Being a dermatologist, one of the frequent questions I get from my patients is what they can do to make their skin look younger. Often times, the answer to keeping your skin looking younger lies in not making common mistakes that actually ages skin. Here are some simple things I advise my patients to do (and not do) that can prevent their skin (and them!) from looking older.
How NOT To Age Your Skin!
Keep it Clean: One of the best, and easiest, suggestions I give to my patients on how to keep their skin young-looking is to keep it clean! Many people neglect to wash their faces before they go to bed. During the day your face has accumulated a lot of oil and dirt that gets trapped in pores. Going to bed with dirt on your face can lead to acne break outs and enlarged pores and/toughened skin texture that can make you look dramatically older.
Exfoliation: There’s a funny movie, Legally Blonde, where the main character is always talking about needing to ‘exfoliate’ her face. However, it’s true. A good deal of surface aging on the face is due to a build up of dried out, old skin cells that don’t get removed. These can form a network of fine lines on your face as they are essentially dead skin cells that are barely getting any moisture from the underlying skin. Many of my patients think they have to go out and buy expensive exfoliation products, however, a little granulated sugar, or salt, on a wet wash cloth, applied in a circular motion all around your face will do just as well. Rinse your face several times with cool water and notice how shiny and clear your skin appears afterwards. Apply a light moisturizer, like simple aloe vera gel afterwards. Doing this a few times a week can really make your skin brighter. Applying alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) can also help exfoliate skin.
Sleep and Sleep Positions: Ever notice how your facial skin seems to sag and droop and have poor color if you haven’t gotten enough sleep the night before? It’s true. Sleep benefits the appearance, as well as the health, of your skin. Try to get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. In addition, how you sleep makes a big difference in the appearance of your skin. If you constantly sleep on one side of your face, or the other, you can force unnatural creases and lines into your skin from your face being pushed up against pillows or the mattress for several hours. The best sleep position that benefits the appearance of your facial skin is flat on your back. Also, using a specific cervical support pillow can help keep your facial skin from pushing up against bed clothes during sleep.
Keep It Hydrated: I can’t say enough about the benefits that simply drinking water gives your health as well as the appearance of your skin. If you are the least bit dehydrated it shows in your facial skin much faster than the rest of you. It sags and can make you look much older. The Institute of Medicine states women should drink 9 cups (72 ounces) of water a day and men 13 cups (104 ounces). However, you may need to adjust this upward if you are in a very hot, humid region and/or are sweating a lot from work or exercise. Hyaluronic acid containing moisturizers can help keep your skin look hydrated as well as help hold moisture close to the surface.
Feed Your Skin A to Z: Poor nutrition can really age your skin. You need an adequate amount of specific vitamins that help keep your skin healthy. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that repairs skin cells. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) greatly aids in skin repair. Vitamin B3 (niacin) is an anti-inflammatory and soothes irritated, inflamed skin. Vitamin C is not only a powerful antioxidant but it helps build collagen, the substance that holds your skin together and prevents it from sagging. Vitamin E is also an antioxidant full of rich oils that help keep your skin from drying out and wrinkling. Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil and flaxseed oil, also help keep your skin from drying out, particularly when you pass the age of 40. Selenium, another important antioxidant, helps prevent dry skin as well as skin cancer! Zinc is a mineral that works in tandem with Vitamin C to produce elastin and collagen that knits a strong matrix in your skin.
No Smoking: Have you noticed that people who smoke have older-appearing, tougher, more wrinkled skin than nonsmokers? It’s true. Smoking robs oxygen and vitamin C out of your skin that are necessary to keep your skin healthy. Without them skin ages fast.
Avoid Crash Diets: Nothing crashes your skin faster than a crash diet, mainly because most of them are devoid of adequate vitamins and protein that your body and skin needs to repair itself. If you need to lose weight, do it more slowly, trying not to lose over 2-3 lbs a week. Monitoring your sugar intake to no more than 15-20 grams a day (read labels) and sticking to low glycemic carbohydrates, adequate protein (75 grams a day), lots of water and a good multivitamin and mineral supplement can help you lose weight more slowly and consistently.
Sun Exposure: Although we all need to get crucial Vitamin D from the sun, you only need about 15-20 minutes a day exposure to get it. Too much sun bathing in summer, or even skiing in winter in bright sunlight that reflects off the snow can over-expose your skin to UV rays. Too much sun exposure toughens and loosens skin, and gives it a leathery appearance, creating wrinkles and fine lines. Using a good sun block, SPF-15, sunglasses and a hat while out in bright sun will help keep your skin looking younger longer.
Watch Alcohol: Although a little red wine (contains resveratrol) once a day can be good for your health, too much alcohol can really age your skin. Alcohol dehydrates you and your facial skin is the first to show it. Limit to 1-2 drinks a day.
There you have some pretty basic, common sense advice that I give my patients on how to prevent skin from looking old well into your advancing years. In addition, you get the added benefits of becoming a healthier you all around, as when your body is healthy, your skin shows it!
Photo Credit: Ambro