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By Polly Clarke, Clinic Nutrition Ltd

Your skin is usually the first thing people notice in you, and it is most people’s metric for estimating your age. One cannot deny the role your genes play, but many lifestyle choices make a huge difference in how we look. After all, radiant skin comes from the inside. We may hide the fine lines under makeup, but you can just tell when someone has healthy skin.

There are no “secrets” to youthful skin, what matters are the most basic things like hydration, sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Unfortunately, many of us need help applying these tried-and-tested tips to our daily lives.

In this article, we dive deeper into the science behind skin health and provide actionable tips for keeping your skin looking and feeling its best.

What is your skin made of and why does it matter?

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, weighing about eight pounds (3.6 kilograms). [1] This waterproof layer protects you against harmful chemicals and disease-causing microbes. It also helps regulate body temperature and allows you to feel the sensations of touch, heat and cold.

Your skin is made of water, protein, fats and minerals. Understandably, taking care of your skin’s components as you age can help delay, reduce or even reverse ageing-associated skin changes.

Collagen and elastin are the two critical proteins of human skin. Type I collagen accounts for 80% to 90% of total skin collagen. [2] Type II collagen represents approximately 15% of skin collagen. Collagen is essential for preserving your skin’s firmness and elasticity. Plus, it has antioxidant and reparative properties, which is crucial for repairing damaged or wrinkled skin. Collagen production decreases by 1% every year after the age of 25.

Elastin, which is about 2% of skin protein, is essential for your skin to stretch and recoil. [3] Major amino acids in elastin are glycine, proline, alanine, leucine, and valine. As you age, your body produces less elastin, which can result in common age-related skin issues, such as fine lines, sagging, and wrinkles. Studies show that the most severe damage to elastin occurs in photodamaged skin – that is skin damaged by Ultraviolet sunlight causing DNA changes at a cellular level.

Let’s take a look at the lifestyle factors that can delay or accelerate skin ageing.

  1. Sleep and skin

Your skin cells produce collagen when you are asleep. Thus, chronic sleep deprivation is detrimental to your skin health. Good sleepers typically look younger than they might otherwise, while bad sleepers lose more water from their skin. Interestingly, those who get enough sleep daily also have a better perception of how they look. [4]

According to the National Institute on Aging, older adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. [5]

  1. Hydration and skin

Dry skin is notoriously prevalent in older adults. So, how can you keep your skin supple and hydrated? The NHS Eatwell Guide suggests we should drink six to eight cups of water a day, others suggest two litres. However, your individual needs may vary depending on your overall health, the medications/supplements you take and your level of activity.

Another way to improve your skin hydration is to apply a moisturiser. Moisturisers trap water in your skin’s outermost layer, giving it a youthful appearance. [6]

  1. Exercise and skin

Exercise nourishes your skin cells, clears toxins from the skin and reduces stress. Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase the skin’s collagen content in previously sedentary older adults. [7] Examples of aerobic (endurance) exercise include walking, jogging, swimming, biking and skipping.

Exercise not only keeps your skin youthful but can also help improve or reverse the signs of ageing. That is even the case when you start exercising later in life. Engage in aerobic activity for 30 minutes a day to start looking younger, recommend experts at the U.S. Dermatology Partners. [8]

  1. Alcohol and skin ageing

You will not be surprised to hear that alcohol increases inflammatory chemicals in the skin. Besides, drinking too much alcohol causes dry skin, as alcohol is a diuretic (i.e., a substance that increases urine output).

Consuming more than eight drinks per week is associated with increased upper facial lines, under-eye puffiness, oral commissures, midface volume loss, and visible blood vessels. [9]

It is best to avoid drinking alcohol. However, if you do want to indulge now and again, make sure not to go overboard. Click here to find out how much the NHS determines is too much.

  1. Smoking and skin ageing

We all know that smoking carries risks but maybe not that nicotine, which is the main addictive substance in tobacco products. promotes skin cell death and impairs blood flow to the skin. All these can negatively impact skin health and accelerate skin ageing.

In fact, smoking a pack of cigarettes for approximately one year can increase wrinkling three-fold, reports a study in the journal JAMA Dermatology. [10]

Vaping, which is often considered a safer alternative to cigarette smoking, can actually be as detrimental as smoking, because vapes still contain nicotine. For instance, according to a 2021 study, e-cigarettes contain as much nicotine as conventional cigarettes. [11]

Similarly, solvents and vape flavourings, such as propylene glycol and cinnamaldehyde, can cause skin irritation, inflammation and dryness. All these can accelerate age-related skin ageing.

  1. Environmental pollution and skin ageing

Chronic exposure to polluted air can promote skin inflammation, leading to wrinkles and pigment spots. [12]

Air pollution can also change your skin’s natural microbiome – the millions of microbes, particularly bacteria, that help maintain the skin’s health.

Not only that, particles released from automobile exhausts, fire, tobacco smoke, smog and power plants can penetrate the skin and increase inflammation. Consequently, long-term inflammation can accelerate ageing by decreasing collagen and elastin.

Moreover, some studies have linked air pollution to eczema and skin allergies. [13] [14]

And, if that weren’t enough, exposure to heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, affects your skin’s immunity, resulting in inflamed skin and other signs of ageing. [15]

  1. Collagen supplements for ageing skin: how can they help?

A growing body of evidence supports the use of oral supplements to reduce signs of (or delay) skin ageing.

For instance, authors of a 2018 randomised trial of 64 females (at least 40 years old) separated them into two groups. The first group received 1000mg of low molecular weight collagen peptide once daily for 12 weeks, while the second group received an identical formulation but with no collagen. [16]

Assessment at baseline and after six weeks and 12 weeks revealed that skin hydration and improvement in wrinkles were significantly higher in the group receiving collagen.

Likewise, another study on Chinese women (at least 35 years old) concluded that collagen hydrolysate with a higher content of Pro-Hyp and Hyp-Gly resulted in increased improvement in facial skin moisture and elasticity, with a reduction in wrinkles and roughness. [17]

Lastly, according to a 2022 review, oral collagen supplements improve skin elasticity and hydration and decrease wrinkling and roughness. [18]

Many tablet supplements contain small quantities of collagen.  Liquid supplements such as Cutizana from Clinic Nutrition, contain 10,000mg of Types 1 & 2 collagen per serving, which provides the essential amino acids for the production of collagen, elastin and keratin.


Healthy skin can be considered a signpost for overall health.  Poor nutrition, lack of adequate sleep and hydration, low exercise levels, alcohol and nicotine consumption all manifest as ageing skin, which can mirror the effects on the health of our bodies on the inside.

Looking after yourself will result in your skin being in better condition and you looking younger.  Combined with sensible protection against damage from UV light and with adequate nutrition, which may include supplements, you can give yourself the best chance of maintaining healthy skin and ageing gracefully.


Polly Clarke is from Clinic Nutrition Ltd., which produces a range of high-quality, broad-spectrum liquid supplements that are supplied to clinics, and direct to the consumer. These include Vitaliti (for general health and wellbeing), Cartonica (for joint health) and Cutizana (for hair, nails and skin).



  1. National Geographic. Skin. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/skin-1. Accessed March 23, 2023.
  2. Reilly DM, Lozano J. Skin collagen through the lifestages: importance for skin health and beauty. Plastic and Aesthetic Research. 2021; 8:2. http://dx.doi.org/10.20517/2347-9264.2020.153
  3. Weihermann, A.C., Lorencini, M., Brohem, C.A. and de Carvalho, C.M. (2017), Elastin structure and its involvement in skin photoageing. Int J Cosmet Sci, 39: 241-247. https://doi.org/10.1111/ics.12372
  4. Oyetakin-White, P et al. “Does poor sleep quality affect skin ageing?.” Clinical and experimental dermatology vol. 40,1 (2015): 17-22. doi:10.1111/ced.12455
  5. National Institue on Aging. A Good Night’s Sleep. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/good-nights-sleep. Accessed March 23, 2023.
  6. Munehiro, Asuka et al. “Combination effects of cosmetic moisturisers in the topical treatment of acne vulgaris.” The Journal of dermatological treatment vol. 23,3 (2012): 172-6. doi:10.3109/09546634.2010.551109
  7. Crane, Justin D et al. “Exercise-stimulated interleukin-15 is controlled by AMPK and regulates skin metabolism and aging.” Aging cell vol. 14,4 (2015): 625-34. doi:10.1111/acel.12341
  8. US Dermatology Partners. Top 5 Benefits of Exercise for Skin Health. https://www.usdermatologypartners.com/blog/will-exercising-improve-my-skin/#. Accessed March 23, 2023.
  9. Goodman, Greg D et al. “Impact of Smoking and Alcohol Use on Facial Aging in Women: Results of a Large Multinational, Multiracial, Cross-sectional Survey.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 12,8 (2019): 28-39.
  10. Doshi DN, Hanneman KK, Cooper KD. Smoking and Skin Aging in Identical Twins. Arch Dermatol. 2007;143(12):1543–1546. doi:10.1001/archderm.143.12.1543
  11. Mitri, Andia et al. “Effects of tobacco and vaping on the skin.” Clinics in dermatology vol. 39,5 (2021): 762-771. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2021.05.004
  12. Martic, Ines et al. “Effects of Air Pollution on Cellular Senescence and Skin Aging.” Cells vol. 11,14 2220. 17 Jul. 2022, doi:10.3390/cells11142220
  13. Hieda, Daniele Seo et al. “Air Particulate Matter Induces Skin Barrier Dysfunction and Water Transport Alteration on a Reconstructed Human Epidermis Model.” The Journal of investigative dermatology vol. 140,12 (2020): 2343-2352.e3. doi:10.1016/j.jid.2020.03.971
  14. Celebi Sozener, Zeynep et al. “Epithelial barrier hypothesis: Effect of the external exposome on the microbiome and epithelial barriers in allergic disease.” Allergy vol. 77,5 (2022): 1418-1449. doi:10.1111/all.15240
  15. Chavatte, Laurent et al. “Elemental and molecular imaging of human full thickness skin after exposure to heavy metals.” Metallomics : integrated biometal science vol. 12,10 (2020): 1555-1562. doi:10.1039/d0mt00121j
  16. Kim, Do-Un et al. “Oral Intake of Low-Molecular-Weight Collagen Peptide Improves Hydration, Elasticity, and Wrinkling in Human Skin: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.” Nutrients vol. 10,7 826. 26 Jun. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10070826
  17. Inoue, Naoki et al. “Ingestion of bioactive collagen hydrolysates enhance facial skin moisture and elasticity and reduce facial ageing signs in a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled clinical study.” Journal of the science of food and agriculture vol. 96,12 (2016): 4077-81. doi:10.1002/jsfa.7606
  18. Al-Atif, Hend. “Collagen Supplements for Aging and Wrinkles: A Paradigm Shift in the Fields of Dermatology and Cosmetics.” Dermatology practical & conceptual vol. 12,1 e2022018. 1 Jan. 2022, doi:10.5826/dpc.1201a18a

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