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The truth about your lifestyle and your skin

Are your bad habits taking their toll on the state of your skin? We speak to the experts for the lowdown

We all have our vices–be it a daily glass of wine after a long day or soaking up the sun on holiday, there are things we know we perhaps shouldn’t do, but that still bring us joy. By-products of modern life, such as increased stress levels and difficulty sleeping, are also commonplace.

But what is all of this doing to our skin, not just for now but for ever? We spoke with Etre Vous Experts Dr Ahmed El Muntasar and Dr Emmaline Ashley for advice on what to best avoid and why.

Knowing how certain factors play their part may encourage different decisions and lifestyle switches, in the name of healthier-looking and feeling skin.


We all know how crucial rest is to the health of our organs, of which skin is the largest. While a few bad nights will likely only do short-term damage (dark under-eye circles, dullness etc), chronic insomnia can take its toll on a longer-term basis.

“Insomnia significantly impacts skin health, affecting facial appearance, especially around the eyes and mouth,” says Dr Emmaline. “It’s associated with inflammatory skin disorders such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.”

She continues: “Insomnia can also impair the benefit of optimal skin temperature for sleep, adversely affecting daytime performance and leading to decreased skin hydration, reduced elasticity and more wrinkles.”

In short, sleep is the time in which skin heals and repairs, meaning too many nights without it long-term can have quite the impact.

Smoking and vaping

Research into the effects of smoking are wide-ranging and long-standing, but vape-style e-cigarettes are too new for us to understand the real long-term harm to skin. Studies are limited, but experts still believe they are a bad habit that can damage the appearance and health of your complexion.

The list of adverse side effects from smoking is seemingly endless. “Because of the nicotine and other chemicals, smoking reduces the blood flow to the skin,” says Dr Ahmed. “It therefore reduces skin healing significantly, thins the skin and dehydrates it, and can cause a lot more obvious signs of ageing like fine lines and wrinkles, reducing elasticity and increasing collagen breakdown.”

Unfortunately for those that use e-cigarettes, he adds: “vaping is basically the same as smoking because a lot of variants contain nicotine.”

Essentially, it’s best to steer clear entirely for your skin and wider health.


These days, sun safety is taken far more seriously than in previous decades, and it’s taken years of witnessing long-term damage from sunbathing to understand just how detrimental it can be to our skin and overall health.

“Sunbathing poses significant risks to skin health due to UV radiation exposure,” explains Dr Emmaline. “This can cause skin disorders such as erythema (redness), hyperpigmentation, sunburn, skin cancer, and premature ageing.”

More superficially, sunbathing can result in dark marks, redness and enlarged pores, according to Dr Ahmed.

Always wear a broad spectrum, high factor SPF and try to stay away from purposefully lying out in the sun, instead seeking shade where possible, especially during the hours of 11-3pm in the UK.


“Alcohol consumption negatively affects skin health, reducing the skin’s antioxidant levels, making it more vulnerable to damage from UV light,” says Dr Emmaline.

But the main issues relate to that all-important skin barrier, she continues. “Excessive drinking weakens the body’s defence mechanisms, leading to nutrient deficiencies and imbalance in skin microbiota, possibly causing skin barrier disturbances.”

Drinking alcohol excessively can lead to liver problems, which can result in redness all over the body, says Dr Ahmed. “It can also cause skin dehydration and other kinds of redness-related problems, potentially increasing the chances of skin cancer.”

Try to drink responsibly at all times in order to avoid long-term problems. 

Stress and anxiety 

Stress is often referred to as ‘the silent killer’ because of what it does to our bodies. As well as having potentially alarming repercussions for overall health, it also deeply impacts the skin.

“Stress and anxiety increase the hormone cortisol, which is the main stress hormone in our body,” says Dr Ahmed. “This escalates the skin's oil production, which means that if you experience things like acne, redness and blocked pores, these will all significantly increase.”

Perhaps most notably, a stressful lifestyle can speed up signs of ageing, too. “Research shows that psychological stress accelerates skin ageing through mechanisms like chronic immune dysfunction, increased production of reactive oxygen species, and DNA damage,” says Dr Emmaline.

We all lead stressful lives, but it’s worth taking time to decompress and work through worries as much as possible, in order to avoid physical manifestations of anxiety.

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