Nothing gives away your age faster than wrinkles, age spots and leathery skin. Looking weather-beaten or older than you are can impact your self-esteem and the way you approach life. But, you can delay the appearance of aging by taking simple precautions.
Several factors cause the skin to age. Some — such as the natural gravitational pull on the skin and the degeneration of fat and muscle under the facial tissue over time — are inevitable. But others — exposure to ultraviolet rays and the elements — can be prevented.
Research indicates the greatest culprit in aging the skin is ultraviolet radiation (UV). Both UVA (primary rays that cause aging) and UVB (rays that cause sunburns) cause DNA damage to the skin. Chronic sun exposure causes wrinkles, brown spots, blood vessels, loss of elasticity, discoloration, leathery skin, facial volume (fat) loss and, worst of all, skin cancer. Sun protection is your number one defense against aging skin.
Sunscreens come in two basic types — chemical and physical screens. Chemical screens absorb UV rays and offer high SPF for excellent protection from both UVA and UVB. The downside is some can cause allergic skin rashes or are not stable in the sun. Physical blockers are made of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They reflect or scatter UV rays away from skin. They contain inorganic (mineral) ingredients that are safer and gentler for use in children (6 months and older) and adults. The downside is they don’t protect as far into the UVA range as some chemical sunscreens.
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Many sunscreens combine physical and chemical screens to capture the advantages of both. Effective brands include SkinCeutical Physical Fusion (SPF 50), Neutrogena with Helioplex (many options of SPF), La Roche-Posay Anthelios 40 (SPF 40) and Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light (SPF 50).
Always wear a water-resistant sunscreen of at least SPF 30. Reapply every two hours when in the sun for extended periods of time and after exercise and swimming. Consider doing outdoor activities before 11 a.m. and after 3 p.m. to avoid the strongest UV rays. In addition to sunscreen, protect your skin by wearing long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Already have sun damage? Antioxidants and retinoids can help prevent or reverse the effects of photoaging of skin. Topical vitamin formulations containing vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) and vitamin E (at least 0.2% a-tocopherol) — the most important anti-oxidants for the skin — have shown promising results in reducing UV-induced oxidative damage.
Topical retinoids containing vitamin A and its natural and synthetic derivatives boost collagen formation, reduce fine lines and even out skin tone. Retinoid creams include retinol, tretinoin, adapalene and tazarotene. The downside to these is that they often cause redness, peeling and itching/burning. You can minimize these side effects by using small amounts, starting gradually (every few nights) and applying a non-pore-clogging moisturizer.
You can be more aggressive in turning back the hands of time with the three Rs: Relax, Refill and Replenish.
Botox Cosmetic, Dysport and Xeomin are all forms of botulinum toxin that, when injected, can relax the muscles that cause wrinkles. Treatment typically lasts three to four months, though with regular use, can last up to six months.
Dermal fillers such as Restylane, Belotero and Juvederm can be injected virtually anywhere on the face to minimize wrinkles and replenish volume.
Broadband light reduces brown spots and blood vessels and rejuvenizes the skin with no down time. Radio frequency devices, like Exilis, tighten skin and reduce fat non-invasively and also have no down time. A microlaser peel refreshes the skin with minimal downtime, and fractional and deep resurfacing offer more dramatic results for deeper wrinkles and acne scars with downtime of at least seven days.
Nothing can permanently reverse the effects of aging. The best protection is prevention of UV damage. Wear sunscreen and protective clothing in the sun and avoid intentional tanning, both in the sun and in a tanning bed.
And above vanity, always be on the lookout for skin cancer. Watch your moles for the ABCDEs: Asymmetry, border irregularity, color (multiple), diameter (6 mm or larger, the size of a pencil eraser) and evolution (change). Alert your dermatologist or primary care physician of any abnormal moles. Also, alert your doctor about any painful or bleeding skin lesions or other lesions that are of concern to you.