As we get older, our skin ages, too. It gets thinner, more fragile, less elastic, and becomes more vulnerable to its environment. This means we're going to have to work harder to protect our skin's health and appearance.
Ironing Out the Wrinkles
Collagen and elastin
Aging skin suffers a gradual loss of both collagen (a group of proteins that protects and strengthens the skin) and elastin (a protein that helps the skin stay flexible). Because sun exposure speeds up skin aging, these changes first appear on the face and neck.
Other factors that affect how skin ages include:
▪ Skin type (for example, darker, more oily skin may show fewer fine wrinkles, and age of onset is often later)
▪ Climate (skin may show its age faster in a dry Arizona desert than on the rainy coast of Oregon)
▪ Life style issues, such as smoking, exercise, alcohol consumption, lifetime sun exposure, and diet
▪ Non-prescription wrinkle creams with retinol (a derivative of vitamin A) is a good place to start if your skin is in good shape and you want to keep it that way. Your routine should include daily gentle cleansing and moisturizing, plus weekly exfoliation to remove any dead skin. Your skin turns over every 28 days and is constantly being renewed--which is why exfoliation is so important. People who can exfoliate more often can get better results. Check with your dermatologist to find out how often you should exfoliate.
▪ Prescription-strength Retin-A (retinol) can be very effective at evening out skin tone, removing fine lines, and strengthening collagen and elastin. Over time it can reduce wrinkles and age spots, as well. After one week, your skin can be smoother. You should see full results after six months of consistent use.
▪ Dermatologists or cosmetic surgeons can provide chemical peels, microdermabrasion, face and/or neck lifts, Botox, laser techniques, and more to treat wrinkles and tighten your skin. Your choices may be limited by health considerations, cosmetic goals, and the size of your pocketbook (Medicare does not pay for cosmetic upkeep).
▪ You can help by limiting environmental damage. Consult your doctor for a broad based sun block with an SPF of 30 or more. Make sure it protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Put it next to your toothbrush and use it daily. Use it as a moisturizer before leaving the house and you'll find it can make a big difference in reducing the number of age spots on your hands and face (note: your car window glass provides protection from UVB rays, but not from UVA rays).
▪ Eat lots of antioxidant-rich foods such as berries, broccoli, and carrots to help keep the collagen and elastin below the surface of your skin strong. Avoid smoking since chemicals in smoke can destroy collagen and elastin, and may also lead to vertical lip lines. Drink lots of water. Eat salmon and other fatty fish (or take an omega-3 supplement). Use a moisturizer faithfully.
▪ Cultivate your inner beauty. Smile a lot, even at strangers (you'll be surprised at how many smile back). Do things with your life that give you pleasure and let that pleasure show. Be enthusiastic about other people's triumphs. Commit random acts of kindness. Everyone wants to be around people who are actively engaged with life's challenges and opportunities. There's a lot more to attractiveness than meets the eye.
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Amy Wolthoff, Dermatologist.