It's easier to prevent damage than to repair it, but the good news is you can put the brakes on premature aging and get your skin back in tip-top condition with these 10 tips and tricks.
5 Dos and 5 Don’ts to Help Slow the Aging Skin Process
- Do stop smoking. Ever notice the skin of a lifelong smoker? It can appear as wrinkly as a squashed paper bag. I can spot a smoker by the lines above the mouth that tend to form from constant lip pursing. The lines always seem to point to the mouth as if saying, "insert cigarette here."
Smoking is the 2nd biggest cause of skin damage after sun exposure. Why? Nicotine constricts blood vessels and decreases the flow of oxygen to the skin. Not good things.
- Do use a retinoid every day or every few days. A daily application of a prescription retinoid lotion (such as Retin-A or Tazorac) can erase years from your face. In fact, dermatologists claim retinoids (see "Is this product the secret to looking young?" are the one anti-aging product that really works.
Before I used Retin-A, I suffered from dull skin. My complexion had a white cast and a dull pallor until I bought a tube of Retin-A over-the-counter in Mexico. I had friends who swore by the stuff. After using the product for a few weeks (and going through the annoying period where my skin turned red and peeled), all of a sudden I had dewy, glowing skin and people began complimenting me on my skin.
AHAs used properly not only rids your face of dead skin, but can seem to take 10 years off as well by reducing fine lines. (Keep in mind these products do NOT shrink pores. Your pore size is completely hereditary, so don't believe promises of permanent reduction). Over-the-counter options such as RoC Deep Wrinkle Night Cream are good, but prescription creams work the best. Extra tip: You must stay out of the sun if you use retinoids. You are extra-susceptible to sunburns.
- Do give yourself a facial once a week. If you follow my Basic At-Home Facial I guarantee your skin will never look better. My facial takes only 30 minutes and includes cleansing, exfoliation via a facial scrub, a hydrating mask, a quick steam and moisturizer.
- Do wear sunscreen every day, rain or shine. My NYC dermatologist recently told me I had great skin, especially "for someone who grew up in Texas." It turns out he sees a lot of sun damage in his office. We decided the 8 years I spent in Seattle helped, as did the fact that I've worn SPF 40 sunscreen every day rain or shine for 10 years.
You’ve had it ingrained in your head since youth, but seriously, even in winter it can take just 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to damage the skin. Here's a list of great sunscreens, including what I believe to be the best sunscreen in the world.
By the way, it's a MYTH that 80 percent of your lifetime sun damage occurs before age 18, according to O Magazine. Katie Rodan, MD, adjunct professor of dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine, says in O that this myth stands officially debunked and studies indicate we get only 23 percent of total UV exposure by age 18. Of course it gets worse as we age. So you CAN prevent sun-induced aging by wearing sunscreen.
- Do shield your windows. The average commuter gets 200 hours of sun exposure each year and 80 percent of sun exposure is through car windows, according to Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch in Harper's Bazaar. To protect your skin against sun damage (the leading cause of aging skin), invest in a window shield like Solar Gard. Shields with SPF 285 can block UVA and UVB rays by 99 percent.
You saw the 5 "dos" for perfect skin care. Now here are 5 don'ts:
- Don’t pull and rub your skin. Aging skin has been under attack by UV rays, stress and carbon monoxide so don't stress it more by pulling on it.
- Don’t forget to moisturize. While it's a myth that wrinkles are caused by dry skin, moisturizing can improve the appearance of lines by temporarily plumping them up. Also consider a good eye cream. Eye creams are controversial because some pros claim they don't really do anything, but many women swear by them.
Extra tip: Moisturizers are best used on damp skin. They lock the moisture in. Dr. Dennis Gross doesn't use tap water when washing skin because of harsh minerals found in many city water sources. Instead, he rinses off with Evian water.
See my list of the best moisturizers and the best eye creams.
- Don’t ignore your neck and chest. The neck and chest are first to show the signs of aging (they have fewer oil glands than the rest of your body), yet most of us ignore them. Look for moisturizers that have age-fighting ingredients like vitamin A (retinols), kinetin, copper or vitamin C.
- Don’t tan. Even if wrinkles haven't shown up yet, you need to stop tanning now because they will. Once signs of aging appears, you'll be spending a lot of money to reverse it. So if you do have sun damage? You can reverse the damage with photorejuvenation such as pulsed light treatments. Many spas and dermatologists provide these pricey fixes. If you do have brown spots, treat them with lemon juice diluted with water, according to NY dermatologist Jessica Krant in Harper's Bazaar. Krant suggests applying the mixture with a Q-tip nightly, gradually increasing it twice daily until sun spots fade away.
- Don’t sporadically take care of your skin. It's important to cleanse your face every night not only to avoid clogged pores, but also to wash away all the pollution your skin has been prone to.
As for anti-aging regimens, you need to keep it up for best effects. You may suffer redness and a bit of peeling at first, but this is normal. To get the full effects of acid peels, retinoids, AHAs, and moisturizers you have to keep at it. The initial benefits will go away if you stop using them.
More on anti-aging: