4 Steps for After-40 Skin Care
You can try all of the latest anti-aging skin-care treatments and gadgets, but if you don't take care of your skin properly at home, it won't make much difference.
Aside from washing your face morning and night, what else should you do to keep your skin looking good? We asked our panel of dermatologists -- and one of the nation's top aestheticians -- for their recommendations for over-40 skin care.
Sunscreen is always the first priority in any skin-care regimen to protect your skin and prevent further damage, says Kate Somerville, founder of the namesake Hollywood medi-clinic and skin-care line.
She says you either want to use a physical sunblock such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide that block both ultraviolet A and B rays or a broad-spectrum chemical sunscreen to absorb the UV rays before they penetrate your skin.
Finding an effective sunscreen should get easier in the months ahead. Starting this summer, sunscreens that don't protect against both UVA and UVB rays will have to carry this warning: "This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging."
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises consumers to look for sunscreens with a sun protection factor or SPF of at least 15 and re-apply every two hours when you're out in the sun.
Dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad, associate clinical professor of medicine at UCLA and creator of the Murad skin care line, also suggests choosing formulas that contain anti-oxidants such as vitamin C to fight the free-radical damage to cells that results from sun exposure.
Hydrating lotions, creams and serums reduce the appearance of fine lines and soften wrinkles, giving skin a plumper, more youthful look. One of the best hydrators around, Somerville says, is hyaluronic acid, a substance found naturally in the body that cushions and lubricates joints, eyes and even heart valves. "Serums and creams with hyaluronic acid seal moisture on the skin and plump up fine lines and wrinkles," she says.
Occlusives such as beeswax and dimethicone bind moisture to your skin, forming a barrier and smoothing its texture. Also key to a soft, smooth feel are lubricating emollients or lipids that fill in the cracks between skin cells.
Of course, these ingredients aren't going to take away any wrinkles you have, but they can make your skin appear more plump and dewy.
Adding antioxidants to these formulations further guards against sun damage, and vitamin C has been shown to help tissue grow and repair itself.
Besides vitamin C, some of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients the panel likes to see in skin-care products are:
- Vitamin E
- Alpha-lipoic acid, which works in conjunction with vitamins C and E, making them more effective
- Green tea extract
- Carotenoids or beta-carotene
- Pomegranate extract
- Vitamin B3 or niacin
Of course, just how well these serums and lotions work depends on the concentration of these ingredients. The closer they are to the bottom of the label, experts say, the less they will do for you.
3. Stimulate Collagen
It's important to exfoliate the skin to help with cell turnover, which slows down with age.
This can be done at home with lotions that contain retinol or glycolic acid, as well as prescription retinoids such as Retin A, Renova and Tazorac. These products have the best track record and most research to back up their efficacy.
"Retinol and retinoids are still the gold standard of anti-aging," says New York City dermatologist Neil Sadick.
However, Sadick also puts peptides or smaller proteins that stimulate the production of collagen and thicken the skin into some of his Park Avenue Prescription products. And some dermatologists are beginning to see promise in DNA-repairing enzymes or growth factors.
For deeper exfoliation, Murad recommends the occasional superficial chemical peel to improve skin texture and reduce roughness.
"They are effective in removing dead skin and can improve discolorations and fine lines, and improve acne," he says. Look for milder peels, he says, that contain alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic and lactic acids and beta-hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid.
4. Fade Excess Pigmentation
Lastly, to lighten existing sunspots and prevent new ones, Somerville turns to ingredients such as hydroquinone, licorice extract and kojic acid.
In addition to treating your skin, you also need to make sure you are taking care of your body from the inside out, with proper nutrition, emotional self-care and stress-relief.
"The synergistic effect of these integrated approaches to care," Murad says, "promotes and protects cellular health, which is key to dramatically reducing the signs of aging."
SecondAct contributor Melinda Fulmer writes regularly about issues of health and wealth for publications such as the Los Angeles Times and web portal MSN.