The New Year is typically a time to reset. Many resolve to lose weight, travel more often and commit to many other goals. But if achieving clearer, more youthful-looking skin is at the top of your list, there’s nothing more important than keeping your entire body in its healthiest state possible. Here are three resolutions you can make to keep your body—and skin—in tip-top shape this year.
1. Cut back on sugar and alcohol.
The holidays are often full of celebrations. Unfortunately, all that celebrating takes a toll on your skin. Simply put, overconsumption of sugar and alcohol is dehydrating, causes inflammation and can lead to breakouts and premature aging. In addition to containing a lot of sugar, drinking any type of alcohol prevents your body’s production of vasopressin, the important hormone that helps your body retain water and contracts blood vessels. Some people might notice their faces flushing more when they consume alcohol because the body’s water retention is limited and the blood vessels in our faces are dilated, allowing an increased rate of blood flow.
2. Get more quality sleep.
This time of year can also force us to choose between festivities and a good night’s sleep. Not only can a lack of sleep leave us with dark circles and bags under our eyes, poor sleep can have more dramatic effects, such as intensified skin reactions. Inadequate sleep also causes the body to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels decrease moisture retention, initiate inflammation in the body and suppress the immune system. This excess cortisol causes a variety of negative skin issues:
- increased likelihood of acne breakouts
- worsened immune-related skin disorders, such as psoriasis and eczema
- degraded collagen
- increased wrinkling and dryness
But it’s not just the amount of sleep that can affect skin health; the quality of sleep is also important. When the body enters into the deep sleep phase, it triggers growth hormones to help the body repair itself. While you sleep, your growth hormones accelerate, collagen production is increased and skin goes into a renewal phase. If the body doesn’t go into this repair mode, damaged cells can accumulate, causing skin to age faster. So, not getting enough sleep actually ages your skin.
3. Quit smoking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 more than 42 million Americans still smoked cigarettes. This is even with the worldwide knowledge that tobacco use causes more than 6 million deaths a year. Not only the diseases that are directly linked to tobacco use are an issue — cigarette smoking also wreaks havoc on the skin. Smoking contributes to poor wound healing, collagen degradation, abnormal skin growths, oral cancers, deep wrinkling and premature skin aging as well as a dull, sallow appearance.
Healthy skin function requires oxygen, and smoking restricts the flow of oxygen to skin cells. One cigarette causes capillaries to constrict for up to 90 minutes. Additionally, the carbon monoxide in cigarettes binds with oxygen and prevents it from reaching the skin cells. Smoking also causes an increase in the enzyme responsible for breaking down collagen. This acceleration in collagen degradation combined with repeated lip-pursing and eye-squinting during inhalation also contributes to increased severity of wrinkling and skin aging in smokers.
It’s never too late to take care of your skin. Now that the season of overindulgence is over, remember to be good to yourself and to ring in the New Year with a renewed resolve for healthy, glowing skin.