You may blame bad genes for the reason you aren’t aging well, but there are several proactive steps you can take to reverse the physical signs of aging, and to help you look as good as possible as the years go by. I don’t believe in miracle wrinkle creams, but I do believe in taking a whole-body approach to anti-aging skin care:
1. Cut out sugars, simple carbs, trans fats, and processed foods from your diet. These foods age you, and literally break down your skin’s collagen and elastin, which lead to wrinkles and sagging. There are a million different diets and “experts” out there telling you what to eat, and even I have a hard time knowing what to believe. However, I believe the evidence is there to prove that sugars, simple carbs, trans fats, and processed foods will absolutely age your skin prematurely.
Currently I’m experimenting with variations of The South Beach Diet, eating less carbs but more protein and healthy fat, eating foods low on the glycemic index, the Mediterranean diet, and following the advice of Dr. Oz. My experimentation with trying to find the healthiest eating habits is an ongoing process, and it changes all the time.
2. Eat more antioxidants and Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Foods that are high in antioxidants protect your skin by neutralizing free radicals, which are created in your body by eating bad foods, exposure to pollution, and stress. Vegetables and fruit bright and rich in color mean that they are packed with antioxidants – spinach, berries, and tomatoes are just a few examples. Foods that contain Omega 3 Fatty Acids, such as wild salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed, reduce inflammation in your body, and they not only help your body as a whole, but they can give your skin a “glow.”
3. Stop using tanning beds, and limit sun exposure. I believe 15 minutes a day of natural sun exposure is healthy, and generates Vitamin D, but anything more than that will just age your skin, leading to preventable wrinkles and sagging. Tanning beds offer no value to your skin at all, and only harm your skin.
4. Wear a Zinc Oxide-based sunscreen every day. Even if you don’t actively go out in the sun, you’re still going to get a lot of incidental sun exposure. Running errands, driving, and sitting all day by a window will lead to sun spots, wrinkles, and sagging. A good sunblock will help to prevent this sun damage. If you do go outside for long periods of time, reapply your sunblock every few hours, consider wearing a hat, wear sunglasses, and stay in the shade.
5. Use topical retinols, peptides, and antioxidants. When it comes to skin care creams, few ingredients are proven to actually help reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Retinoids and retinols are one of the few ingredients that give visible results by increasing cell turnover and promoting collagen renewal. Retinoids are sold in prescriptions creams - Retin-A, Renova, Differin, etc. A non-prescription high-strength retinol cream (such as TX Systems Afirm) can give good results as well. You can work up to using these nightly, or every other night. Using an antioxidant serum or cream in the morning, or a sunblock with antioxidants will give you added preventative protection from skin-damaging free radicals. Products with peptides have also been shown to help reduce wrinkles. If you have dry skin, a moisturizer can help to keep your skin appear hydrated and plumper.
6. Wear sunglasses with 100% UV Protection. Big, wrap-around sunglasses are even better since they protect the delicate skin around your eyes more effectively. I don’t care if big sunglasses are in or out – I wear them every day! Sunglasses also prevent you from squinting, so you prevent unnecessary muscle-created wrinkles from forming around your eyes and between your eyes.
7. Stop smoking and limit second-hand smoke. Stopping smoking is obviously tough, but there is no denying that smoking prematurely ages your skin. Make active choices to limit your second-hand smoke exposure. I refuse to work in places that allow smoking, I boycott restaurants that still allow smoking, and I have never allowed anyone to smoke in my house. When I was single, I refused to date anyone that smoked.
8. Reduce stress in your life. The emotional effects of stress manifest themselves physically by prematurely aging your skin. When you’re stressed out, the hormone cortisol rises in your body, and extended periods of stress take a toll on your appearance. Re-evaluate your priorities in life, and do whatever you need to do to reduce your stress. Maybe take life a little bit less seriously, take more time to have fun, exercise, do yoga, or anything that de-stresses you.
9. Sleep 7 to 9 hours a night. No one thinks they have the time to sleep, but it’s essential for your body to function optimally. If you sleep more, you’ll be more productive during the day, since you’ll be able to focus better. Sleep is essential for the health of your skin – if you want to wake up looking rested – sleep more! When your body has time to repair itself, undereye bags and wrinkles seem less prominent, and the tone of your skin improves. And sleeping more helps regulate your hormones, which helps with weight loss.
10. Drink enough water. 8 glasses of water (64 ounces) is the median recommended amount of water to consume daily – some experts say you don’t need that much, and others say you need way more. Drink an additional glass of water for every coffee, soda, or alcoholic beverage you consume. By keeping your body properly hydrated, it’s able to function better, and your skin will appear healthier.
11. Limit your alcohol. Too much alcohol dehydrates you, and taxes your body as a whole. Aim for no more than a few drinks a week.
12. Exercise regularly. Exercise improves your body’s circulation, it de-stresses you, and overall makes you healthier. Anything that improves your health will improve the look of your skin. Exercise (and eating well) will also possibly prevent you from getting Diabetes (which ages your skin), or needing as many medications. There are a lot of medications (Prednisone, for example) that will speed up your skin’s aging process.
13. Consider taking vitamins. There are so many different vitamin and mineral supplements out there, which makes it extremely confusing to choose which ones to take. A daily multivitamin is usually a good idea, and when it comes to improving the look of your skin, Vitamin C, Essential Fatty Acids, and various antioxidants are just a few supplements to look into. I recommend researching vitamins, and talking with your doctor before you start taking vitamins.
14. Consider Botox. Botox works by relaxing muscles around your eyes, and in your forehead, thus reducing wrinkles. It also works as a preventative, and can prevent muscle-related wrinkles from forming in the first place. I personally wouldn’t recommend getting Botox until you actually start seeing wrinkles, but it really does work well. Restylane, or Juvederm, are also good options if you have lines around your nose and mouth that you want “filled in.” There is speculative evidence that Restylane and Juvederm can promote new collagen to form where it is injected, but the studies are not yet conclusive. Even though there are a lot of ways to prevent aging, you can’t prevent it completely, which is why seeing a Cosmetic Dermatologist can be a good addition to your anti-aging routine, if you can afford it.
Before you begin on an exercise regimen, take vitamins, or completely change your lifestyle, make sure to first consult your doctor. While I mostly focus on what you can do to specifically improve the look of your skin, by adopting many of these suggestions, you will not only seen an improvement in your face, but in your body as well. I will write more thorough articles about a lot of these topics individually. Over the past 5 years, I’ve worked on all 14 of these suggestions (my weaknesses are exercising and eating well), and I can say I feel like it has really helped with the appearance of my skin. And as the saying goes, when you look better, your feel better, or is it the other way around?