Americans spend billions of dollars each year on skin care products that promise to erase wrinkles, lighten age spots, and eliminate itching, flaking, or redness. In other words, we empty our pockets to rejuvenate aging skin.
But is the answer to spend lots of money or is it to change our lifestyle?
Perhaps the simplest and cheapest way to keep your skin healthy and young-looking is to stay out of the sun and to stop smoking – two of the major causes of aging skin and facial wrinkles.
As we grow older, the effects of our lifestyle habits become more apparent on our skin, especially our face. Thus, we attribute these changes –wrinkles, dryness, and age spots – to aging. But indeed, a lot of the effects on our skin is not all due to aging but to a lifetime of poor habits.
Indeed, our skin does change with age. For example, we sweat less, leading to increased dryness. It also becomes thinner and loses fat, so it looks less plump and smooth. Underlying structures, veins, and bones, in particular, become more prominent. And the skin can take longer to heal when injured.
You can rejuvenate aging skin by altering your habits and your daily grooming routine. When you do adopt some changes, after a few weeks, you will see some reversal of the aging process. Although nothing can completely undo a lifetime of damage, the skin can repair itself.
So, it’s never too late to get started on some practices that can reverse the aging of your skin.
Some Causes of Facial Wrinkles
Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. The breakdown of these fibers causes the skin to lose its ability to snap back after stretching. As a result, wrinkles form. Gravity also is at work, pulling at the skin downward and causing it to sag, most noticeably on the face, neck, and upper arms.
Cigarette smoking also contributes to wrinkles. People who smoke tend to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers of the same age, complexion, and history of sun exposure.
In fact, experts agree that smoking accelerates aging, so that smokers look at least, if not more than, 1.4 years older than nonsmokers.
The carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke displaces the oxygen in your skin, and the nicotine in cigarette smoke reduces blood flow, leaving skin dry and discolored. Further, cigarette smoking depletes many nutrients, including vitamins A and C, which helps protect and repair skin damage.
Moreover, you lose your natural glow.
Have you ever heard the term “Smoker’s Face”? Dr. Model coined it in a 1985 study to describe facial features caused by smoking for 10 years or more. Most of these smokers had:
- Paper-dry skin that looks purplish, orange, or red and blotchy;
- Deeply etched prune-like wrinkles radiating at right angles from the lips or eyes; and
- A haggard, sickly-looking face.
So is this damage reversible?
Yes, within reason.
When you stop smoking, your body can function more effectively. In about 6 weeks, the texture and appearance of your skin will improve, according to the Mayo Clinic.
But you must adopt a strict, healthy skin-care regime.
Keep Your Skin Healthy
The best way to rejuvenate aging skin is to avoid sun exposure.
- Stay out of the sun. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is when the sun’s UV rays are strongest. Don’t be fooled by cloudy skies. Harmful rays pass through clouds. UV radiation also can pass through water, so don’t assume you’re safe if you’re in the water and feeling cool.
- Use sunscreen. Sunscreens are rated in strength according to a sun protection factor (SPF), which ranges from 2 to 30 or higher. A higher number means longer protection. Buy products with an SPF number of 15 or higher. Also look for products whose label says: broad spectrum (meaning they protect against both types of harmful sun rays UVA and UVB) and water resistant (meaning they stay on your skin longer, even if you get wet or sweat a lot).
Remember to reapply the lotion as needed. It’s the best way to rejuvenate aging skin.
- Wear protective clothing. A hat with a wide brim shades your neck, ears, eyes, and head. Look for sunglasses with a label saying the glasses block 99 to 100 percent of the sun’s rays. Wear loose, lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and long pants or long skirts when in the sun.
- Avoid artificial tanning. Don’t use sunlamps and tanning beds, as well as tanning pills and tanning makeup. Tanning pills have a color additive that turns your skin orange after you take them. The FDA has approved this color additive for coloring foods but not for tanning the skin. The large amount of color additive in tanning pills may be harmful. Tanning make-up products are not suntan lotions and will not protect your skin from the sun.
- Check your skin often. Look for changes in the size, shape, color, or feel of birthmarks, moles, and spots. If you find any changes that worry you, see a doctor. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that older, fair-skinned people have a yearly skin check by a doctor as part of a regular physical exam.
Practice Good Grooming Habits
To create a truly effective anti-aging skin care plan, you must start with healthy skin care habits.
The benefits of healthy skin care habits include:
- Prevent (or clear up) a blotchy complexion
- Retain skin’s youthful firmness longer
- Reduce fine lines and wrinkles
- Keep complexion looking brighter and younger
- Avoid leathery skin
- Reduce skin cancer risk
To rejuvenate aging skin, you need to create your own anti-aging skincare routine. Here are the key anti-aging skin care tips:
- Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize! Apply moisturizer from head to toe every day. As we age, our skin becomes drier. Fine lines and wrinkles appear. Moisturizer traps water in our skin, giving it a more youthful appearance.
- Wash your face twice a day. Use warm water and a mild cleanser rather than soap. You also should avoid scrubbing your skin clean.
- Stop smoking! Tobacco smoke contains toxins that can lead to smoker’s face. Signs of smoker’s face include dull and dry complexion, loss of skin’s firmness, premature lines and wrinkles, and leathery skin.
- Eat healthy foods. A healthy diet promotes healthy skin. Make sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
- Get enough sleep. It’s called beauty rest for a reason. Sleep gives your body time to refresh and renew itself.
Selecting Skin Care Products
Many products currently on the market claim to revitalize and rejuvenate aging skin. However, many over-the-counter wrinkle creams and lotions may soothe dry skin, but they may do little or nothing to reverse wrinkles. So choose your products carefully.
The American Academy of Dermatology offers these tips to get the best results from OTC products:
- Start with one product. Using several anti-aging products at the same time can irritate your skin. When you irritate your skin, signs of aging become more noticeable.
- Buy a product formulated for your skin type. Your sunscreen, moisturizer, and other anti-aging skin care products will work best if they are formulated for your skin type. For example, if your skin tends to be oily, select a moisturizer made for oily skin. If you have sensitive skin, you want to see the words “sensitive skin” on the label. Remember that no one product works for everyone.
- Read product labels. Select a product that is hypoallergenic (less risk for an allergic reaction), and non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic (does not cause acne), and has a consumer hotline (to contact for questions).
- Test the product before applying it to your face or hands. Even hypoallergenic products can cause a skin reaction. To test a product, apply a small amount to your inner forearm. Repeat this twice a day for 4 to 5 days. If your skin looks normal – free of redness, itch, and other reactions – you can apply it to your face and other skin.
- Stop using a product that stings, burns, or tingles. These sensations mean that the product irritates your skin. Irritated skin looks older. If you are using a product prescribed by your dermatologist, ask if this should be happening before you stop using it. Some prescription-strength products will burn or sting.
- Follow directions. Some products contain active ingredients that can cause problems if you apply more than directed. You could end up with clogged pores, blotchy skin, or excessively dry skin. Read the instructions, and use as directed.
- Give the product time to work. A moisturizer can plump up fine lines in a few days, but most products take at least 6 weeks to work. Sometimes it can take up to 3 months. Be patient and give the product time to work.
- Continue using. If you want to continue seeing results and completely rejuvenate aging skin, don’t stop using a product when you begin to see results. Keep using the product indefinitely.
- Be realistic. Exaggerated promises, such as look 10 years younger overnight or quickly reduces all signs of aging, are too good to be true. It’s important to remember that anti-aging skin care products deliver only modest results. You can also get anti-aging results from good homemade products. But you cannot get the results of a facelift from any cream or potion.
- Important TIP. “Clinically proven” means that the product was given to consumers to try. It does not mean the product underwent clinical trials and received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Avoid the temptation to improve results with a do-it-yourself cosmetic procedure. You may see lasers and other products that treat signs of aging for sale. These products are often counterfeit or imported illegally. Using these products can be extremely dangerous to your health.
Talk with your dermatologist.
Your dermatologist can examine your skin and discuss the signs of skin aging that concern you. Keep in mind that creams, gels, and lotions cannot reduce all signs of aging skin.
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Other Aging Skin Conditions
Dry Skin and Itching
Many older people suffer from dry skin, particularly on their lower legs, elbows, and forearms. The skin feels rough and scaly and often is accompanied by a distressing, intense itchiness. Low humidity caused by overheating during the winter and air conditioning during the summer contributes to dryness and itching.
The loss of sweat and oil glands as you age also may worsen dry skin. Anything that further dries your skin, like overuse of soaps, antiperspirants, perfumes, or hot baths, will make the problem worse. Dehydration, sun exposure, smoking, and stress also may cause dry skin.
Dry skin itches because it is irritated easily. If your skin is very dry and itchy, see a doctor. Dry skin and itching can affect your sleep, cause irritability, or be a symptom of a disease. For example, diabetes and kidney disease can cause itching. Some medicines (both prescription and OTD) make the itchiness worse.
The most common treatment for dry skin is the use of moisturizers to reduce water loss and soothe the skin. Moisturizers come in several forms: ointments, creams, and lotions.
- Ointments are mixtures of water in oil, usually either lanolin or petrolatum.
- Creams are preparations of oil in water, which is the main ingredient. Creams must be applied more often than ointments to be most effective.
- Lotions contain powder crystals dissolved in water, again the main ingredient. Because of their high water content, they feel cool on the skin and don’t leave the skin feeling greasy.Although they are easy to apply and may be more pleasing than ointments and creams, lotions don’t have the same protective qualities. You may need to apply them frequently to relieve the signs and symptoms of dryness.
Moisturizers should be used indefinitely to prevent recurrence of dry skin.
A humidifier can add moisture to the air. Bathing less often and using milder soaps also can help relieve dry skin. Warm water is less irritating to dry skin than hot water.
Age spots, or liver spots as they’re often called, have nothing to do with the liver. The medical name for them is solar lentigo.
These flat, brown spots are caused by years of sun exposure. They are bigger than freckles and appear in fair-skinned people on sun-exposed areas such as the face, hands, arms, back, and feet. They may be accompanied by wrinkling, dryness, thinning of the skin, and rough spots.
Several treatments are available, including skin-lightening or fade creams, cryotherapy (freezing), and laser therapy.
Tretinoin cream has been approved by the FDA for reducing the appearance of darkened spots. Check with your dermatologist for the best product for you.
A sunscreen or sunblock should be used to prevent further damage.
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