A Simple Skin Test Can Shine Light on Your Lifestyle

You know that an unhealthy lifestyle can eventually show up on your skin, but what if a simple, painless test could reveal the physical evidence? Would it encourage you to change your habits? Some scientists believe that it will.

Until recently, doctors would need to biopsy skin in order to get a picture of a patient's health and habits. But a new device developed by scientists at the University of Berlin allows for a much simpler health test. A metered device shines light on your skin, and scattered light is refracted back to the meter, sending information about the stress levels and concentration of antioxidants in your skin. Antioxidants are what stop free radicals, or energetic oxygen molecules created by UV radiation, from damaging living things. Habits like smoking, eating poorly, or heavy drinking damages these antioxidants, allowing these free radicals to run rampant and damage skin. This can lead to serious health problems and even diseases like cancer.

Scientists hope that by developing an easy way to show people-especially those in their teens and twenties-how their bodies cope with bad habits, they will seek a healthier lifestyle. Scientists at the University of Berlin are currently conducting tests on students to see if arming them with this information will help them turn around these habits before they do lasting damage. The study will teach students about healthy eating and the dangers of alcohol and nicotine consumption over a six month period, while measuring the before and after antioxidant levels in their skin.

The benefits of quitting habits like smoking or drinking will show up on your skin in just two or three days. In addition, improving your diet and seeking antioxidant-rich foods can help improve your overall health. The key antioxidants to look for are vitamins C and E. Citrus, strawberries, kale, nuts, vegetable oils, greens, and sweet potatoes are packed with these vitamins (and other essentials). There's also evidence that applying antioxidant creams will help repair skin. Look for lotions and creams containing green tea, pomegranate, chamomile, and licorice root.




Aad.org: "Cosmeceutical Facts and Your Skin". American Academy of Dermatology. Web. 2010.

Sciencedaily.com: "Skin Test Can Evaluate a Healthy or Unhealthy Lifestyle." Science Daily. Web. February 10, 2011.