

Sleeping with your face in the same position on the pillow every night can also lead to wrinkles. So can making the same facial expressions over and over again.

You can help prevent premature skin aging and unhealthy skin by changing some of your lifestyle habits. If you smoke, stop. If you love to be in the sun, wear protective clothing including a wide-brimmed hat and apply a broad-spectrum with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher 20 minutes before you go outside. Reapply as needed. To avoid sleep-induced wrinkles, sleep on your back.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.