Why The Office Is Ageing You

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  • We think it’s being outside that prematurely ages us, or burning the candle at both ends, or smoking.

    And while, yes, these things play a role in determining when wrinkles appear, did you know that the hours we spend in the office are speeding up the ageing process too? No? This might shock you.

    UVA will find you. Even indoors.

    In 2012 The New England Journal of Medicine reported on a 69-year old truck driver with unilateral dermatoheliosis – or photoageing – thanks to the UVA rays that were transmitted through the windows of his delivery truck. The side of his face that was under near constant assault from UVA looked around 20-years older than the other side – specifically the skin had bold ridges and wrinkling, milia (raised white bumps) and a thickened epidermis. Driving has been linked to an increase in skin cancers due to the ultra violet penetrating windows. This is because UVA rays can travel to the deeper skin layers where it can do the most damage; harming DNA and breaking-down collagen. The same applies for the office – a study carried out by University College Hospital in France found that an office worker exposed to UVA through a window will show accelerated ageing where the skin faces the window.

    Solution: It’s lovely having a window seat but if you can, move. If moving isn’t an option be sure to wear a broad spectrum SPF while at your desk. Broad spectrum is essential as the ‘SPF’ will do nothing to protect your skin from UVA. When you hit the aisles look for sunscreens that carry a star rating so you can be sure that you have UVA protection in there too. UVA causes oxidative stress in the skin, damaging collagen at the same time, so snack your way through antioxidant rich foods at your desk such as berries, green leafy vegetables and fruit.

    Indoor pollution

    Bloomberg Business, who present the financial market news, tell us that the air inside a commercial building can sometimes be up to 100-times more polluted than the air outside. That’s particularly worrying considering it’s pollution – and it’s toxic particles – that can cause a whole host of health complaints. For our purposes, though, pollution is also very ageing. It causes inflammation in the skin which speeds up cellular ageing and damages collagen supplies.

    Solution: Origin’s Smart Pants CC, £29, is a real find – it’s one of those clever multi-taskers that once you’ve tried it you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it. It contains some pigment so it will provide a little coverage and even out your skin tone, and it has broad spectrum UV protection but, most importantly, it uses time release technology, which activates once the skin comes into contact with pollutants so it can release protective ingredients including antioxidants. Very smart indeed.

    AC is the enemy

    While air conditioning may provide some relief from the heat it doesn’t do any good for our skin. You will know for yourself how your skin can feel tight and dry after a day in the office but the truth is that’s just the beginning of it. Quite simply, the drier your skin the sooner it will show signs of ageing. Air humidity is almost non-existent when the AC is cranked up; good news for frizz, terrible news for our skin. When the air is lacking in water it literally sucks the moisture from skin leaving it painfully dry and with an impaired protective barrier. This then leads to inflammation which has been proven to exacerbate premature skin ageing. Another down side of extremely dry skin is every single fine line will look all the more prominent, literally ‘ageing’ you by the minute.

    Solution: It’s simple really; keep your skin moisturised. All day. Drink the obligatory 2-litres of water and plenty of fruit and vegetables for their high water content. It doesn’t hurt to have a moisturiser nearby for frequent top-ups either. We love Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+, £17.50 – not only does it keep moisture levels balanced but it also supports your skins’ natural protective barrier. If you’re worried about disturbing your make-up opt for a moisturising facial spray. An MC beauty favourite is Caudalie Beauty Elixir, £32 for 100ml, mist it over make-up throughout the day to perk up your skin.

    Desk germs

    Research carried out by the University of Arizona in 2002 found that the humble keyboard is in the top five most germ-contaminated spots in the office and that the area where you most frequently rest your hand on your desk contains approximately 10,000,000 bacteria. That’s more bacteria per square inch than the office loo seat. Just think about what you’re then putting on your face. Are we putting you off the lunch you’ll soon be eating at your desk? Like everything else we have mentioned, these unwelcome – and foreign – germs tax the skin’s defenses, weaken the natural protective barrier and result in age accelerating inflammation.

    Solution: Washing your hands frequently goes without saying and you should also clean your desk regularly, including your keyboard and your phone. A wise precaution is to use an anti-bac hand gel too. Some formulas can be terribly drying but we love Cowshed Cow Slip Natural Antibacterial & Soothing Hand Gel, £7, it contains sweet orange essential oil which not only stops your hands from drying out but it also helps to reduce inflammation in the skin, and it contains peppermint essential oil so it smells a million times better than regular anti-bac.


    A Cornell study, cited by the New Yorker, found that workers exposed to the noise level of an office for three hours had higher levels of the hormone adrenalin, which is associated with the body’s stress response. Stress hormones have been shown to result in inflammation in the skin which, as we learnt earlier, is a catalyst for premature ageing.

    Solution: Pop on a pair of headphones and listen to your favourite music. If you find even that too distracting, there are many apps that you can download to your phone that will play soothing ‘background’ noise which is just enough to block out the cacophony of a working office without serving as a distraction.

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