Did you ever see the movie Death Becomes Her? It’s the story of two aging women and their desperate quest for eternal youth and beauty. Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn play the two vain frenemies who both acquire an elixir that once ingested keeps them alive forever. What they don’t realize is that while they are indeed immortal, their bodies require constant maintenance, and they must resort to glue, tape, and even spray paint to hold themselves together and look presentable. The final scene finds the two having fallen down a flight of stairs, their bodies in pieces but still very much alive.
While Death Becomes Her is obviously fiction, the premise that many will go to great lengths to preserve their youth is very real. Legends and myths about the elixir of life, the Holy Grail, and the fountain of youth have enticed some of the most famous explorers in history. And yet, immortality still eludes us. It’s true that, thanks to modern day medicine and innovations, we generally live longer than our ancestors before us. In 2011, life expectancy in the U.S. hit a record high, with an average of 78.7 years. And not only do we want to live longer, we want to look good while we do it! To erase the evidence of aging from our skin, we are willing to try just about anything, including the latest creams and serums, natural remedies, chemical peels, fillers, and in some cases, even plastic surgery.
While the majority of the world’s populations are constantly looking for ways to extend their length and quality of life, there are certain places where people live longer, healthier lives—naturally! These particular areas are called Blue Zones.
What and Where are Blue Zones?
Blue Zones are geographic areas on the earth in which the population generally live extraordinarily long lives. If you’re ready to take the next bus to the nearest Blue Zone, it might not be as close as you hope. There are only 5 known Blue Zones in the world today:
Once referred to as the “land of immortals”, this lush, tropical island in southern Japan is home to some of the world’s oldest women. Among other things, the people in this Blue Zone attribute their longevity to their “ikigai”, or strong sense of purpose.
Another island Blue Zone, the people of Icaria live life at a slower, more relaxed pace, and are very active. One third of the population lives into their 90s, and they are nearly totally free of chronic ailments like dementia and heart disease that afflict such a high number of Americans and others worldwide.
Loma Linda, California
This tight-knit community of Seventh-day Adventists live about 50 miles outside Los Angeles and have a life span that averages 10 years longer than the rest of the United States.
Nicoyla Peninsula, Costa Rica
As part of their “plan de vida”, or sense of purpose, the Nicoyan people work hard and keep a simple, positive outlook on life. They frequently live past 90 and are often still working and living comfortably past 100.
The first Blue Zone to be identified, this small island contains the world’s largest male centurion (100+) population. Because of its geographical and cultural isolation, the way of life for these healthy Sardinians hasn’t changed much over many centuries.
Lifestyle Habits of Blue Zone Residents
You probably noticed that these five Blue Zones are pretty far away from one another, both geographically and culturally. We’re pretty sure they aren’t having monthly board meetings to make sure that they are all following some pre-conceived longevity guidelines. Although they live in very different parts of the world, people in Blue Zones share several common, healthy lifestyle practices and habits. So, what exactly are their secrets to long, healthy living?
You are what you eat
It’s no surprise that Blue Zone dwellers aren’t frequenting fast-food joints. In fact, going out to eat is mostly reserved for celebratory occasions. Instead of relying on conveniently processed food to fill their bellies, Blue Zone diets consist on a nutritional, mostly plant-based diet of vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains. Okinawans follow the 80% food rule, which means they stop eating when they feel only 80% full, rather than 100% stuffed. They also eat their smallest meal for dinner and then don’t eat again until the next day. This persistent caloric restriction, along with eating meat and drinking alcohol in moderation means fewer cases of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, not to mention a much lower general BMI (body mass index). Learn about some foods you should be eating for your skin here.
You are what you DON'T eat!
Because those who live in Blue Zones are generally quite religious, fasting for religious holidays or purposes is customary. Intermittent fasting—or fasting for a few hours each day or on specific days of the week—is also common in Blue Zones and is shown to help lower blood cholesterol and BMI. While ensuring you’re getting the proper amount of overall nutrition, depriving your body of food for a short amount of time gives it a chance to reset and flush out harmful toxins, reducing inflammation and even improving cognitive performance.
Studies have shown that regular exercise can decrease the risk of death by up to 39%. It’s no secret that we feel better when we exercise. Most centurions aren’t hitting the gym or pumping iron every morning, but they do work hard, and they do it naturally. Blue Zone occupants get their workout in by tending to crops or gardens, walking to work or school, and tending to their homes and animals. Because they generally don’t rely on modern machines to do their work for them, exercise isn’t a chore but instead is simply built into their everyday lives, and contributes to their strong, able bodies, even as they age.
Take it Easy
It wouldn’t be fair to say that no one living in a Blue Zone experiences stress and anxiety. Stress is often a major factor in the progression and severity of chronic ailments and diseases. Though we all experience stress, the difference is that while we go on with our hectic lives and the stress piles on, people living in the Blue Zones take the time each day to de-stress, whether through prayer, napping, spending time with loved ones, or enjoying their surroundings. They also don’t adhere to strict schedules, allowing their minds and bodies to rest and rejuvenate before returning to work or daily chores.
People in the Blue Zones live each day with a purpose and with the intent to contribute to the greater good. It’s clear that psychological well-being is as important to them as their physical well-being, and is a contributing factor to their long, happy lives.
The importance of family is a common theme among all of the Blue Zones. Often grandparents and grandchildren live under the same roof, and there is an overall feeling of respect and admiration for the elders in the community. Faith and religion is equally important in Blue Zones, so that even without family, no one is truly alone.
Blue Zone Inspired Skin Care
As we learned from Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn, living forever doesn’t do you much good if your body is falling apart! We want to be healthy on the inside and the outside. For most of us this means retaining a youthful glow and avoiding the fine lines, wrinkles, and blemishes that creep onto our skin with age. Enter Blue Zone skin care! It’s no surprise that beauty companies would want to implement the habits and elements that promote longevity in Blue Zones into their skin care.
Key Ingredients (& how they work)
More and more, you’ll find ingredients in anti-aging skin care products that are native to the Blue Zones and are central to their recipe for long, healthy lives. Here are a few of those key ingredients and how they can help to give you the beautiful, youthful skin you desire.
Found in Nicoyla, Costa Rica, the green coffee bean is one of its many unique assets. Aside from being delicious and renowned for its ability to aid in weight loss by suppressing appetite, boosting metabolism, and burning extra fat, it has significant skin benefits as well.
Skin benefits: When extracted for use in anti-aging skin care products, green coffee has 70 times the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties than regular coffee. The antioxidants protect skin from harmful free radicals like dust, dirt, pollution, and sun exposure that cause wrinkles and dark spots. Additionally, green coffee is rich in fatty acids including linoleic and oleic acid, which help to moisturize dry skin, resulting in a smoother, softer complexion.
An ingredient you’ve probably never heard of or perhaps skipped over when reading the label on your skin care bottle, lentisk resin is found in Icaria, Greece and is cultivated from a small evergreen shrub of the same name.
Skin benefits: You wouldn’t normally want to put resin on your skin, but when extracted and added molecularly to anti-aging serum, lentisk has potent restorative abilities. It’s naturally occurring oleanolic acid helps skin renew itself and look fresh and bright.
They sound good enough to eat, but they can actually do more good for your skin than in your belly. The bosana tree produces over half of the olives on the island of Sardinia, Greece, and its green or black olives are eaten as well as used for their oil.
Skin benefits: Like many olives, bosana olives contain fatty acids that aid in replenishing and nourishing skin. They also have high concentration of polyphenols that strengthen and fortify skin.
This yellow spice isn’t just for cooking anymore! It’s another Blue Zone ingredient popping up in anti-aging skin products. A staple in Okinawans’ gardens, turmeric is known worldwide for its medicinal properties.
Skin benefits: Not only can turmeric boost your immunity, it can also improve the health of your skin. Like green coffee, its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties protect skin from the effects of aging and keep it looking young longer. It soothes red, irritated skin, and is a natural skin brightener, making dull skin look fresh and light.
Also from the Blue Zone in Japan, mugwort refers to a tall, aromatic plant that is commonly used medicinally in Asia, as well as mixed with other herbs and spices and added to tea for flavor and general health maintenance. It has been known to ease pain associated with arthritis, help with symptoms of depression, and even attack and kill cancer cells.
Skin benefits: Although not as commonly found in skin care products, it can help to reduce redness and inflammation from blemishes and calm rosacea. Its restorative properties may accelerate the healing of scars and create a smooth, clear complexion once again.
Live a Blue Zone Life
If we’ve learned anything from the pursuit of youth and beauty throughout history, it’s that there is no magic pill that will give you perfect health or a flawless complexion. Observing the people in the Blue Zones is further proof that if you want to look and feel great, you’ve got to walk the walk. Healthy lifestyle choices can make all the difference in the length and quality of your life, no matter where you live. And with Blue Zone-inspired skin care, you can give your skin its best chance to look healthy for years to come!