If you have read some of my blogs you know of my interest in health and wellness. I have written about how there is not always an easy answer or a “quick fix” to problems we often face including our choices of healthcare treatments, exercise, weight loss or aging.
About a year and a half ago I dove into the world of skin care. I was intrigued because at my age I was beginning to worry about wrinkles and finding ways to best protect myself and frankly, I was interested in preserving myself, if at all possible, in the most natural, non-invasive way I could.
Our society has developed an obsession with looking as young as possible. Wrinkles are the enemy and many young people today are trying to erase any sign of aging or what they consider as imperfection earlier than ever. This past year, I met a young woman who was in college and obsessed with covering any blemish on her face at all times. The thought of anyone seeing a flaw on her face was terrifying to her. I was taken aback and genuinely concerned she felt that way.
Today people in their 20’s and 30’s using Botox as soon as they see a line.
I remember when I was in my 20’s my mother would tell me that one day she was going to have her eyes done. I was horrified. I thought it was ridiculous. Of course, I was in my 20’s with plump skin so couldn’t relate but still the thought was outrageous to me. Fast forward to today. Not so outrageous. I have had similar thoughts. Maybe today the 20-year-old would be telling her mom to go get the work done! Over the years the media has influenced this idea of exterior, physical perfection, which most of us will never be able to achieve and many unfairly measure themselves against.
We have all seen those celebrities or even people we know that have had so much work done to their face to avoid the signs of aging that we do not recognize them. My biggest pet peeve is when People Magazine publishes an issue and shows pictures of celebrities aging through the years – or should I say “not aging” and I know the pictures represent air brushing or significant cosmetic work. It is like they are saying, “See, no one is aging!” And then I close the magazine and think, “I don’t look like that!!”
It is rare that celebrities don’t do work on their faces and we often lose sight of how old people even are. Have you ever seen someone on television that doesn’t look good? They look tired or a bit ragged and we say “Wow. She really doesn’t look good.” Or “She really hasn’t aged well at all.” And then we realize that she/he didn’t have work done and has aged appropriately and naturally but we are measuring her (or him) against this standard that is so unrealistic and includes all kinds of surgical intervention.
We are putting so much pressure on ourselves! We all know that beauty is from within. That said, and in all fairness, I am criticizing this idea of perfection YET I want to look youthful too!
What I have learned this past year on my skin care journey is our skin changes with age. Period. The rate of aging depends on a variety of factors: lifestyle, diet, heredity, smoking, hormones, sun exposure to name a few, and in the end our skin will change. It will lose moisture, elasticity and become thinner and less plump. After the age of 20, a person produces about 1 percent less collagen in the skin each year.
Our facial expressions and even the way we sleep on our pillow will cause expression lines or wrinkles. Prevention is key to minimizing wrinkles. The most important thing is to take care of your skin before all these changes start to take place. A quick fix for some may be needles or surgery. (Even then, you still want to maintain and keep skin looking good.) Certain procedures can be cost prohibitive for many and over time not give the most natural look. So if we do not opt for the quick fix, what are we to do?
Lets be honest. Many of us do not think of taking care of our skin the same way we take care of other things. How many of us have gone to bed without washing our face or for the women out there, taking off our makeup? How many guys out there never even think about skin care? How many of us forget the sunblock? Smoke? Raise your hand if you ever used baby oil in college to get that deep dark tan or visited a tanning booth before a wedding or special occasion to get that glow on? How many men think this is just a women’s issue?
Why is it that the one organ that is our largest gets the shaft? Our skin protects us from a host of harmful things each day. Think of all the environmental toxins, harmful bacteria, viruses, UV radiation, pollution and just plain dirt, attacking it all day long. For some reason, many of us take it for granted. Until we start noticing changes and then even so many want a quick fix. Is there one product that can get rid of acne, one thing that can get rid of wrinkles? (By the way, the answer is “no”)
My guess is we all brush our teeth. Think about your teeth. We start caring for our teeth as soon as we can hold a toothbrush. Regular care and maintenance prevents cavities and minimizes serious problems as we age. We can save our teeth from gum and tooth loss and dentures (like my grandparents had) by simple maintenance of consistency and care.
We all take a shower and wash our hair. Like every other part of our bodies, skin responds to care and attention. Proper treatment can revitalize skin and slow the aging process, keeping skin healthier, longer. So why is it that many of us neglect it?
I have to admit I never really did much skin care when I was young. To be honest, I can’t remember anything to report in my teens and 20’s in terms of whether or how often I washed and moisturized my face. And unless I was going to the beach I didn’t even think of applying suntan lotion to my face. I did have problems with acne and that was certainly a concern so when I did take care it was really spot treating trying to address my current issue. There was never thought to addressing the root cause and often my spot treating was drying things out and making things worse. The more I dried out the blemish the more oil would be produced because I was so dry. It was a vicious cycle.
Skin care is no different from many other things in life, the more you put into your care the better results you will have. Starting early gives you the best results but it is never too late to start.
So here are my takeaways on skin care and will help you to either get started or encourage you to keep doing what you are doing.
- FIND PRODUCTS YOU LIKE AND DEVELOP A ROUTINE
For many of us it is personal. How a product smells or feels on your skin is important. There are an overwhelming amount of products out there. Be clear on what your expectations are and what your products can achieve when spending money. Effective products do not have to be the most expensive.
There are many great products that will minimize wrinkles and improve your skins’ appearance but nothing out there is a miracle cream or a quick fix that will wash all your cares away overnight. You are not going to get a “facelift” from any cream. That said, you can see transformative results if you haven’t been doing anything to care for your skin or have been inconsistent or if you have used the wrong products for your skin.
I know someone whose idea of skin care was using Irish Spring in the shower. He had amazing results when he introduced a dermatologic face wash and moisturizer and sunblock.
- ALWAYS APPLY SPF. EXPOSURE TO ULTRAVIOLET (UV) RADIATION IS THE MAIN CAUSE OF PREMATURE SKIN AGING
Wear an SPF anytime you are outside during daylight hours. Your best choice is a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects the skin from UVA (aging rays) and UVB (rays that burn). If you don’t have an SPF included in your moisturizer, use a minimum of SPF 20-30 on a daily basis. Many products on the market today include SPF in the moisturizer. We are exposed to sunlight all day. Driving in the car, walking out to get the mail. Do not think of it in terms of sunbathing but rather a daily protection. One thing that is for sure is that the sun causes wrinkles, discoloration and cancer.
My paternal grandmother never went in the sun. I have memories of her going to the lake with us when I was a little girl and she sat on the lawn far away from us under a shaded tree. She completely avoided the sun. She had the softest skin I have ever touched. I still remember the feel of her skin.
- MOISTURIZE YOUR SKIN
As we age, our skin becomes drier. Perhaps the most important step in your skin-care regimen is moisturizing. Moisturizer replenishes the lipids (natural oils) on the surface of the skin, which typically are diminished in your fifties due to estrogen loss. Moisture plumps up the skin, which reduces the appearance of fine lines.
- USE PRODUCTS WITH ACTIVE INGREDIENTS
Over-the-counter products containing retinols are vitamin A derivatives and help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and improve skin texture.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can, exfoliate the skin surface thereby reducing rough texture and possibly improving fine lines present from poor skin turnover. A salt/sugar scrub works well! Topical products that contain vitamin C and products with glycolic acid, hydroquinone, kojic acid, L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), licorice extracts, N-acetylglucosamine, niacinamide (vitamin B3), or soy can help lighten dark spots and unwanted pigment on the skin.
There are also at home tools that will help you boost collagen and improve skin texture.
- DIET MATTERS. A HEALTHY DIET PROMOTES HEALTHY SKIN.
- UNDERSTAND YOUR SKIN TYPE AND USE PRODUCTS THAT ARE BEST TO ADDRESS YOUR SPECIFIC CONCERNS
It is not a one size fits all type of approach and that is why some of us have reactions to products we think may be best for us.
- UNDERSTAND WHAT ORGANIC/NATURAL IS AND IS NOT.
Educate your self and make choices wisely. You may assume that products with the word “organic” on them are safe to use, but they may still contain synthetic chemicals. Unlike organic food products, the FDA and USDA do not have any standards or requirements for labeling products as natural or all natural. Unfortunately, deceptive practices tend to occur. The definition of natural, just like the definition of organic, can be used in different contexts where an ingredient might be considered natural in the sense that it was derived from a whole natural ingredient, but in truth, the ingredient itself has gone through so much processing that its end structure bears no resemblance to the whole food or plant from which it was derived.
- STAY CONSISTENT
For those who get busy and say they are “taking a break over the summer months” I say “do you take a break from taking a shower or brushing your teeth?” The summer presents us with lots of sun, hot weather, sand and dirt, sweat and all the things we need to cleanse our skin of at the end of the day.
There is no reason not to treat your skin like a valuable asset. Feeling good about your skin is important. I have watched the way my own sons have diligently addressed acne issues by daily maintenance and it has improved their confidence. My own diligence has served me well. I have really enjoyed helping people improve their skin and feel good about it. In the end everyone will make choices that are right for them, whether it be to have cosmetic procedures or age naturally or both. The best news is we have tools and choice.
Bottom line is we all have to determine how we want to age and be most comfortable in our own skin. I say the first step is treating it with the care it deserves.