By the time we reach our forties, fluctuating hormones and decades of lifestyle choices begin wreaking havoc on our faces.
As estrogen levels drop, the skin becomes drier and retains less moisture. The natural loss of collagen and elastin leads to loose, sagging skin that’s becoming noticeably thinner and more uneven in texture. Fine lines and wrinkles deepen around the eyes and mouth. Cumulative sun damage causes increased hyperpigmentation, such as brown spots or red blotches. Put simply, your once-vibrant complexion is losing its youthful glow.
No matter how hard we try, we can’t stop the aging process. But we can make it less visible. Here are some tips for reviving your skin’s resilience.
Re-evaluate your skin type. As our skin changes, our skin care regimens should change, too. Because the skin produces less moisture as we age, those who had oily skin in their teens and twenties may now be dealing with uncharacteristic dryness. When this happens, swap harsh or drying products for those that add extra hydration. Consult with a skin care professional to evaluate your changing needs and reset your skin care regimen.
Hydrate. As we age, our skin becomes drier, so it’s important to stay hydrated. The amount of water needed each day depends on a number of factors, including your health, your activity level and where you live. According to the Institute of Medicine, men generally need about 125 ounces or 3.7 liters of fluid each day and women need about 91 ounces or 2.7 liters. (By comparison, the oft-advised eight glasses per day yields about 64 ounces or 1.9 liters.) But it doesn’t all have to come from plain water — beverages and foods that contain water count, too.
Moisturize. It’s just as important to hydrate your skin each day with a moisturizer or serum. If your skin is very dry, you may want to consider a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid, which forms a moisturizing barrier to keep the skin soft. If your skin is beginning to look crepey, try one with copper peptides, which promote collagen and elastin production and act as an antioxidant.
Use sunscreen. Unprotected sun exposure is a major cause of premature aging, and its cumulative effects worsen with age. Wear a broadband (UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher. Some moisturizers already contain sunscreen. If yours doesn’t, apply a separate one.
Exfoliate. As cell renewal slows down, skin can become dull, mottled and lifeless. Chemical peels and skin care products containing alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid), beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid) and retinoic acid encourage new cell turnover and stimulate collagen production, revealing fresher, brighter skin. For a gentler approach, try microdermabrasion.
Embrace retinoids. Retinoid products, made with derivatives of vitamin A, reach deep into the middle layer of skin to combat and reverse signs of aging. They boost collagen production and speed up cell turnover to fight wrinkles, uneven texture and acne; minimize pores; and reduce brown spots.
Remove cumulative sun damage with intense pulsed light (IPL). IPL employs a broad wavelength of light to treat hyperpigmentation without damaging the upper layers of the skin. IPL can be used to treat sun damage, brown spots, freckles, redness and rosacea. It also stimulates collagen production and minimizes pores.
Consider dermal fillers. As we continue to lose elasticity, fine lines deepen and skin begins to sag. Dermal fillers can be injected into hollow areas of the face to plump up lines, lips, under-eye spaces and cheeks. But that doesn’t mean you have to look ‘done.’ For a natural look, use one that contains hyaluronic acid, a substance found in young skin and in the body’s connective tissues. These include Restylane, Juvederm and, for deeper folds, Perlane. To increase their longevity, consider Botox, which temporarily relaxes muscles to smooth creases and prevent new ones from forming.
Load up on omega-3s and antioxidants. What you put in your body affects your skin as much as what you put on it. Omega-3 fatty acids — found in such foods as wild salmon, avocados, walnuts, flaxseeds and spinach — reduce the body’s production of inflammatory compounds, thus reducing redness and irritation in the skin. Antioxidants — essential nutrients that include vitamins C, D and E, beta-carotene and selenium — protect the skin from free radicals, unstable molecules that damage healthy cells as a result of exposure to pollutants and radiation.Photo by Aurélien Dauvel/Creative Commons