There’s no point making grand skincare resolutions that you’re likely to toss out in a week or two. Instead, weed out easily missed everyday habits that are the real culprits behind your skin problems, such as being glued to your smartphone, yo-yoing sleeping time and overindulging your sweet tooth.
Screw-up #1: Hopping from one fad diet to the next
In an era of Paleo menus, green cleanses and acaibowlsfor-breakfast, not only are you what you eat, your skin is also what you eat. In fact, your skin bears the brunt of your everchanging diet. As Jaclyn Reutens, dietitian at Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants, puts it, fad diets often miss out on important foods such as whole grains, fruit, chicken and red meat, which are high in vitamins A and C, and minerals such as zinc and selenium.
“These vitamins and minerals improve collagen formation, protect against acute photo damage and [aid in the regeneration of]skin cells.” Jaclyn adds that the different nutrients across food groups work together to help maintain the skin’s barrier function – its first line of defence – which is subject to environmental and internal stressors every day. “If you keep trying fad diets ever so often, you will not [have a] constant supply of [certain] nutrients and your skin will likely suffer the consequences.”
If you must go on a diet, don’t do it for more than four months, advises Dr Eileen Tan, dermatologist at Dr Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic. She adds that a deficiency in nutrients such as zinc, folate, iron and vitamin B12 is also the reason for hair loss and brittle nails. “Individuals who jump from one fad diet to another also tend to have yo-yoing weight. Large swings in body weight can cause skin laxity and disrupt your hormones,” says Dr Calvin Chan, medical director at Calvin Chan Aesthetic & Laser Clinic.
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Screw-up #2: Overindulging your sweet tooth
You won’t be getting just a sugar rush (or bad teeth). According to Dr Chan, medical studies have shown that consuming too much sugar causes a process known as glycation, where sugar molecules like glucose attach themselves to proteins and lipids. “This process is said to promote cell inflammation and harden proteins, such as collagen and elastin, in the skin’s structure, slowing down [reparative] processes, and ultimately causing the skin to lose its elasticity and [wrinkles to appear],” he explains.
Jaclyn adds that a diet high in sugar can increase insulin levels, which lead to higher androgen levels, increased sebum production and clogged pores. Consequently, elastin and collagen molecules can get damaged, resulting in wrinkles, saggy skin and acne flares.
Excessive sugar consumption may also build insulin resistance, which, says Dr Chan, can cause darkened pigmentation patches on the neck and underarms, and along the panty line. It can also cause increased hirsutism, whereby women experience unwanted male-pattern hair growth on areas such as the face, chest and back. More food for thought: eating sweet stuff before bedtime causes a spike in blood sugar and can compound the problems.
A DIET HIGH IN SUGAR CAN INCREASE INSULIN LEVELS, WHICH LEAD TO HIGHER ANDROGEN LEVELS, INCREASED SEBUM PRODUCTION AND CLOGGED PORES. CONSEQUENTLY, ELASTIN AND COLLAGEN MOLECULES CAN GET DAMAGED, RESULTING IN WRINKLES, SAGGY SKIN AND ACNE FLARES. – Jaclyn Reutens, dietitian at Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants .
Screw-up #3: Overconsumption of caffeine and alcohol
Consumed in large amounts – think more than four cups of regular coffee and more than 100ml of wine a day – caffeine and alcohol can have a diuretic effect (that is, cause an increased passing of urine), which leaves the body and skin dehydrated. When this happens, the skin can appear more prune-like faster and toxins accumulate more readily in the body, leading to dull skin or pimples, says Jaclyn. So stay well hydrated. “Drinking eight glasses of water a day helps remove toxins from the body and promotes skin regeneration for plump, healthy skin.”
Screw-up #4: Overusing your smartphone
All that looking down can be bad for the eyes and neck (hello, text neck). “What you may not know is that staring down at your handphone for extended periods of time can also cause premature neck wrinkles,” says Dr Low Chai Ling, medical director at The Sloane Clinic. “So try to maintain a good posture while checking your phone. Furthermore, squinting at the small screen can also lead to premature crow’s feet.” Dr Chan adds that if you use your phone before bedtime, the blue light can disrupt your sleep cycle as it triggers wakefulness.
The reduced sleeping hours results in increased cortisol levels, which in turn stimulates oil production. The result? Oilier skin and more breakouts. Sleep loss “can also cause the breakdown of a protein that forms the skin’s building blocks, resulting in fine lines, wrinkles, laxity and a dull, sallow complexion.”
Screw-up #5: Overdoing skin treatments such as facials
Being overly enthusiastic about skin treatments (read: going for them too often) can increase your risk of contact dermatitis, which shows up as dryness, flakiness, itchiness and redness, says Dr Tan. Dr Georgia Lee, medical director at TLC Lifestyle Practice, suggests a two-week break between basic facials (those involving extractions and calming masks); the same goes for non-ablative lasers. As for facials that involve exfoliation and chemical peels, which can sensitise the skin, wait a month before going for the next session.
Screw-up #6: Having a dirty, dusty home or office
We all know about outdoor pollution and how it can wreck havoc on the skin. But indoor pollution can be just as bad, causing problems such as skin irritation, rashes and itch. Sources of indoor pollution include mould and mildew from curtains and carpets as well as dust mites from upholstery and bed linens, says Dr Lee. Her solutions: avoid carpeting your home or office, and dehumidify the space overnight to prevent mildew formation. Also, vacuum regularly and keep airconditioner filters clean so they can trap pollutants more effectively.
Screw-up #7: Having an irregular sleep pattern and not getting enough sleep
If you sleep late every night but wake up at the same time in the mornings, you’re better off than someone whose sleeping and rising times are always changing. “An irregular sleep pattern messes with your natural body clock, which has a knock-on effect on all the body’s processes, from digestion to mood, concentration and organ health,” explains Dr Chan.
It also has a detrimental effect on stress levels, hormonal balance and, in turn, the skin, he says. “Cortisol (the stress hormone) breaks down proteins in the skin, reducing its elasticity, and causing fine lines and wrinkles.” Dr Lee advises that if it is not possible to keep to the same sleeping time every night, at least get four to five hours of continuous sleep to give your body and cells thorough time for the selfreparative process.
The reason? There are four stages of sleep and only in the third stage – when deep sleep takes place – can our cells start to repair themselves. Dr Chan explains: “It is during deep sleep that the body releases human growth hormones to stimulate [cell] rejuvenation and repair [the damage sustained by the] skin and body cells during the day.” He adds that napping during the day is not going to cut it either, as the energy required for the skin’s natural reparative process is not available then. Sleep deprivation can also result in reduced blood circulation in the skin, says Dr Lee, and this hinders the reparative process.
Screw-up #8: Not sleeping on your back
Love resting on your side or stomach? Dr Low cautions: “The (constant) pressure of your face against the pillow can damage collagen fibres and cause creases that eventually become permanent wrinkles.” To prevent that from happening, sleep on your back, she says, and place a pillow between your knees; it’ll stop you from rolling over in your sleep.
“AN IRREGULAR SLEEP PATTERN MESSES WITH YOUR NATURAL BODY CLOCK, WHICH HAS A KNOCK-ON EFFECT ON ALL THE BODY’S PROCESSES, FROM DIGESTION TO MOOD, CONCENTRATION AND ORGAN HEALTH.” – Dr Calvin Chan, medical director at Calvin Chan Aesthetic & Laser Clinic.
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