It's a fact of life: Your skin ages just like the rest of you. It's constantly exposed to the elements, from the punishing sun and heat to the bitter cold and wind. It's impressive to know that it holds up as well as it does. Through the years, the largest organ in the human body weathers sunburns, acne, stretching, winter dryness and cracking, and many other damaging effects without much too complaint.
Your skin performs several crucial roles. It keeps your body temperature regulated; protects you from infection and injury; keeps moisture inside; and filters and remove impurities.
But those duties exact a price on your skin, causing it to lose elasticity and become thin, dry and cracked. Wrinkles, blemishes and spots are frequent signs of aging skin.
But if you want smooth skin for as long as possible, there are things you can do now and throughout your life to make it happen. The key to remember is that making good health choices about your skin can keep it looking younger for a longer amount of time.
That means not just being careful about your exposure to the elements, but also being careful about what you do to your body as a whole.
By following 5 simple tips, you can have healthier, smoother skin.
Protect Yourself from the Sun
The sun causes the most damage to our skin, so protecting it when you're outside is a top priority. Skin cancer, age spots, wrinkles, freckles, and skin that's rough or dry are all symptoms of too much sun.
Staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest, can help protect your skin from ultraviolet rays that do the most harm to your skin. If you do go out during that time, wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible, including wide-brimmed hats and full-length shirts and pants.
When you do expose your skin to the sun, wearing a good sunscreen can protect you. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. If you're at the beach or exercising outside, make sure that it's water-resistant and sweat-proof, and that it'll protect you from a broad spectrum of radiation (both UVA and UVB rays). Reapply the sunscreen as needed [source: MedicineNet.com].
And while indoor tanning is popular, tanning beds harm skin cells in the same ways as the sun, increasing the risk of skin cancer later in life [source: American Skin Association].
Protecting your skin also means keeping it clean. Next, we'll look at the relationship between clean skin and smooth skin.
Keep Your Skin Clean
If you want smooth skin, you'll need to have clean skin, too. Washing your face twice a day with warm water, a clean wash cloth and soap or a cleanser removes dirt and oils and keeps your skin healthy [source: American Skin Association].
Be gentle when cleaning your skin if you want it to stay smooth, though. Avoid strong, scouring soaps, and limit the time you spend in the bath or shower. Shave carefully using a lubricating gel or foam, and pat dry with a towel after cleaning instead of wiping -- this will keep some moisture on your skin [source: Mayo Clinic].
Also, make sure you don't overdo it. While it's necessary for good hygiene, washing your skin too often, especially your hands, can cause damage. Soaps and detergents are among the most harmful things we routinely put on our skin. So, look for the most gentle soaps you can find and apply them regularly, but judiciously.
Next, we'll look at how to replace some of the moisture your skin loses from washing and other daily activities.
Your skin is made of three different layers: the epidermis, or the outermost layer of your skin; the dermis, the middle layer that contains blood vessels, nerve endings, and oil and sweat glands; and the hypodermis, which is mostly made of fat and contains your hair follicles. Moisturizers help that top layer retain moisture -- and this keeps skin smooth, too.
The best time to apply a moisturizer is right after you step out of the shower or bath. With your skin still damp, apply the moisturizer so your skin will keep that moisture in. You can also apply after you wash your hands and before going outdoors for extended periods in cold weather [source: Mayo Clinic].
Make sure to pick the right kind of moisturizer for your skin type. Water-based moisturizers are fine for skin that's neither too dry nor too oily. If you have dry skin, a heavier, oil-based moisturizer may be necessary, because it won't evaporate. Oily skin still needs moisturizing, but be sure to pick a water-based moisturizer that won't block up your skin's pores; look for the word "noncomedogenic" on the label.
If you're taking care of your skin but ignoring the rest of your body's health, then you're losing half the battle for smooth skin. Next, we'll see how what you put in your body can help or hurt your quest for smooth skin.
Maintain a Proper Diet
You are what you eat, and that goes for your skin, too. If you want smooth skin, there are certain foods to consider and certain foods to avoid.
Foods rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Vitamin D help keep skin smooth and healthy. Vitamins A and C are particularly helpful if you want smoother skin. They can also prevent spots and other growths from coming later in life [source: American Skin Association].
A good diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids from fish and antioxidants and vitamins from tea, fruits and vegetables may help preserve smooth skin and protect it from disease [HealthyWomen.org].
But a good diet for smooth skin would be incomplete without the most essential ingredient -- water. The human body is made up mostly of water, and keeping it properly hydrated is essential to preserving good skin.
Drinking 8 glasses of water a day can help maintain the proper fluid levels to keep your skin working right and properly moisturized [source: American Skin Association].
The positive effects of a good diet on your skin can be multiplied by taking a few more steps toward healthy living. Next, we'll see how a few lifestyle changes can help you hold onto your smooth skin.
Keeping your weight in check can give you smooth and healthy skin. Exercise, combined with a good diet, will do wonders for one of your most important organs.
Exercise increases your circulation, delivering more nutrients to the skin and the rest of your body while carrying away toxins. It also helps the body produce collagen, which minimizes wrinkles [source: WebMD].
If you smoke or drink too much alcohol, chances are you're harming your skin. Smokers have more wrinkles around their eyes and mouths, and tobacco can cause the skin to turn a yellow or brown color [source: American Skin Association].
People who consume too much alcohol develop enlarged oil glands and blood vessels, which can make your pores appear larger. Chronic alcohol abuse can often leads to liver problems, turning the skin a yellowish color.
For lots more information on skin care, see the links on the next page.
Large pores can make you look older and cause annoying blackheads. Learn how to shrink large pores naturally with our skin care tips.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- HealthyWomen.org "Skin Health Overview." Jan. 6, 2009. (April 29, 2010) http://www.healthywomen.org/condition/skin-health
- American Skin Association. "Healthy Skin." 2010. (April 29, 2010) http://www.americanskin.org/resource/
- HealthyWomen.org. "Get Beautiful Glowing Skin." 2010. (April 29, 2010) http://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/get-beautiful-glowing-skin
- Mayo Clinic. "Skin Care: 5 Tips for Healthy Skin." Nov. 29, 2009. (April 29, 2010) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/skin-care/SN00003
- American Skin Association. "Sun Safety." 2010. (April 29, 2010) http://www.americanskin.org/resource/safety.php
- MedicineNet.com. "Skin Care and Aging (cont.)." March 4, 2006. (April 29, 2010) http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=60686&
- Glamour Magazine. "8 Secrets to Getting Great Skin." July 31, 2008. (April 29, 2010) http://www.glamour.com/beauty/2008/08/8-secrets-to-great-skin
- Centers for Disease Control. "CDC - Hygiene of the skin: When is clean too clean?" March 5, 2009. (April 29, 2010) http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol7no2/larson.htm
- WebMD. "Smooth Skin Solutions." 2010. (April 29, 2010) http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/features/smooth-skin-solutions
- Mayo Clinic. "Moisturizers 101." Dec. 16, 2008. (April 29, 2010) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/moisturizers/SN00042
- WebMD. "Exercise Your Body, and Your Skin." 2010. (April 29, 2010) http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/guide/exercise-your-body-your-skin