The skin-ager you probably don’t know about (but should)
As I slipped around on my mat during a recent hot yoga class, I felt grateful for the steamy studio as blustery snow fell outside the window. But that comfort was short-lived, as another thought elbowed that one aside: I’d recently read in Allure that prolonged exposure to heat may rival UV rays when it comes to accelerating skin aging.
Years ago, the late (great) Fredric Brandt, M.D., told me he suspected heat was an enemy of aging skin. He divided his dermatology practice between New York City and Miami, and he said that even Floridians who religiously slathered themselves with sunscreen still seemed to show signs of aging (dark spots, blotchiness) at a rate faster than his patients up north.
Allure reported that similar evidence of a heat-aging link had been seen in Saudi Arabia where women wear UV-blocking niqabs, yet sprout dark spots on their cheeks in a manner that suggests they’ve had regular UV exposure. The article stated that a couple of Upper East Side dermatologists had anecdotal evidence of this too, as they'd observed an uptick in what appeared to be sun damage on the faces of women who wore sunscreen every day—yet took hot yoga or Spin classes five or more times a week.
The theory? Heat, like UV rays, triggers melanocytes, the cells responsible for pigment production in the skin. This is why someone who never goes out in the sun sans sunscreen can sprout a smattering of so-called sun spots. A Korean study at the Seoul National University College of Medicine also suggests that just 30 minutes of heat exposure three times a week can cause a decrease in protective anti-oxidants in the skin, as well as a spike in something called MMP proteins which break down collagen (the spongey substance that makes our skin smooth and firm).
For many of us, giving up sweaty workouts (or warm-weather vacations) is not up for debate. And if you live in a warm climate, you’re certainly not going to move north to avoid developing fine lines or age spots. What we can all do though is try to keep the skin as cool as possible during high-temperature exposure, now that we know heat's negative impact on our skin. That means exercising common sense while we are, well, exercising. Drink lots of cool water—and, if possible, spritz it on your face, neck and chest to lower your body temp. Also, consider varying your workout routine, alternating sweat-box workouts like Spinning with more temperate options like an early-morning, outdoor run. It's probably also time to reconsider a devotion to saunas and steam rooms.
Finally, doctors suggest that using a cream or treatment with anti-inflammatory or cooling properties either while you’re exposed to the heat or right afterward can help temper the damage as well. It Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness Skin Relief Cream and First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense, both calm inflamed skin on contact. (If those formulas are too rich for you, Pour Moi’s Desert Day Cream is also effective and considerably lighter in texture.) Urban Decay’s Chill Cooling and Hydrating Makeup Setting Spray provides an instant hit of relief; stash it in your day bag and spritz on as needed. Last but not least. any gel mask stored in the fridge will reduce the skin’s temperature rapidly. Try frosting on Peter Thomas Roth’s Cucumber Gel Mask or Fresh’s Rose Face Mask after a hot outing to chill out, stat.