Prep your skin now for a glowing future.
Confidence, wisdom, and happiness are a few of the intangibles one gains as the years go by. But one tangible thing that tends to fade with age? Smooth, glowing skin. Fortunately there are things you can do to slow the process of aging and maintain the best and brightest version of your complexion, regardless of whatever decade you happen to find yourself in. First off? Get started on maintaining your skin, now.
Three Key Factors
“As with other aspects of our health, it’s easier and safer to take care of most problems when they’re caught early. This includes suspicious moles, fine lines, discoloration, and other signs of aging and sun damage,” says Jessica Wu, MD, a Los Angeles-based dermatologist, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, and author of Feed Your Face. While there is no way to actually stop the clock, there are certain tips you can try to keep your skin healthy and bright. Three things Dr. Wu recommends women of all ages should pay attention to are: exfoliation, retinoids, and diet.
Let’s get started. Or rather, it’s time to stop scrubbing.
“Patients think that they need to be more aggressive with their skin as time goes by. They try to scrub off their sun damage or do home chemical peels and end up irritating their skin,” Dr. Wu says.
Instead of damaging your skin with aggressive scrubs that can lead to an inflammatory response and break down the collagen that keeps skin taut, baby your skin as you age. Occasional exfoliation, about once or twice a week is good for gently sloughing off dead skin cells.
“There’s ample research showing that retinoids push the top layers of skin off faster. This causes temporary flaking, but within months, there’s new collagen growth, and the skin actually gets thicker and more resilient,” Dr. Wu says. Your skin is composed of collagen (which offers structure and keeps skin firm) and elastic tissue (which gives it a more malleable, but taut, consistency). Retinoids promote collagen growth, therefore firming up skin. Look for a cream with retinoids listed as a primary component, or get a recommendation from your dermatologist.
When it comes to your outer layer, what you eat matters just as much as what you slather on. “Eating a healthy diet will provide your body with the right ingredients for building strong skin, hair, and nails. As women, it’s even more important to watch our diet as we age, since skin, hair, and nails all get thinner as we lose estrogen,” Dr. Wu says. Small, regular meals that contain protein, vitamin C, and zinc are good, as all three are essential for collagen production.
Skin Through the Decades
To age gracefully, the best thing you can do is start now, whether you’re in your 20s or beyond.
20s: Don’t start smoking. “Smoking reduces circulation to the skin by 40%, making you look sallow and grey, plus the constant puckering will give you wrinkles around your lips and make them shrink,” Dr. Wu says. It’s easy to get caught up when you’re out with friends and smoke a cigarette or two, but that can quickly turn into daily habit. Smoking is bad for you, full stop.
30s: Be more diligent about sunscreen and avoid tanning beds. “This is the decade when cute freckles that fade when summer is over turn into blotchy sunspots that persist and get darker,” Dr. Wu says. Opt for sunscreens with SPF 30-50 and UVA protection. While tanning beds seem like an obvious no-no, if you’re unconvinced, consider this: If you visit a tanning bed for the first time before the age of 35, you have a 75% higher risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, Dr. Wu says.
40s: Use a retinoid-containing cream. While retinoids are important to consider throughout life, now is definitely the decade in which to start using a retinoid-based product. “Retinoids help turn over skin cells more quickly, revealing newer, fresher cells at the skin surface. They also stimulate new collagen, and thicken the skin, helping to soften fine lines,” Dr. Wu says. Retinoids have also been shown to reduce discoloration and soften fine lines.
50s and beyond: Take an omega-3 fish oil supplement. “Skin loses its natural oils over time, and with menopause, it can make it dry and creepy. Fish oils have been shown to improve dry, flaky, rashy skin,” Dr. Wu says. Try a fish oil supplement, or making sure you’re eating fresh fish throughout the week. If you don’t eat fish, look for an omega-3 supplement that contains more EPA than DHA. But as always, consult your doctor before starting a supplement.