Lifestyle is written all over your face

Expensive lotions and potions won’t stop the clock, but watching what we eat and easing off on the sun and stress can reduce damage to our skin.

Lifestyle is written all over your face

ARE you 50-plus and squinting with determined eye-slits avoiding those reading glasses? Or do you regularly like to sip your favourite tipple from a straw, pursing your lips with pleasure as the liquid flows into your mouth and down your throat?

Don’t frown now! But those repetitive facial movements — squinting, pursing, and furrowing your brows — all lead to fine lines and wrinkles, which can speed up how old your skin looks.

Who cares? Aren’t the lines on our face the proud map of how we’ve lived life?

The cosmetics industry knows differently. Market researcher Lucintel predicts the global skincare products industry will be worth $102.3bn (€ 74bn) by 2018.

So it’s a fair guess that the majority of women in Ireland have at least one pot or tube of skin cream they hope will keep them line-free for longer, even if they are squinting to read the labels.

What are the myths and facts around those potions and how much is our lifestyle contributing to our wrinkles?

First up, tighten those purse strings. There is no such thing as a ‘facelift in a jar’ and the results that so-called anti-ageing creams can deliver, are modest, according to Dr Gillian Gibson, a Cork-based consultant dermatologist at the Bon Secours Hospital and the Lee Clinic.

Moisturiser is the “secret ingredient” in many products that make that promise, she says. “A good moisturiser with a sunscreen can reduce the appearance of fine lines and give your skin a more youthful appearance”.

And if you are forking out for other ‘magic nutrients’ — either in oral supplements or cosmetics — there is not enough research yet that warrants the widespread use of such nutrients to support skin ageing, she warns.

Even if a product boasts scientific research, these studies may have been performed with a petri dish in a lab or on an animal model of wound healing, yet marketed as producing the same effect on human skin.

Or sometimes ingredients don’t remain active in the product or don’t get absorbed by our skin anyway.

When you do don those reading glasses to read the label, be warned — the words ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ can be misleading. Most ingredients can’t be added to skincare products in their natural state, points out Dr Gibson.

“Ingredients such as plant extracts have to undergo extensive processing and modification before being added to the product.”

So, as you budget for that dream in a jar, remember more expensive does not mean always more effective. The most expensive components of some facial moisturisers are the fragrance, bottle and packaging.

Other home truths from the skin expert are:


Let’s just accept the inevitability of our ageing process; as we age, dead skin cells simply don’t shed as rapidly and turnover of new skin cells decreases.


External or lifestyle factors that age our skin prematurely are:

Sun exposure — causes freckles, brown age spots, spider veins on face, blotchy complexion, rough red patches [actinic keratosis] and fine wrinkles Smoking — leads to deeply wrinkled leathery skin and a yellow hue to complexion Air pollution, dry air, wind and cold — deplete the skin of moisture causing rough texture and fine dry lines Diet — research indicates high glycemic diets might be ageing. Eat fresh food and cut down on sugar and starches. Stress — research shows how individuals with chronic psychological stress have shortened telomeres (the ends of chromosomes related to how our cells replicate), which lead to premature ageing.

Instead of stressing over those crow’s feet and laughter lines and buying into the latest product on the shelf, maybe we should just try and relax and enjoy living healthily — it will show on our skin.

Never too old

Betty Soskin, 92, is the oldest full-time national park ranger in the US. Check her out at

Watch your eyes

Brighten up your week — and your chances of keeping your eyes healthy, with an array of colourful fruit and veg on your plate. The more colourful your diet, the higher the chances of it containing antioxidants.

Three antioxidants in particular zinc, beta-carotene and vitamin C, help protect your eyes from macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness over the age of 64.

As the summer brings its fresh bounty, eat lots of spinach, kale, red and yellow peppers — and don’t forget the bright red berries.

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