For most of us, aging gracefully requires some help. With all the anti-aging products on the market, however, it can be a challenge to discern what’s an effective treatment and what falls short of the hype. Whether you’re concerned about reversing already-visible signs of aging or want to prevent fine lines and wrinkles, here’s what you need to know to keep your skin healthy, youthful and vibrant.
1. Understand how skin ages and what you can do about it. In order to effectively treat aging skin, you need to target the two types of aging: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic aging is inevitable; it’s the wrinkles, loss of moisture and dull, sagging skin that naturally develop with the passing years. Mainly determined by genetics, intrinsic aging leaves us with little control in halting the process. However, there are products available that target its symptoms, particularly the breakdown in collagen and elastin.
The key to extrinsic aging, on the other hand, is prevention. Extrinsic aging results from environmental factors, such as sun exposure, gravity, sleep habits and smoking. To safeguard your skin against future damage, you can take simple but important steps, including avoiding indoor and outdoor tanning and making sunscreen a daily habit. Also recommended: Get enough sleep, sleep on your back and ditch the cigarettes. Fortunately, you can reduce extrinsic aging. For more information and tips on treating both types of aging, see here.
2. Discover how collagen and elastin contribute to youthful skin. Collagen and elastin provide the foundation for skin. These proteins found in the dermis (a layer of skin just below the epidermis) work in tandem to keep skin supple and tight. Fine lines and wrinkles develop as collagen and elastin synthesis slows down, leading to thin, sagging skin. The three main contributing factors for this breakdown are the usual suspects: age, sun exposure and smoking. Fortunately, you can prevent some collagen and elastin loss by maintaining healthy habits and adding key effective ingredients to your daily routine, such as vitamin C and retinoids. Find out more about the foundations of youthful skin here.
3. Fight free radicals with powerful antioxidants. Want the facts behind free radicals and how to fight them? Free radicals, also known as the assailants of good skin, occur because of a natural but disruptive process called oxidation — the loss of an electron from an atom or molecule. These scavengers wreak havoc on living cells, damaging DNA and leaving your skin vulnerable to environmental stress. Free radicals show up every day as pollution, car exhaust, smoking, UV rays, radiation and pesticides. So what’s the best defense in your anti-aging arsenal? Antioxidants defend your cells and maintain damage control by acting as a buffer and stabilizing free radicals. To make the most of antioxidants’ skin benefits, look for ingredients like vitamins C and E, coffeeberry, pomegranate, grape seed extract and alpha lipoic acid. Learn more about vital antioxidants to add to your routine here.
4. Play it safe in the sun. Sun exposure is one of the worst culprits of premature aging. But the dangers go beyond appearance: Melanoma is considered to be the most serious type of skin cancer. Even in the cold months, going out without using the proper precautions can increase your risk of this potentially fatal cancer. To effectively identify the early signs of melanoma, learn the ABCDEs of monitoring your moles. Also, practice sun safety by eschewing outdoor tanning and tanning beds, wearing sunscreen every day and avoiding sun exposure during peak hours. Find out more about who’s at risk and how to prevent melanoma here.
5. Repair skin with effective anti-agers. With all the anti-aging products on the market claiming to turn back the clock, it can be a challenge to find out which ones actually work. Retinoids are widely considered the gold standard, as they improve sun damage and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. These derivatives of vitamin A are potent ingredients and must be prescribed by a dermatologist. Learn more about retinoids and how they work here. And here’s a list of five reasons to try them.
For an effective over-the-counter treatment, try coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This antioxidant is believed to be a scavenger of free radicals, the harmful molecules that cause signs of aging. In addition to providing free radical and UV protection, researchers have found that CoQ10 may affect collagen and elastin. You can find CoQ10 in face and eye creams, anti-aging serums, lip treatments, night creams and body products. But be patient: Like most treatments, you may need six weeks or more to see results. Learn more about CoQ10 here.
Another ingredient to add to your anti-aging arsenal is ferulic acid. In addition to providing free radical defense, ferulic acid can help protect skin from UV damage. You’ll find ferulic acid in a variety of products, including creams, serums and even lip treatments. Ferulic acid works best when used in combination with other antioxidants, such as vitamin E, C and alpha lipoic acid. Long-term use should improve skin texture and tone, reducing fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and age spots. Get more facts, plus tips on using ferulic acid here.
Think vitamin C is just for fighting off colds? Think again. This antioxidant is one of the most effective ingredients against wrinkles, fine lines and photodamage. Vitamin C, or L-ascorbic acid, can help to produce collagen, correct pigmentation problems and reduce free radicals. Select products with 10 percent or more vitamin C and look for L-ascorbic acid as an ingredient on the label. Learn more about the benefits of vitamin C and what to expect here.
Round out your anti-aging defense with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), natural acids derived from fruit, milk or sugar cane. AHAs dissolve dead skin cells and allow fresh, healthy cells to emerge. These natural exfoliators boast well-established efficacy and are found in many cleansers, lotions, acne treatments and anti-aging serums. It typically takes about two weeks to see a change in your skin, but with continued use, you’ll notice a brighter skin tone and improved texture, as well as faded sun spots. Find out more about AHAs here.
6. Look beyond Botox. Whether you have an aversion to needles, question the safety of the procedure or simply want a less invasive way to treat aging skin, there are many alternatives to Botox. Although skin naturally loses collagen and moisture as we age, a great anti-aging product can combat the fine lines and wrinkles that develop from external factors like facial expressions, UV rays and smoking. Look for the heavy hitters in anti-aging: retinol, antioxidants, peptides and AHAs. Among the best anti-aging products available is StriVectin SD. Hailed as a non-invasive alternative to Botox, this cream provides longer-lasting results that continue to improve over time. To see how other products ranked and learn more about alternatives to Botox, see here.
7. Don’t neglect the neck and décolleté. The neck and chest area are often the least pampered parts of the body, even though they’re also the most likely to reveal your age. Your number one weapon in protecting the neck and décolleté from further damage is sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection. A regular routine should also include cleansing and moisturizing your neck and chest, as well as gently exfoliating several times a week to slough off dead skin cells. You can also try products with AHAs specifically designed to treat these areas, and indulge in professional or at-home treatments — like masks and massage therapy — to help support firm, healthy skin. For more dramatic results, you’ll find many choices at your doctor’s office, from retinoid creams to lunchtime procedures. Discover your full range of options for treating and protecting the neck and décolleté here.
8. Flaunt full and youthful lips. Who doesn’t want youthful-looking lips? Unfortunately, once we’ve reached our “lip prime” in our teens and 20s, the lips begin to lose collagen, elastin and moisture, leaving us with thinning lips, lines and wrinkles. But no need to pout: You can protect and plump your lips with lip moisture creams featuring SPF, as well as products rich in vitamins and antioxidants to keep lips healthy and soft. These ingredients also defend against free radicals, which damage skin cells. If you’d like to smooth lip lines, the first step is to quit smoking, which encourages fine lines and wrinkles around the mouth. Choose a topical treatment or opt for chemical peels to treat existing lines. Laser resurfacing is a longer-term method, also effective for smoothing upper lip lines. Find out more about beautifying your lips as they age here.
9. Make the most of your makeup. Many women make the mistake of over-applying makeup to mask aging skin. The key to younger-looking skin is actually the opposite: Simple is really the way to go. For starters, enhance your features — and minimize the look of lines and wrinkles — with concealer, light-reflecting foundation and oil-free loose powder, rather than matte formulas. To achieve a natural-looking radiance, try to mimic your skin’s own natural hue with gel or cream blush, avoiding dark shades and contoured cheeks. When it comes to eye shadow, again, less is more, so focus on blending several shades to create depth and intensity, without over-doing it. Finish with a gel or cream liner and dark brown or black mascara. Choose hydrating formulas for lips to combat dryness, and remember gloss is usually best. Check out more makeup tips for gorgeous, mature skin here.
10. Lighten up. Sun spots are all too common in adults over 40 and often appear on the face, chest, back, shoulders and hands. Fortunately, there’s a skin lightener than can help. Hydroquinone is the most effective, well-researched skin-lightening ingredient on the market. While using products with hydroquinone, be diligent about sunscreen and avoid excessive sun exposure. Read important tips and product picks here.
Remember that before you start building an effective skin care routine, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of aging. Once you do, creating a good anti-aging regimen is simple, and will help you stave off signs of aging and reduce red flags like lines, wrinkles, discoloration, sun damage and dullness. Your skin will seriously thank you for years to come!
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