While there’s nothing wrong with getting older, most women don’t actually want to look “old.” Conversely, we’re not exactly comfortable with going the Real Housewives, beyond-surgically enhanced route, either. The good news is that there are ways for you to age gracefully sans needles and knives — the trick is you have to start them ASAP.
From the right foods to eat to products to buy and treatments to try, we tracked down everything you need to do now, in order to make your skin, hair, and body look their best in 20 years — all courtesy of some of the sharpest experts we know. Click on to see our age-defying tips. Clock’s tickin’!
SkinSunscreen. All three doctors we spoke to said that sunscreen was critical to preventing wrinkles, age spots, and compromised skin tone, so be sure to choose a moisturizer with at least an SPF 15 and wear it every single day. No excuses.
Some of the most telltale signs of aging are often more evident on your neck and decolletage than on your face. But it’s not just the sun that’s causing this damage — gravity is also a key culprit. “The skin on the chest receives a lot of damage from sun damage, but also from the tug of Cooper’s ligaments, the connective tissue in the breasts that helps maintain structural integrity,” says reconstructive and plastic surgeon Dr. Gregory Brown. “These ligaments create a constant pull of weight from the breasts, which tugs on the skin over the breast bone, creating lines between the breasts. This will happen regardless of a woman’s breast size; however the heavier the breast is, the more it will tug on the skin.” Brown also says that the Platysma muscle, which is like a bow string that goes from under the chin to the neck and chest, shortens with age, pulling skin away from the neck and accelerating the aging of the skin. So, in other words, your neck has nature working against it hardcore. Great.
Adding insult to injury, the skin on your neck and chest aren’t able to handle some of the more intense anti-aging treatments that your face can. “As far as reversing damage goes, you can choose to have a neck lift, but you cannot do surgery on the chest,” says Brown. “After a treatment like a laser or a peel, skin on the neck cannot regenerate as well as skin on the face due to the lack of organelles, which help the skin heal. New skin actually migrates out of these structures and, since skin on the neck and chest doesn’t have as many, this results in a poor healing process and scarring.” That means that prevention is really your only option for dealing with aging below your chin. Invest in a good neck cream or treatment, preferably one with SPF, like RéVive Fermitif Neck Renewal Cream SPF 15, and be sure to apply it religiously.
As for above-the-neck wrinkles, your best bet is to hydrate. “After sunscreen, the second most important thing is moisturization,” says Brown. “Think about young people you know who spend a lot of time in the sun and don’t moisturize their skin — with this type of neglect even a 28-year-old may have wrinkles around their eyes.”
“Sagging skin can also happen as a result of aging,” says Dr. Tony Nakhla, author of The Skin Commandments: 10 Rules to Healthy, Beautiful Skin. “To prevent sagging, it’s important to exercise your muscles, which can keep the skin more taut. If you are looking to lose weight, avoid crash diets and aim to lose no more than one to two lbs. per week.”
Finally, if you’re a smoker, we’re sure you’re already aware that you’re not doing your skin any favors, but just as a refresher and a helpful nudge to put down the menthols, Nakhla says, “Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that can get to your skin cells by narrowing your blood vessels and providing more than 4,000 unwanted chemicals to your body that may damage collagen & elastin.” Just sayin’….
Just because your strands aren’t technically alive doesn’t mean they’re safe from the effects of time. “As we get older the hair’s diameters can become finer and we notice a change in our volume and density,” says Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips, a trichologist at the Philip Kingsley Clinic in NYC. “Generally speaking, each follicle is still producing hair, but the diameter of those hairs can become finer with each subsequent growth cycle. The hair can also behave differently; as the volume decreases it can look more flyaway and wispy.”
According to Cunnane Phillips, some of the things that cause these age-related changes over time include low iron levels, lack of protein, hormone imbalances, traction (a.k.a. constant pulling as you style), and elevated stress.
To keep your hair full and lush, she suggests deep conditioning weekly to add moisture, choosing products designed specifically for your hair texture, using a protective cream when styling, taking care not to use heat styling tools at too hot a setting, and of course, eating better.
“Nutritionally, it is imperative to focus on protein at breakfast and lunch because available energy to hair tissue is lowest in the morning,” she says. Also, she recommends you keep hydrated and choose healthy snacks like yogurt, nuts, and fruit. “Hair does very well with a balanced diet — include all food groups, with vegetables of all colors and fruits that are in season. In addition, high quality, all-purpose multi-vitamins can be helpful if your dietary choices are not optimal.”
Cunnane Phillips also stresses that it is crucial to take care of not just your hair, but your scalp as well. “The foundation for healthy hair should always start with a healthy scalp. Apply a scalp mask weekly, likePhilip Kingsley’s Stimulating and Exfoliating Scalp Masks. These will gently cleanse, exfoliate & hydrate the scalp, preventing unwanted flakes,” she says.
Who wouldn’t want to look this smokin’-hot at 67? Take a page out of Norma Kamali‘s book and focus on what you’re eating now, in order to look ageless in the future.
“Aging is a fact of life. Looking your age is not,” says dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad. “Much of what we perceive as skin aging is, in fact, caused by environmental damage and external factors that can be controlled, treated, and prevented. Exposure to sun, pollution, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, pesticides, toxins, poor nutrition, and stress all contribute to skin damage.” Adds Meg Richichi, MS, LAc, an integrative wellness practitioner, “youthfullness is a lifestyle. It boils down to a synergistic integration of daily lifestyle choices. This is the magic bullet to looking awesome.”
What this all means is you really need toeat better as of, like, yesterday. Says Murad, “You get to choose how fast you age. Whatever goes into the body affects how the organs function. A complete diet overhaul is difficult and often unattainable. However, I suggest focusing on a few small changes to make a big difference.”
These include adding good fats like walnuts, avocado, and olive oil to help rebuild cell membranes and reduce dry, flaky skin; eating more embryonic foods like eggs, beans, and seeds, which contain all the building blocks for regeneration and will flood your body with vital nutrients to make all your cells healthier; eating your water with raw fruits and veggies, which contain structured water that releases into your system at a slower rate, allowing you to stay hydrated longer. Murad says these foods also contain vital nutrients to help your skin and your body stay healthy.
Richichi gets more specific, recommending certain foods for various aging woes. Leafy greens like kaleand spinach are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that “slow down wear and tear on your DNA, which translates into slowing down the aging process and looking vibrant.” To get rid of dark circles — something Richichi calls a “major sign of toxicity” — try cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower, which contain sulfurophane, a powerful antioxidant that aids in detoxification while reducing those dark circles. If you’re prone to bruising or spider veins, Richichi says vitamin C fruits and veggies are your new best friend. Be sure to eat the white meaty part surrounding your citrus fruits, she says — it contains bioflavonoids that help you absorb vitamin C more efficiently. For supple skin and hair, be sure to stock up on foods with essential fatty acids, like wild salmon, cod, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, and olive oil.
Finally, since water intake is essential for hydration of skin and also proper detoxification, Richchi suggests drinking lots of filtered water. Her rule of thumb to make sure you are getting enough H20? “Take your body weight and divide it by two and that’s how many ounces of water per day you should be drinking. Add another 16 oz. to that total for every hour you work out.” Adds Brown, “When you don’t drink enough water, your body releases water-conserving hormones such as cortisol, which will actually age your skin. Cortisol breaks down collagen and can cause you to gain weight. If you make sure to stay hydrated, you can prevent this from happening.”
One last nutrition takeaway from Murad: “Sugar and white flour can exacerbate premature wrinkles and aging. Carbonated drinks, processed foods, and pastries are all high in sugar and directly affect how your skin ages. In addition, foods high in fat such as French Fries and potato chips are loaded with trans-fats and also lead to premature aging. Finally, diets high in animal proteins can actually drain essential minerals from your bones and cells, speeding up the aging process.” That’s definitely what we call food for thought.
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