What do cigarettes, soap, stress and tanning beds have in common?

These are the four main factors that contribute to skin damage.

Chemicals in tobacco smoke damage collagen and elastin which results in wrinkles and sagging. Some soaps and detergents consistently break down and damage some of skin’s healthy barriers. Stressful emotions can be expressed through the skin, leading to conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. And tanning, whether in the sun or in a bed, leads to premature aging and possibly skin cancer from UV rays.

Oxidation is the main process by which our cells are damaged, leading to aging. This happens when free radicals or molecules are taken up easily in our body. Antioxidants are naturally occurring molecules in certain foods that can help prevent free radicals from forming.

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Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and fish. Lower your intake of saturated and trans fats as well as sugar and refined flour products. A healthy skin diet is the same as a heart-healthy diet.

If you’d like to make some changes in your diet or lifestyle to improve your skin health, North Dakota State University Extension can help. The Extension office in Stutsman County is offering a virtual, self-paced program designed to "Nourish Your Body and Mind."

When you register for the program, you will receive a link to the program site on the launch date. There you can access loads of helpful information, such as a video presentation, handouts, publications, featured recipes and more. You can review the information at your own time and pace and save the link to access again later.

This April, "Nourish Your Skin" will be released on April 12, and "Know Your Prescription and Non-prescription Medications" will be released on April 26.

The registration link for both programs can be found on the NDSU Extension-Stutsman County website at www.ag.ndsu.edu/stutsmancountyextension.

If you’d like, you can also register for past months’ programs, as well. To receive the program information in alternative formats, you may contact the Stutsman County Extension office at (701) 252-9030.

For more information on this program, contact Christina Rittenbach, Stutsman County Extension agent, at (701) 252-9030 or christina.rittenbach@ndsu.edu