As the body’s largest organ, your skin reflects your overall health. While some things such as autoimmune diseases are outside your control, many things such as a healthy diet, exercise and getting enough sleep can improve your skin.

While a glass of wine or pint of ice cream won’t hurt, it is important to incorporate healthy habits such as a balanced diet. These simple lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on your skin.

1. Smoking

Smoking is linked to a number of health conditions such as heart disease, lung cancer and stroke, but it also has a direct effect on your skin. The toxins in cigarettes constrict blood vessels, decrease oxygen flow and break down collagen, leading to premature ageing of the skin. This damage may be visible as crow’s feet, smoker’s lines and a dull complexion.

While everyone gets wrinkles eventually, smokers experience them much sooner and they tend to be deeper. This is due to heat from smoking, squinting to keep smoke out of their eyes and the chemicals inhaled from burning tobacco.

Smokers are more likely to get psoriasis which causes scaly patches of thick, dry skin that look red on light skin tones and brown on dark skin tones. This is thought to be because the nicotine in cigarettes reduces immune function, irritates the skin and slows cell growth. Thankfully, once you quit smoking the effects on your skin can be reversed. You can even notice a difference just one year after quitting. Many former smokers swear they look years younger!

2. Poor Diet

A poor diet can negatively impact your skin in several ways. Junk foods contain saturated fats, salt, and other chemicals that don’t nourish your body the way they should. They also contain a lot of sugar that can wreak havoc on your skin. Eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help your skin stay soft and clear.

High-sugar foods cause your microbiome to be disrupted, causing inflammation that makes you look sallow and can cause spots on your skin. High-fat foods also cause inflammatory conditions, which can lead to fine lines and wrinkles.

Colorful fruits and vegetables provide your skin with carotenoids and Vitamin C, which replenish the moisture in your skin. This can prevent the dryness and flaking of your skin that may be caused by aging or chronic diseases. The skin’s elasticity is also impacted by your diet, so eating lots of nutrient-rich foods like lean meats, fish, and eggs will improve the look of your face and skin. You can also try consuming more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds.

3. Alcohol

Drinking alcohol on a regular basis can negatively impact the skin in the long and short term. Long term drinking can lead to a host of skin issues like dryness and reduced elasticity while short-term alcohol consumption can cause flushing and dark circles. It also diminishes the good bacteria in the gut and this imbalance may be responsible for triggering conditions such as acne and eczema.

Heavy drinking can interfere with hormone systems and disrupt the body’s balance of fatty acids. This leads to an increase in blood sugar levels which can affect the health of the skin and contribute to acne. It also disrupts the natural production of collagen and elastin, which can result in fine lines, sagging skin, and dullness.

A good skincare routine can help combat these effects but cutting alcohol out completely is the best option for your skin. When you do indulge in a glass or two, make sure to space out your drinks and choose clear liquors that have the least amount of sugar. This will reduce some of the adverse short and long-term effects of alcohol on your skin.

4. Lack of Exercise

A regular exercise routine is good for the body, including your skin. Breaking a sweat improves circulation and blood flow which can make your skin look more radiant. It also reduces stress and, as we know, stress wreaks havoc on the skin, triggering breakouts, inflammation and rashes like rosacea and psoriasis.

Moreover, high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) deplete collagen and elastin, damages the barrier, increases oxidative damage and promotes aging. However, exercising regularly helps manage these issues, as does a regular skincare regimen and proper sleep.

Moreover, exercise boosts mitochondrial health2. These cells are the powerhouses of our cells and are essential for healthy skin, especially as we age. Research has shown that endurance exercises such as cycling and running may even have anti-aging benefits thanks to this effect. It’s also important to hydrate before, during and after a workout. This can help prevent the development of hives (a common trigger in people with certain rashes such as rosacea). In addition, choosing a cleanser that’s gentle on the skin is key. A mild formula without added oils is ideal.

5. Stress

The skin is one of our largest organs and the body’s protective envelope, so it’s not surprising that stress has a negative impact on your skin. When stressed, your body produces cortisol which can aggravate existing conditions like psoriasis, eczema and rosacea or trigger new rashes or hives. It can also interfere with your daily skin care routine and make it harder to stay hydrated.

We’ve all experienced that nervous, flushed feeling that causes you to sweat, but this is actually a normal biological response. These sweat toxins are excreted from the apocrine glands in the scalp, groin and armpits as part of your stress response.

Chronically high levels of stress can also lead to dehydration, premature aging, reduced collagen production and poor diet choices. The best thing you can do to keep your skin healthy is eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, drink lots of water and exercise regularly. This will help your overall health, mental well-being, digestion and mood, as well as ensuring you maintain healthy skin. You can’t go wrong with a pint of ice cream every once in a while, but moderation is key!

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