Two of my 70-something friends have beautiful skin with minimal wrinkles. It must be because they both have great fitness routines and eat healthy, right? Not really. And while I cringe when I see other friends smoke and drink and carry on sunbathing, they still look fabulous in their 50’s. As a longtime esthetician, I’ve come to accept that how one’s skin ages isn’t any more fair than the rest of life. But I also know that there are quick and easy steps that help everyone slow down wrinkles and other aging concerns, such as hyperpigmentation (dark pigment/spots). For those of you who do not have enough products to set up test-lab experiments in your bathroom like I do, here are my go-to answers.
1. If you are feeding your skin nutritious foods and getting enough exercise, the road to preserving radiant skin is easier. Our skin’s appearance reflects our overall health and happiness.
2. We all know we need to protect our skin from the sun. No amount of miracle cream can truly reverse sun damage. Sunscreen, hats, and protective clothing are necessary.
3. I always recommend treating skin gently. Tugging and rubbing is not recommended. Avoid irritants that make your skin red or reactive–this ages it. When cleansing, put down the scrubby brush and use a washcloth instead. (Yes, some medical esthetic treatments work by purposely damaging the skin to stimulate collagen and elastin, but that is another story—do not try that at home!)
4. A regular facial from a well-trained esthetician can keep skin in shape. Estheticians can also help you choose customized products so you are not wasting money on guessing what you need, hence the expensive drawer full of cast-offs. A facial is also relaxing, and remember that stress is a big part of aging. Skin maintenance is a smart addition to your healthy habits that goes beyond just looking good.
The five top recommended steps are cleansing, exfoliating, masking, moisturizing, and sunscreen. Cleanse, moisturize, and use sunscreen daily for optimal care. Exfoliate and mask once or twice a week. And, no, you cannot leave your makeup on overnight.
1. Cleanse with a milky or oil cleanser that also removes eye makeup. Look for quality active ingredients (for example, antioxidants), but remember cleansers only stay on your skin a minute, so it’s best to put your money into the moisturizer or serum that stays on your skin all day. Oil cleansers dissolve oils, so they work for all skin types, but need to be non-comedogenic and rinsed well with warm water.
2. Hydrate with a moisturizer or serum with concentrated active ingredients. Look for antioxidants, hydrators, lipids, peptides, and alpha-hydroxy acids in your products. These are the necessary ingredients that stimulate the skin’s natural ability to rejuvenate cell growth, protect the cells, and support elastin and collagen. Serums are lighter and penetrate into the skin more effectively, but are not always enough to keep dry skin hydrated. Add a heavier moisturizer or sunscreen over serums as needed.
3. Use sunscreen. A broad-spectrum sunscreen gives protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Physical sunscreens with zinc and titanium oxide are options if you want to avoid chemical sunscreens. Other ingredients in sunscreens (green tea and licorice root) may help protect skin from damage and pigmentation. Makeup with sunscreen is helpful but not enough coverage for direct exposure (gardening or beach). Reapply, reapply, reapply your sunscreen while exposed. If you are turning pink or tanning, those are future age spots and wrinkles—time to go inside!
4. Exfoliate twice a week. Exfoliation is imperative to keeping skin smooth and beautiful. No other product or ingredient can work or penetrate through a buildup of excess skin cells or excess oil, so exfoliate with alpha-hydroxy acids or enzyme peels (such as pumpkin, papaya, pineapple). Gentle scrubs are also good, but not as effective. I keep my scrub in the shower and then try and use a peel once a week before masking. Keep scrubs away from the eyes.
5. Mask once or twice a week. Masks make a real visible difference in skin’s appearance. Skin is firmer, hydrated, deep- cleansed, and glowing after a treatment mask. Pores appear smaller, and the overall surface is tighter. Clay, seaweed, and fruits are all effective masks. There is nothing more relaxing than soaking in a bath with detoxifying salts and essential oils while exfoliating and treating the skin with a mask. Your skin and body will feel healthy, rejuvenated, and radiant with these five simple habits.
Wrinkles, lack of elasticity, dryness, rough texture, and pigmentation are the main concerns as skin ages. We want active ingredients to stimulate cellular metabolism, minimize wrinkles, hydrate and firm, and improve tone and texture. Antioxidants, retinol, peptides, alpha-hydroxy acids, and hydrators are the five best ingredients to look for in products. Most of these ingredients work because they support the skin’s resiliency and natural components. Using quality products is necessary—it may cost more, but it’s better than the alternative: fillers, water, and cheap synthetics that don’t give you effective results. Avoid unhealthy ingredients like formaldehyde, hydroquinone, nanoparticles, parabens, petrochemicals, and phthalates.
1. Super-power Antioxidants: All antioxidants fight free radicals and aging. Antioxidants vitamins A or C (ascorbic acid) improve texture and skin tone. Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and is still considered the best antiaging ingredient around, especially for supporting skin repair and giving visible results. Vitamin E (tocopherol) protects the skin from external damage. Grape-seed extract or green tea calms and protects skin. Alpha-lipoic acid and Coenzyme Q10 are also widely used antioxidants. Resveratrol is another antioxidant derived from red grapes—red wine, anyone?
2. Plump-me Hydrators: Hydrating ingredients are necessary for retaining water in the skin (for example, hyaluronic acid is a humectant that attracts water and plumps skin). Remember, dry skin lacks oil, and dehydrated skin lacks water—we need to balance both of these components for skin’s optimal health. Oils, emollients, and hydrators keep skin from drying out. Natural hydrators include aloe vera, avocado, and honey.
3. Pro-oil Lipids: Skin becomes dryer as we age, so those of us with a dry skin type age faster than those with oily skin. Lipids are composed of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids, a vital part of the skin’s barrier and cellular function. Coconut, rose hip, jojoba, sunflower seed, and evening primrose are just a few of the nourishing face oils with lipids that help repair and protect the skin. Personally, I love to use oil on my thin, dry Irish skin—nothing else keeps it moisturized. Likewise, olive oil may be the key to that gorgeous Mediterranean skin.
4. Save-me Peptides: Proteins made from amino acids, peptides can strengthen skin health, stimulate cell metabolism, and help retain skin’s firmness. Peptides, mainly synthetic and created in labs, are considered essential ingredients and come in many formulas and combinations.
5. Cell-stimulating Alpha-hydroxy Acids (AHA’s): Glycolic acid is the strongest of the AHA’s and is very effective in exfoliating the skin. You will see a noticeable difference in the skin—cell turnover is stimulated and skin is brighter, smoother, and softer. Natural sources include raw organic sugar, yogurt, milk, grapes, and lemon. Avoid sun exposure when using exfoliants and peels. —Shelley Lotz
Shelley Lotz has over 25 years of experience in the spa industry as an esthetician, educator, and entrepreneur. She is the author of Green Spas and Salons: How to Make Your Business Truly Sustainable, and a major contributing author of Milady’s Standard Esthetics Fundamentals, a textbook for estheticians.