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Limit the Effects of Ageing on Your Skin

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Your skin is your body’s largest organ, weighing about eight pounds (3.6 kilograms). This waterproof layer protects you against harmful chemicals and disease-causing microbes. It also helps regulate body temperature and allows you to feel touch, heat and cold.

Your skin is made of water, protein, fats and minerals. Understandably, taking care of your skin’s components as you age can help delay, reduce, or reverse ageing-associated skin changes.

Collagen and elastin are the two critical proteins of human skin. Type 1 collagen accounts for 80% to 90% of total skin collagen. Type II collagen represents approximately 15% of skin collagen.

Collagen is essential for preserving your skin’s firmness and elasticity. It has antioxidant and reparative properties, crucial for repairing damaged or wrinkled skin.

Collagen production decreases by 1% every year after the age of 25.

Elastin, about 2% of skin protein, is essential for your skin to stretch and recoil. Major amino acids in elastin are glycine, proline, alanine, leucine, and valine. As you age, your body produces less elastin, which can result in common age-related skin issues, such as fine lines, sagging, and wrinkles.

Studies show that the most severe damage to elastin occurs in photodamaged skin – that is, skin damaged by ultraviolet sunlight, causing DNA changes at a cellular level.

Six lifestyle factors that delay or accelerate skin ageing

Sleep and skin

Your skin cells produce collagen when you are asleep. Thus, chronic sleep deprivation is detrimental to your skin health. Good sleepers typically look younger than they might otherwise, while bad sleepers lose more water from their skin. Interestingly, those who get enough sleep daily also better perceive their appearance.

According to the National Institute on Ageing, older adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Hydration and skin

Dry skin is notoriously prevalent in older adults. So, how can you keep your skin supple and hydrated? The NHS Eatwell Guide suggests drinking six to eight cups of water daily; others suggest two litres. However, your needs may vary depending on your overall health, the medications/supplements you take and your activity level.

Another way to improve your skin hydration is to apply a moisturiser. Moisturisers trap water in your skin’s outermost layer, giving it a youthful appearance.

Exercise and skin

Exercise nourishes your skin cells, clears toxins from the skin and reduces stress. Aerobic exercise has increased the skin’s collagen content in previously sedentary older adults. Aerobic (endurance) exercise includes walking, jogging, swimming, biking, and skipping.

Exercise keeps your skin youthful and can help improve or reverse the signs of ageing. That is even the case when you start exercising later in life. Engage in aerobic activity for 30 minutes daily to start looking younger; recommend experts at the US Dermatology partners.

Alcohol and skin ageing

You will not be surprised to hear that alcohol increases inflammatory chemicals in the skin. Besides, drinking too much alcohol causes dry skin, as alcohol is a diuretic (i.e., a substance that increases urine output).

Consuming more than eight weekly drinks is associated with increased upper facial lines, under-eye puffiness, oral commissures, midface volume loss, and visible blood vessels.

It is best to avoid drinking alcohol. However, don’t go overboard if you want to indulge now and again. 

Smoking and skin ageing

We all know that smoking carries risks, but maybe not that nicotine is the main addictive substance in tobacco products. It promotes skin cell death and impairs blood flow to the skin. All these can negatively impact skin health and accelerate skin ageing.

Smoking a pack of cigarettes for approximately one year can increase wrinkling three-fold, reports a study in the journal JAMA Dermatology.

Vaping, often considered a safer alternative to cigarette smoking, can be as detrimental as smoking because vapes still contain nicotine. For instance, according to a 2021 study, e-cigarettes contain as much nicotine as conventional cigarettes.

Similarly, solvents and vape flavourings, such as propylene glycol and cinnamaldehyde, can cause skin irritation, inflammation and dryness. All these can accelerate age-related skin ageing.

Environmental pollution and skin ageing

Chronic exposure to polluted air can promote skin inflammation, leading to wrinkles and pigment spots.

Air pollution can also change your skin’s natural microbiome – the millions of microbes, particularly bacteria, that help maintain the skin’s health.

Also, particles released from automobile exhausts, fire, tobacco smoke, smog and power plants can penetrate the skin and increase inflammation. Consequently, long-term inflammation can accelerate ageing by decreasing collagen and elastin.

Moreover, some studies have linked air pollution to eczema and skin allergies. And, if that weren’t enough, exposure to heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, affects your skin’s immunity, resulting in inflamed skin and other signs of ageing.

Collagen supplements for ageing skin: How can they help?

A growing body of evidence supports using oral supplements to reduce signs of (or delay) skin ageing.

For instance, authors of a 2018 randomised trial of 64 females (at least 40 years old) separated them into two groups. The first group received 1000mg of low molecular weight collagen peptide once daily for 12 weeks, while the second group received an identical formulation but with no collagen.

Assessment at baseline and after six weeks and 12 weeks revealed that skin hydration and wrinkle improvement were significantly higher in the group receiving collagen.

Likewise, another study on Chinese women (at least 35 years old) concluded that collagen hydrolysate with a higher Pro-Hyp and Hyp-Gly content improved facial skin moisture and elasticity and reduced wrinkles and roughness.

Lastly, a 2022 review shows oral collagen supplements improve skin elasticity and hydration, decreasing wrinkling and roughness.

Many tablet supplements contain small quantities of collagen. Liquid supplements such as Cutizana from Clinic Nutrition contain 10,000mg of types 1 and 2 collagen per serving, which provides the essential amino acids for producing collagen, elastin and keratin.


Healthy skin can be considered a signpost for overall health. Poor nutrition, lack of adequate sleep and hydration, low exercise levels, and alcohol and nicotine consumption all manifest as ageing skin, which can mirror the effects on our bodies health.

Looking after yourself will result in your skin being in better condition and you looking younger. Combined with sensible protection against damage from UV light and with adequate nutrition, which may include supplements, you can give yourself the best chance of maintaining healthy skin and ageing gracefully.

Polly Clarke is a skin expert from Clinic Nutrition Ltd.

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