Everyone wants to look better and feel better. That’s especially important during a pandemic. COVID-19 has had a negative effect on people’s health, their financial situation, and their state of mind. Those working at home may wish they could get back to the office. Those at the office worry about getting sick. Everyone wants the kids to get back to school – but only if they can stay safe and healthy.
How can you feel better in a situation like this? And since everyone feels better when they look better, what can you do at home to improve your appearance? That’s more important than you might think. Respected economist Daniel Hamermesh has spent years researching the effect our looks have on our job prospects, income, and state of mind. In a USA Today article, Dr. Hamermesh stated:
For a woman, it just matters to walk down the street being good-looking. It hurts to walk down the street being bad-looking.
There’s some outstanding research on how to look better and feel better. That’s never been more important than it is now. Let’s consider what some studies have revealed. This information can help you right now.
How to look better when you’re stuck at home: Take care of your skin
Since helping people look better is my area of expertise, let’s start there. The first thing you can do to maintain or even improve your looks is to take good care of your skin. The most basic advice I can give is to wear sunscreen – all year long, but especially in spring and summer. Few things promote facial aging like UV light. It reduces your production of collagen and elastin – vital proteins that keep your skin looking young and healthy. So, if you’re going outside, remember your sunscreen!
A healthy diet can really help your skin. A substantial number of studies have found that one particular nutrient – flavanol – can actually decrease wrinkles. Flavanol also increases your skin’s blood supply, which improves its health. And research finds that it can work together with your sunscreen to protect you from premature facial aging. Natural cocoa (not Dutch or alkali processed) and green tea are the top sources of flavanol.
Two teaspoons of natural cocoa or 8-16 ounces of green tea every day can really help your skin. Twice that amount may lower your blood pressure by a few points. One caveat: Natural cocoa plants can draw up cadmium from the soil. Whole grains and kale have been shown to block or reduce absorption. It may be best to eat some while you’re enjoying your natural cocoa or mocha.
Lock up free radicals: We’ve all heard about free radicals. They aren’t all bad. Your body uses low levels of free radicals to activate your immune defenses, kill dangerous microbes and destroy cancer cells. But excessive levels can produce oxidative stress, attacking your cells and causing wrinkles, gray hair, and other signs of aging. Cigarettes, excessive alcohol and too much sun can generate lots of free radicals. That can make you look old fast.
My advice to avoid smoking and heavy drinking is not exactly new. But here’s another reason to do it – you can avoid looking too old too soon. In addition, eating food rich in antioxidants can keep you looking younger longer. Here are some that can help a lot, along with good food sources:
- Vitamin C: Fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, and peppers
- Vitamin E: Dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and avocados
- Beta-carotene: Orange-colored fruits and vegetables
- Lycopene: Tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruit, papayas, and guavas
- Astaxanthin: Microalgae and the fish that eat them, salmon in particular
- Lutein: Green, leafy vegetables
In addition to the antioxidant vitamins listed here, minerals like zinc (pumpkin and sesame seeds), selenium (Brazil nuts) and others can help. A well-rounded diet including plenty of plant-based foods can provide key nutrients to keep your skin healthier, firmer, and younger-looking.
A hidden danger in your food
Some foods can contribute to premature aging. Sugary, fried, and processed foods can actually harm your skin. Sugars can combine with amino acids (protein components) to form AGES – Advanced Glycation End products. Sugars that bind to collagen and elastin make them stiff and unrepairable. That can accelerate facial aging. AGEs, whether made in your body or absorbed from fried and processed foods, can also make inflammation and oxidative stress worse. That’s not good for your looks or your health.
Feel better with exercise – good for your heart, muscles, and mind
It’s no surprise that exercise is good for strong, toned muscles, including your heart. Many studies have found that exercise is great for lifting your mood, warding off anxiety and depression. Writing in the Harvard Health Blog, Dr. John Raley said:
Lacing up your sneakers and getting out and moving may be the single best nonmedical solution we have for preventing and treating anxiety.
Exercise is proven to lift your mood. The Harvard Mental Health Letter highlighted a Duke University study comparing exercise with medication for people with clinical depression. Both helped lift patients out of clinical depression. But the good effects of exercise lasted far longer with most participants. They summed up the results:
For some patients, physical exercise may be more effective than a standard drug treatment for depression.
Of course, if your doctor has prescribed an antidepressant for you, don’t discontinue it in favor of exercise. Talk with your doctor about adding an effective exercise program that will be best for you.
No Harmful Side Effects
It’s hard to imagine any downside to quitting smoking and overdrinking, improving your diet and adding a sensible exercise program. Work with your physician to put together a regimen that’s right for you. Reducing your intake of sugar plus fried and processed foods while eating more delicious fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds will improve your overall health. It can reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes, and a whole array of problems that often result. And it can noticeably improve your skin.
Combining a better diet with a good exercise program can help you lose weight. You can shed the “Quarantine 15” that so many of us have gained. Add exercise’s anti-anxiety and antidepressant effect to the fact that looking better makes you feel better, and this prescription looks like a winner all around.
If you do all this and still don’t like the face you see in the mirror, feel free to give me a call. You can find me at STC Plastic Surgery in Ontario, Inland Empire, California.