Lifestyle has been proven to have a dramatic effect on the risk of age-related diseases. The association of lifestyle and facial ageing has been less well studied. Facial ageing consists of changes to many tissue types and is, to a degree, reflective of systemic ageing. Indeed, some lifestyle factors that influence human longevity also associate with facial ageing.
One of the goals of ageing research is to provide interventions that can reduce the rate at which damage accumulates in the body and, hence, to help individuals get gorgeous and maintain their health and vitality as they age. Longevity and many age-related diseases are influenced predominately by environmental factors. Lifestyle choices also play a significant role towards ageing smartly.
Lifestyle Factors and Facial Ageing
A recent study was conducted to identify lifestyle factors that associate with perceived facial age in men and women aged 45-75 years from European countries. Some of the lifestyle factors in European men that resulted in a higher perceived age with a total of 9.3- years higher than the chronological age were:
- Having skin that went red in the sun
- Sun exposure for prolonged periods of time
- Wearing of false teeth and not flossing teeth daily
Lifestyle factors in the European women who were smokers that resulted in a higher perceived age with a total of 9.1 – 10.9 – years higher than their chronological age were:
- Irregular skin moisturization and hydration
- Few remaining teeth
- Wearing false teeth
- Low body mass index (BMI)
- Being unmarried
- Low socioeconomic status
- Poor skin and oral care
Smoking and sunbed use for tanning purposes were associated more strongly with wrinkling in women than in men. BMI, sun exposure and skincare were associated predominantly with perceived facial age via wrinkling, whereas oral care was associated via other facial features.
Approximately 10 per cent of the population of Northern Europe use sunbeds on a regular basis for tanning purposes. Sunbed users are still at risk of skin cancer even if they do not burn their skin, according to a new study by Dundee University.
Five lifestyle factors that can predict premature ageing
Lifestyle factors can have long-term beneficial effects on youthful looks. Five significant lifestyle predictors of a higher perceived facial age in both men and women most commonly linked with significant aspects of premature skin ageing are:
- Poor skin care – lack of skin hydration
- Poor oral care – irregular flossing and brushing of teeth
- Sleep deprivation
- Smoking, and
- Sun exposure
Greater sun exposure is the main environmental exposure that does not directly affect internal organs in the body, although the production of vitamin D in skin from sun exposure can give indirect beneficial effects.
Nutrition and Sleeping position
There is clinical evidence that nutrition and sleeping position are linked with the presence and severity of skin wrinkling. There is now evidence that acute short-term sleep deprivation affects facial appearance. A higher BMI was significantly associated with a lower perceived facial age in the women (those who were obese looked 2·1 years younger than those of normal weight).
Good Lifestyle Behavior to Look Younger
In the men, flossing teeth was associated with a lower perceived age by1·2 years younger and not wearing false teeth was also associated with a lower perceived facial age of 1·4 years younger. Whereas in women, those with fewer than half of their teeth remaining looked 2·3 years older than those with most of their teeth remaining. The sunbathing habits of women were significantly associated with a higher perceived facial age. Those who said they often sit in the sun looked 2·5 years older than those who do not go into the sun. Women with poor oral care (those who brushed their teeth once a day or less) looked 2 years older than those who brushed twice a day. Also, women with poorer skincare who moisturized irregularly looked 2 years older than those who moisturized regularly all their life.
Lifestyle Factors for Predicting Face shape – Sagging and Wrinkles
Less sun exposure, more regular skin moisturization and a higher BMI are associated predominately with less wrinkling, whereas good oral care is strongly associated with fewer face shape changes such as sagging. Smoking and sunbed usage for tanning is associated with a higher degree for wrinkles.
Good Oral and Skin Care – A Must to Look Younger
Regular skin moisturization is significantly associated with a lower perceived facial age. Skin hydration and moisturization is capable of directly influencing skin ageing. For example, it has been shown to improve skin hydration and condition, to reduce the presence of inflammation markers.
Significant evidence is now documented for association of sun exposure, sunbed use, smoking, oral care, skincare and BMI with higher perceived facial age and together could predict up to 11 years of difference in perceived age. Lifestyles of particular note were sun exposure and oral care, as they were significantly associated with higher perceived age in both men and women, and greater sun exposure and poor oral care also result in looking older.
Wrinkling has been noted for many years to be more prevalent in sun-exposed body sites than sun-protected sites. Sunscreens have been demonstrated to prevent the appearance of wrinkling, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes a wide range of cellular damage, particularly to DNA. Sunbathing habits and sunbed use for tanning were strongly associated with increased wrinkling in both men and women. Hence, the use of sunbeds or sunbathing for beauty purposes (a tanned appearance is associated with attractiveness in white populations) in the short term is actually likely to be counterproductive in the long term.
Premature Skin Ageing
Men and women who say their skin goes red (after exposure to an hour’s sun) are more prone to sun-induced premature skin ageing and developing wrinkles.
Smoking is a driver of skin ageing and strongly linked to premature skin ageing. Smokers have greater skin elastosis, lower levels of skin oxygenation and reduced collagen. Female smokers are more strongly associated with wrinkling.
A higher BMI and increased facial fat could reduce the appearance of wrinkles by expanding the skin outwards in a similar manner to facial fillers. Hence, although obesity has a negative impact on ageing systemically, in the face this effect is likely masked (at least in middle-aged to elderly populations) by the reduction in skin wrinkling. Facial sagging is linked to increased subcutaneous fat in the face, and although this could help reduce the appearance of wrinkles it could well lead to premature facial sagging.
However, the number of teeth and the condition of the surrounding gums are known to have a direct influence on the appearance of overlying tissues. For example, people look younger with their mouths closed after receiving new dentures than before, and the number of teeth or the use of dentures has been linked to lip size and the appearance of the labio-mental fold and the overall condition of the mouth, which, through its support to the overlying tissues and their subsequent appearance, can influence perceived facial age.
Lifestyle changes can have a larger influence on the preservation of youthful looks with up to 11 years difference with those who do not conduct an ‘optimal’ lifestyle and could be a motivating message for us to adopt a more healthy lifestyle for smart-ageing.
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(Adapted from The British Journal of Dermatology. 2015; 172(5):1338-1345. © 2015)