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Health Protocols

Skin, Hair, and Nail Health

Diet And Lifestyle Considerations

Plant-Based, Minimally Processed Diet

Diet is increasingly being recognized as a factor in skin diseases such as acne, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and skin cancers (Katta 2014; Heinrich 2011; Piccardi 2009). Diet is also a factor in skin aging. For instance, a diet that leads to persistently elevated blood sugar accelerates the formation of AGEs, resulting in structural changes in the skin such as loss of elasticity and increased stiffness. Also, preformed AGEs, generated by high-heat cooking methods such as grilling, frying, and roasting, can enter the bloodstream and damage skin collagen and elastin. Common herbs and spices including garlic, cloves, oregano, ginger, and cinnamon can inhibit the production of AGEs (Katta 2014).

Many nutrients in plant-based foods, including polyphenols, carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, and E, provide protection against UV radiation-induced skin damage. These constituents are found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, cocoa, green tea, coffee, red wine, soy, olive oil, and other plant-based foods (Schagen 2012; Heinrich 2011; Pandel 2013; Piccardi 2009). Many of these foods are found in the Mediterranean diet (OPT 2016).

Caloric Restriction

Caloric restriction—consuming fewer calories while maintaining good dietary nutritional quality—has been shown to retard signs of aging and increase lifespan in animals (Ahmed 2009; Fernandes 1997; Michan 2014). In humans, long-term caloric restriction results in metabolic changes that reduce the risk of multiple age-related diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer (Steven 2015; Sheth 2015; Rizza 2014; Michan 2014; Bales 2013; Lefevre 2009; Meyer 2006; Fontana 2004; Wing 1994; Stein 2012; Ravussin 2015). Caloric restriction has also been shown to delay skin aging in animals. In rodent studies, caloric restriction was shown to increase the concentration of collagen-producing fibroblasts and affect skin quality (Bhattacharyya 2005; Bhattacharyya 2012). More information is available in Life Extension’s Caloric Restriction protocol.


Sunscreens are commonly used to prevent skin photoaging caused by UV radiation from the sun. Evidence from randomized controlled trials confirms the ability of sunscreens to prevent skin photoaging and skin cancers. For instance, one controlled clinical trial in more than 900 adults showed daily use of sunscreens resulted in no noticeable increase in skin aging after 4.5 years (Hughes 2013; Antoniou 2010; Iannacone 2014). Sunscreens should contain ingredients that provide broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB radiation. Allowing time for sunscreen to be absorbed into the skin before sun exposure is important; sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside (Lim 2012).

Sleep Hygiene

Lack of sleep may negatively impact collagen formation and skin integrity, in part by inducing a state of chronic low-grade inflammation (Kahan 2010; Besedovsky 2012).

In a study in 60 healthy women, chronic poor sleep quality together with short sleep duration (5 hours or less) was associated with higher skin aging scores and longer recovery time from exposure to UV light, while good sleepers had a 30% better response to a skin barrier challenge (Oyetakin-White 2015).

Life Extension’s Insomnia protocol describes several strategies for improving sleep.

Stress Management

The link between stress and skin conditions is well established. Stress can trigger or worsen numerous inflammatory skin conditions including psoriasis, acne, atopic dermatitis, and contact dermatitis. Skin aging is also impacted by chronic stress (Chen, Lyga 2014).

Chronic physical or psychological stress activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and promotes release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Sustained excessive levels of cortisol can cause loss of collagen and elastin, leading to skin thinning, easy bruising, impaired wound healing, and water loss (Dunn 2013; Chen, Lyga 2014).

Life Extension’s Stress Management protocol reviews several ways to effectively manage stress.