Lifestyle – Dr. Mahto’s Skin Care Bible Review
Lifestyle – Dr. Mahto’s Skin Care Bible Review by Tina Russell
We kind of know that our lifestyle choices affect our skin, don’t we...we should get enough sleep, drink alcohol in moderation, cut on sugar and processed food, quit smoking and exercise regularly. We’ve been told so many times and yet, it can be surprisingly difficult to change our old habits and resist the temptations! If you need an extra portion of motivation in this regard, do check Dr. Mahto’s chapter on lifestyle. But brace yourself, you might not enjoy your next chocolate bar the way you did before!
Sleep and circadian rhythm
We are told that getting enough sleep is important from a very young age and it is very true. Dr. Mahto reminds us that especially for our skin, the night is not a phase of inactivity – quite the contrary! It is the time when our skin regenerates and absorbs nutrients extremely well. However, it also loses hydration quite easily, this is why it is so important to moisturize before going to bed.
You might have heard about circadian rhythm – the “internal clock” that regulates everything in our bodies and coincides with the cycle of day and night. Since the last two decades, scientific research suggests that apart from this main “program”, there is also an additional “internal clock” at the level of skin cells – this means that our skin changes during the different times of the day as well! Fascinating, isn’t it? This is also the reason why your T-zone becomes shiny in the afternoon (the peak of oil production for the skin) and why you should use your targeted treatments in the evenings when they penetrate much better than during the day. Dr. Mahto also gives many useful tips for sleep hygiene in this section.
The most revealing takeaway from this chapter for me was definitely the fact that in our microbiome, there are much more cells (by a factor of ten!) than in our whole bodies. Indeed, we are more of a microbiome than of human cells!
Each person has a different microbiome, also different parts of our bodies are inhabited by different bacteria. Recent research suggests that there might be possibilities of targeted treatment for acne and eczema – by planting “good” bacteria to fight the “bad guys”. I do not know about you, but I find this simply amazing.
Recently, there has been a boom in “probiotic skincare”. The claim here is that bacterial cultures in skin care products can alter the skin’s microbiome by creating a protective barrier. However, no live bacteria are used in the creams. Instead, lysate is added – purified parts of cellular walls, dead cells and other particles – with the assumption that they have the same effect as living bacteria. Dr. Mahto is not entirely convinced of the effects and points to the fact that there is not enough scientific evidence so far, but definitely sees a lot of potential in this field.
In recent decades, we have seen that the general trend moves towards a more holistic approach to skincare and to a focus on prevention rather than cure. This, of course, includes nutrition, too! Dr. Mahto is not a big fan of the recent fashion in exclusion diets unless there is a good reason to avoid certain food. An “ideal diet” she proposes is based on moderation and getting nutrients from “real food” rather than from supplements. A good diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation, reduce the risk of damage caused by UV exposure, and includes lots of fruit and vegetables, rich in antioxidants. These neutralize free radicals in the skin and also provide some degree of protection against damage caused by UV rays. Of course, nuts and seeds as a source of vitamin E and protein (but be careful, they also have a high caloric value!), some green tea and dark chocolate and you’re good to go. Refined carbohydrates and sugar intake should be limited. No big surprise, but did you know why sugar can be bad for your skin? It is because of the process called glycation: the sugar we eat binds on certain proteins and creates a molecule called AGE (advanced glycation end product), which causes damage to collagen and elastin – two main providers of support and elasticity to our skin. AGEs also produce free radicals, which trigger inflammation. I told you, now you will think twice before eating that chocolate bar...
Exercise is great for your skin due to a number of reasons: it improves blood circulation, and blood brings all the nutrients and oxygen our skin needs. At the same time, it takes away the free radicals and all other “stuff” our skin no longer needs. Exercise also contributes to stress reduction – and stress is proven to worsen some inflammatory conditions, such as acne, eczema and psoriasis.
Unfortunately, sweating and mechanical irritation can also result in body acne, so if you can, shower immediately after your workout. If this is not an option, keep some face wipes for acne-prone skin in your gym bag as a backup option.
Sweat, humidity, shared equipment and showers in the gym – all that is also an environment for various bacteria. Viral warts and verrucae (caused by different types of the Human Papilloma Virus) and fungal spores, causing athlete’s foot, are feeling well on wet surfaces and can easily enter your skin through small cuts and fissures. So always wear flip-flops in shared showers (I am sure you do, anyways, but just for the record...) and wipe all surfaces you touch. If you have a cut or an open wound, make sure you put a plaster on. We do not want to welcome all those nasty microbes with an open door! If you happen to catch an infection despite all the preventive measures, usually an over-the-counter treatment helps. If not, the usual rule of thumb applies: see your GP or a dermatologist.
The negative effects of air pollution have been known for a while, but recently, the impact of air pollution on the skin has also been recognized. Air pollutants can contribute to premature aging, and worsen inflammatory conditions, such as acne, eczema or psoriasis. Avoiding air pollution is easier said than done, but there are still ways how to minimize the negative effects of the polluted environment. Cleansing (especially in the evening), regular exfoliation, and use of antioxidant serums (especially those with vitamin C and resveratrol are great for fighting the free radicals). Keeping your skin hydrated, so that it can fulfill its barrier function is key, as well as using an appropriate sunscreen – but since you read our blogs and care about your skin, you would do this anyway, am I right? :-)
This is a well-known one. Apart from lung cancer, smoking has been proven to contribute to premature aging, wrinkles and thinning of the skin. It also delays wound healing and worsens some inflammatory skin conditions, such as psoriasis and lupus. Dr. Mahto also gives a detailed insight into what exactly cigarette smoke does in our bodies and how, so if you are looking for extra motivation to quit smoking, I do recommend reading the chapter!
No, Dr. Mahto will not ask you to become abstinent for the sake of your complexion! But she will still remind you of the effects of drinking alcohol on your skin. First and foremost, it is dehydration, which also results in bloating, as the body tries to keep the remaining water in. Redness and visible broken capillaries are other effects linked to regular alcohol consumption. Moderation is the key, as with everything else, and there are some measures you can take to make your night out less detrimental: try to avoid sugary cocktails (as I said above, metabolized sugar can damage collagen and other vital elements in skin cells) and drink a lot of water during your night out and the day after. To compensate for the lost nutrients, fresh fruit and vegetables are much better than salty treats, even if you are tempted – salt contributes to the water retention I mentioned and it will make your puffy eyes even worse.
And, what do you think? Is it easier to make healthy lifestyle choices now when you know how they can impact your skin? Let me know!