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It's true -- young, beautiful, vibrant skin, which can make you look a decade younger than you actually are, is within reach. Really, no matter what your starting point, you can dramatically improve the appearance and feel of your skin.
Although we all age differently, the culprits are the same, starting with biological aging, the natural breakdown of all skin cells. This process is pretty much wired into your genetic makeup, so if your parents look good for their age, then you'll likely follow in their lucky footsteps. Next up -- and this is a biggie -- is environmental aging, the one factor within your control. This is where your unhealthy habits, such as sunbathing and smoking, leave behind little unwanted souvenirs, including dark spots and premature wrinkling. Last, the new buzzword in skin aging is mechanical aging, which refers to the effects of your facial expressions, such as when you laugh, frown, squint, or scowl. Over time, these natural movements, which make your facial muscles work harder, contribute to wrinkling. (Not good news for a lot of stand up comics!) Of course, we're all for a woman's face showing a little character -- especially if the alternative means you can't let your feelings show!
With all this in mind, we went to Fredric Brandt, MD, a top cosmetic dermatologist in Coral Gables, Florida and New York City, to get you the lowdown on how to slow down all these aging processes, using everything from at-home microdermabrasion and peel kits to the new eye gels, firming creams, perfecting complexes, and more. While no one has figured out how to stop the clock, it's safe to say that we've never been closer.
What brings on wrinkles? First, think of a baby's skin, so firm and smooth and simply perfect; what you're seeing is an abundance of collagen and elastin, the fibers in the skin that control its firmness and smoothness. Yet by the time we hit our 30s, our bodies stop producing as much of this good stuff and we even start to naturally lose our supply. External factors, such as sunlight and pollution, accelerate this breakdown. The end result: the appearance of that little line on your face.
So, what to do? For starters, it's crucial to protect your skin from the sun and its wrinkle-inducing ways. Use a sunscreen every day, even in the winter and even when you're indoors or in the car, as the sun's rays can penetrate through glass. Bear in mind that preventing damage is always easier than repairing it. "It has been shown that by using sunscreen every day," says Dr. Brandt, "already sun-damaged skin can improve significantly." This isn't to say that sunscreen is a cure for wrinkles. Instead, when your skin doesn't have to work so hard to defend itself, it can instead concentrate on repairing itself, which is does naturally. Boost this protective effect with a moisturizer that contains antioxidants, as they help fight off the damage brought on by the sun; some powerful ones are vitamin C, green tea, and olive leaf concentrate, among others.
Next, include a retinoid, the only ingredient clinically proven to increase your skin's collagen production, into your daily regimen. You can either ask your dermatologist for a prescription-strength formula, such as Renova, or choose from the many over-the-counter products that contain retinol.
As for the slew of "Botox creams" that have been launched recently, they're also worth a try, as long as you realize that they're not nearly as potent as the original injection. "Like Botox treatments, these creams relax the facial muscles; but the effect is more mild," says Dr. Brandt. Look for products containing Argireline, a peptide molecule, and gamma amino butyric acid complex, an acid that claims to show results as quickly as 30 minutes (yet this is a temporary effect). Over time, they can significantly soften the appearance of most fine lines.Ingredients to Look For
Retinoid: This vitamin A derivative is clinically proven to improve aged skin, including around the eyes. Since retinoids can cause redness and irritation, start by using them just a few times a week.
Argireline and GABA complex: Both relax your facial muscles, thereby lessening the appearance of wrinkles. They are also said to stimulate collagen production.
Antioxidants: These are cell-protecting ingredients, usually vitamins that help skin defend itself from sun damage.Our Favorites
The delicate skin around your eyes needs extra-special attention to look fresh and healthy. Unlike the heartier skin on your cheeks or forehead, for example, this skin is much thinner and lacks protective oil glands. "The eye area is especially vulnerable to sun damage, and squinting and smiling strain it as well," says Dr. Brandt. Besides lines and wrinkles, dark circles and puffiness plague this sensitive spot, too.
There's no better way to tackle all these concerns than with an eye cream. If you're not already using one, run out and get one right now! The best eye creams zero in on these common concerns by using lightening ingredients, such as plant-based arbutin, and caffeine to reduce swelling. Also, they're specifically formulated for this delicate area. It's not a good idea to slather your antiaging cream around your eyes; what works wonderfully to reduce your pores, for example, could make your eye area burn and peel.Ingredients to Look For
Arbutin and other lighteners: Help to break down the accumulated pigmentation (caused by aging, allergies, and poor diet) that results in those dreaded dark circles.
Caffeine: A diuretic, caffeine constricts blood vessels, which reduces swelling and undereye bags.
Mica and other light-reflecting ingredients: Typically found in foundations, mica creates the illusion of a lighter undereye area.Our Favorites
When describing young, beautiful, sexy skin, the word "firm" is probably high on your list of must-haves. The big question, however, is whether you can you ever get back to bouncing-baby firmness. While that's a tall order, there is hope in reclaiming some of what you've lost.
Sagging, loose skin is brought on by many things: Your genes top the list, followed by sun damage and dehydration, which affects all skin types, even oily skin, says Dr. Brandt. Replenish your skin's moisture supply with ingredients that restore your natural levels within your skin. "Well-hydrated skin also appears firmer," adds Dr. Brandt. In addition to yeast extract, which is said to tighten the skin, the most potent ingredient used today is hyaluronic acid, a sugar found in our skin that is capable of holding 1,000 times its own weight in water. Many companies have duplicated hyaluronic acid and are using it in their new skincare products to plump up sagging cheeks and to fill in fine lines. "It's a very important ingredient that restores water to aged skin," says Dr. Brandt.Ingredients to Look For
Hyaluronic acid: Found naturally in our skin and depleted over time, this ingredient actually draws moisture from the environment into the skin, resulting in a plumper-looking complexion.
Yeast extract: This ingredient is used in many "lifting" creams to temporarily smooth the skin.Our Favorites
Radiance. Glow. Oh, how enticing they both sound! And now this special luminosity doesn't have to be reserved for blushing brides. With a targeted, consistent routine, you, too, can recapture your youthful glow. And your biggest ally in this quest? Exfoliation.
Here's how it works: Over time, the turnover of our skin cells, or how quickly we shed old cells to make room for new ones, slows way down. As a result, the skin's top layer becomes cluttered with dead skin cells. Now, not only does your complexion feel rough to the touch, but it looks dull, too, since light can't bounce off it as it does on a smooth surface. This is where exfoliation, in the form of scrubs, acids, and at-home microdermabrasion systems and peels, help you speed the process along. Also, when this layer is removed, you're making it easier for other skincare treatments to penetrate.
Don't make the mistake -- as many people do -- of overusing manual exfoliants (such as scrubs), thinking that the more you tug, the better off your skin will be. In fact, quite the opposite is true, as abrasive scrubbing can actually scratch your skin and even activate your oil glands, usually leading to clogged pores. Instead, try one of the new, finely milled scrubs, and alternate using it with an acid, such as glycolic and salicylic acid. Better yet, invest in an at-home microdermabrasion system, which calls on the same fine mineral crystals used by dermatologists and spas to thoroughly clean skin. (Some come with a handheld piece that rotates the crystals on the skin, leading to an even deeper exfoliation.) Another great option: at-home acid peels, which are chemical exfoliators that are now being produced at gentle enough levels to use at home. Both treatments truly come closest to what the dermatologist performs in his office, at a fraction of the price. According to Dr. Brandt, these kits can be used two or three times a week.Ingredients to Look For
Glycolic acid: Derived from sugar cane, this exfoliating superstar dissolves dead skin cells and lifts them to the surface. Also believed to stimulate collagen production.
Aluminum oxide crystals: Used in doctors' offices, this fine scrub is now available for home use.Our Favorites