Ageless Skin De-Mystified
By Audrey van Petegem, Senior Editor
I have just celebrated my last birthday in my, ahem, later 40's and I have come to realize that I am definitely looking my age. Which I have no problem with – really – as long as I “age gracefully”, I am happy with the way I look. I can truly embrace my wrinkles but, at the same time, I still do want my skin to look as healthy and toned as possible without resorting to “procedures”.
When I attended MORE magazine's Reinvention Convention last month, Dr. Will Kirby, a Board Certified Dermatologist, spoke about Ageless Skincare. It was reassuring to listen to him say that we can slow the process of skin aging without resorting to visits to the cosmetic doctor's office. Dr. Kirby actually “empowered” women in the audience by demystifying some facts (mostly marketing messages we have been hearing) and educating us about the reality of our skin and how getting “back to basics”can make a difference in our skin's aging process.
Here are some commonly heard myths about our skin:
1) Food – It is not clear if food really makes a difference in the skin's aging process. Of course, if we eat better, we feel better and our bodies do thank us for this, but does it make a difference to our skin? Studies have not proven that it does. As for acne, food seldom causes it. Acne is caused by over production of sebum (oil) and obstruction of the pores. The amount of sebum produced by the skin is regulated by hormones only, not food.
2) Dirt – Huge anti-aging myth. We naturally need to wash our faces like the rest of our bodies, but keep it simple. Mild soaps and warm water or cleansing pads are enough to keep our face clean. You can do a lot more damage if you are overzealous in cleaning your face.
3) Magnifying Mirrors – Do not use them. It will show you all the imperfections that we all have. The more we pick and probe the more chance of scarring our faces. If we leave the imperfections alone they will naturally clear up themselves leaving no sign they were there. When people meet and speak with us they are at least four to five feet away. This is how we need to look at our selves and our skin – from a distance.
4) Getting a Face Lift – We have all seen the results of a Joan River's type of face lift. A face lift never makes a person look younger. Ever!
5) Skin Damage only happens when we are young – Everyday our skin needs protection from the elements. No matter how old we are.
6) Tanning is harmless – Exposure to ultraviolet light, UVA or UVB, accounts for 90% of the symptoms of premature skin aging. Both UVA and UVB radiation can cause skin damage including wrinkles, aging skin disorders, and cancer. The most damaging and harmful is UVA which reaches the deeper layers of skin. This is not from just direct sun rays and tanning beds, but also UV light from computers, big screens and over head lighting.
So, what can we do? In order to protect our skin from prematurely aging we need to be informed about the skin's three layers:
The Exterior Epidermis – This is the outer layer of the skin where we see all those fine lines, age spots and all the other little imperfections.
The Middle Dermis – The dermis gives the skin its strength and elasticity. This is where we find collagen and elastin fibers that keep our skin firm. As we age our skin's ability to develop collagen diminishes. The more sun damage we have also determines how much our collagen has been damaged and where deeper wrinkles are formed.
The Subcutaneous Layer – This is the layer that lies below the dermis. It is where the fat is stored and acts as heat insulators to help keep the body temperature stable. As we age the loss of fat in our face causes our face to sag. Plus, it is this layer that is responsible for the deep wrinkles.
It is a natural process that all three layer's of our skin will age as we do. But there are two things we can do at home that will make a big difference. The biggest culprit for accelerated skin damage is the sun. No surprise there, really. I am sure that, by now, we all faithfully wear sunscreen, right? And I know for myself I am absolutely obsessive about putting sunscreen on my children. What I was not aware of is that I am getting UV damage indoors, while sitting at my computer or watching TV. I now wear sunscreen every-single-day! The other thing I was not aware of was that, in order to be completely protected from the sun, one has to wear the equivalent amount of full shot glass (yes that is two full ounces) of sunscreen on your face. Say what?? An average bottle of sunscreen is eight ounces, so that means you need to buy a new bottle every four days and that is just for your face. This is where the level of SPFs come in. I always heard that you did not need more that an SPF 30 to protect yourself from the sun. But the grape size amount of sunscreen that I lather on my face ends up being too thin to be the full SPF 30 and is probably more like an SPF 10 – not enough to protect against the sun.
Neutrogena's Spectrum+ Face Advanced Sunblock Lotion SPF 100 ($13.49) is now what I wear because now I know that when I put it on using my normal amount (NOT two ounces!) I am probably getting only around an SPF 50 coverage. The best thing we can do for our skin, of course, is to stay out of the sun altogether but that is just not realistic. So when you go outside wear a hat and always put on your a high level SPF sunblock.
The most surprising information that Dr. Will Kirby shared was about Retinol A. We have all heard about it and know that it is used for teenage acne problems as well as getting rid of fine lines. Personally, I have always shied away from it because I know that it makes your skin more sensitive to the sun and could actually cause more damage than good. Plus, I always thought that I needed a prescription and that the over-the-counter products did not work as effectively. According to Dr. Kirby that is not the case anymore. The over-the-counter products with Retinol A work just as well as a product with Retinal A in it that needs a prescription. What Retinol A does is fades fine lines and age spots, brighten the skin's tone and smooth it's texture. But, how does this work? Retinol A, which is a vitamin A in the animal form, works by increasing the turnover rate of the skin's cells. When we were younger our skin's cells naturally did this, keeping our face young and fresh, and as we move into our 40's our cell turnover decreases by half and continues to decrease as we age.
Retinol A is probably the closest that we can come to for slowing down the skin's aging process. It is recommended to start a Retinol A regime in your 20's as a defensive move, however if you are well past that milestone (like me) then it does not matter what age you start it at it will still help with the signs of aging.
I faithfully use Neutrogena Nighttime Rapid Wrinkle Repair (20.99) since the Reinvention Convention and I must say I have noticed enough of a difference that I am pretty excited about it. I like my wrinkles (really I do!) just not so many and not so deep. The biggest improvement for me is the appearance of my skin tone. I only wear a touch of mineral powder on my face and was seriously thinking I needed to look into foundation. My skin looks so much more even and smooth now that my mineral powder is enough of a coverup again. Plus with the SPF 100 sunblock i faithfully wear now, I am no longer worry about my skin being sensitive to the sun.
I am very thankful to have the anti-aging process be demystified and stripped of marketing hoopla (thank you MORE magazine and Dr. Kirby). I was especially grateful to hear that there are simple – and relatively inexpensive – things I can do to slow my skin's aging process. Plus, I was happy to get rid of my magnifying mirror.