Stress, lack of sleep, poor diet and even too much time in front of your computer can wreak havoc with your looks, says Dermatologist Ann-Maree Kurzydlo. Here are 5 culprits to look out for.
Getting up with the birds to make 6am Pump, checking emails when you get up to the loo and fuelling said cycle with glucose can take its toll. And no matter how good you are at hiding your personal life, your face is likely to give the game away.
The face is a brutally candid barometer of inner health.
“The appearance of a patient can offer you some insight into their general wellbeing,” says Kurzydlo, a fellow of the Australasian College of Dermatologists (dermcoll.edu.au). Spots, wrinkles, puffiness and sagging are all hints. “A large number of signs on the face may reflect underlying systemic illness.”
Then there are injuries resulting from misguided attempts to survive an untenable workload (Friday night shot contest, cough). Yellow-tinged skin can point to jaundice, which results from a traumatised liver. Likewise, if Mars Bars are your opiate of choice, your face – more than your skinny jeans – is likely to out you. Nutritional deficiencies, which can result from knocking back takeaway fare at your desk or in the car, often leave their mark on skin – think a sickly pallor (anaemia), slow healing wounds (zinc deficiency) or breakouts.
It’s probably the last of your worries when you’re wondering whether your laptop’s going to conk out mid-meeting, but sweating can wreak cosmetic havoc.
“Sweating and not washing effectively afterwards can also clog up pores – so shower soon after exercise,” says Sydney dietitian and nutritionist Joanna McMillan (drjoanna.com.au).
Here’s another strike against leaving stress unmanaged. Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth can result in cracked, chipped or worn down teeth. If you notice your chompers eroding, ask your dentist about a customised mouthguard to wear while you’re sleeping.
You may also wish to relax your masseter muscles (the ones that bulge at the sides of your face when you clench) with a jab or two of Botox – especially if clenching is causing daytime headaches.
CULPRIT Friday night drinks
Alcohol is known to thieve winks, but boozing can also evidence itself in your face. It’s likely to show up around your eyes, warns nutritionist Dr McMillan. Bags, dark shadows and sallow skin are all common signs of too much partying. Worse news: dehydrated skin is also likely to become dry or break out.
Dehydration induced by alcohol can disrupt skin barrier function with knock-on effects that hurry ageing. If you want debrief the week at the bar, alternate alcoholic bevs with soft ones and make the next day a sober zone.
“For women, the recommendation is no more than two standard drinks a day on average,” Kurzydlo says. Aim for at least one to two alcohol-free days a week.
If that wasn’t warning enough, alcohol may also cause your face to bloat. The cortisol release stimulated by alcohol can trigger water retention, disguising your bone structure beneath a doughy jawline.
CULPRIT Long stretches online
If you tend to burn the candle and skip dinner, or cruise through lunchtime to dinner (or a sugary mid-arvo snack), your diet is inviting facial fallouts. Aside from making your brain work without adequate fuel (what’s it done to you?) and potentially undermining your potential, skipping meals makes it hard to consume the nutrients your body needs each day.
Deficiency number one? Iron. Too little can result in dark skin and eyes because a dearth makes it difficult for your body to create new (radiant) skin tissue. Dark, leafy greens stir-fried in coconut oil or oyster sauce are better than nothing.
Prolonged stints in front of a monitor without a break can also smash your looks by fatiguing eyes and face muscles (especially if you’re squinting), contributing to bags. If you do get dry or irritated eyes, avoid rubbing them, which can make matters worse because the skin around the eyes is so thin and delicate.
CULPRIT Arvo tea al vending
Even if it doesn’t show in your drainpipes, vending machine fare can do a number on your face.
“A lack of fats in the diet can lead to dry skin, whereas good fats such as oily fish, avocado and olive oil deliver fat-soluble nutrients, are anti-inflammatory and promote skin health,” says Dr McMillan. “Certain nutrients are important for the skin, including vitamins A, C, E and many antioxidants. A diet rich in plant foods – veg, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains – boosts intake of these factors.”
White sambo lunches are similarly hard to disguise. A teenage-style spot is just as likely to be caused by white bread as a giant Toblerone. “Low-GI diets have been clinically shown to improve acne by reducing glucose and insulin responses,” Dr McMillan explains. “This in turn has a knock-on effect on several other hormones. It’s a myth that chocolate causes acne – it’s more likely to be all the white flour.” Don’t mention deluging your system with sugar, which promotes glycation – cue accelerated ageing. Likewise, high-GI carbs.
Trade your white bread for wholemeal and get your sweet hit from fruit.
CULPRIT Sunbaking al desko
Whether you’re a landscape designer or desk monkey neighbouring a window, you’re in the line of UV fire – even in winter. While in the short term it can bring out pigmentation and blood vessels, longer term it’s likely to age you. Exposure to UV rays causes pigmentation, prominent blood vessels, wrinkles and other signs of premature ageing as it damages skin’s constituent collagen and elastin.
“There is very little that ages the facial skin more powerfully than excessive sun exposure,” Kurzydlo says.
“Daily use of a broad spectrum 50+ sunscreen is therefore vital to the anti-ageing campaign. The ageing process or what we perceive as older skin is probably 90 per cent accounted for by chronic sun exposure and 10 per cent by genetics.”