Since I turned 40 this year, the passage of time has weighed heavily on my mind. While I certainly don’t want to be 21 again, I wouldn't mind looking more youthful. But the anti-aging creams and surgical procedures that are often promoted as the only ways to ward off the hands of time freak me out. I've always believed that treating your body well and caring for your complexion throughout your life will have a greater effect on how well you age than a cream or potion ever will. And a little research proved that my hunch was right after all. You can look younger, healthier and more vibrant without going under the knife or spending hundreds of dollars on cosmetics. Here's how.
Eat Right: Healthy Skin Starts with Healthy Eating
You really are what you eat. Every cell in your body is made from the foods you eat, so why not feed your body high-quality, nutritious foods for best results? After all, your diet has a major impact on the overall health of your body, inside and out. If you need motivation to eat more fruits and vegetables, caring about your appearance may just be the push you need to fill your plate with more plant foods.
Nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamin C, selenium and zinc are abundant in fresh produce, while vitamin E is found in healthy nuts and seeds. These antioxidants help increase cellular regeneration and the production of elastin and collagen, keeping your skin firm and wrinkle-free. Essential fatty acids, such as those found in flaxseed and fatty fish, help your skin function properly and aid in tissue repair. Bottom line: If it's a whole food, it's good for both your body and your skin.
Wear Sunscreen: The Perfect Anti-Aging Cream
Too much sun exposure can damage your skin, causing wrinkles, sun spots, uneven tone, and dryness—not exactly the picture of youth. If you're sensitive to the sun or spend more than 10-15 minutes outside most days (the amount recommended you spend outside without sunscreen for vitamin D synthesis), then sunscreen is a must.
Dermatologists recommend applying SPF 15 (or greater) sunscreen every day, even in the winter. For maximum anti-aging benefits, make sure to apply sunscreen to your ears, neck, décolletage and hands, too. If looking younger is important to you, then add sunscreen to your beauty regimen. As a bonus, it also moisturizes your skin!
Stay Hydrated: Water is the Fountain of Youth
Drinking lots of water is one of the easiest ways to look (and feel) your best. Water is needed for almost every body process, including perspiration and the removal of waste products. Water also keeps the skin moist, plump and supple. Fine lines and wrinkles appear more pronounced when you are dehydrated, so make sure you meet your daily quota—that's about eight cups a day (or equivalent).
Drink Less: Alcohol Ages You
Alcohol may have some health benefits according to recent research, but it could be detrimental to your appearance. Drinking alcohol causes dehydration and depletes your body of valuable vitamins and minerals. When you drink alcohol, your liver has to work extra hard to eliminate the toxins from your body, but when you cut down or eliminate alcohol, your body can flush out impurities more efficiently—resulting in clearer skin and a rosier complexion.
Don't Smoke: Tobacco Tarnishes Your Skin
Ever heard of smoker’s face? This term, added to the medical dictionary in 1985, describes the telltale characteristics that make smokers look older than they really are: grey skin, gauntness, and wrinkles around the mouth and eyes, and deep lines in the cheeks. If all the other health problems related to smoking haven’t made you quit yet, maybe vanity will.
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 toxins, many of which are absorbed directly into the skin. Smoking causes the blood vessels in the top layers of the skin to constrict, reducing the amount of oxygen in the blood and causing a sickly pallor. Smoking causes the skin to thin due to poor circulation, making lines and wrinkles more noticeable. Smoking also reduces the production of collagen, which is needed to keep the skin plump and firm. One study of 25 sets of identical twins (one a lifelong smoker, the other a non-smoker) by British researchers at St. Thomas’s Hospital found that the skin of the smoker was 25 percent thinner than the non-smoker’s. In a few cases the skin was up to 40 percent thinner. Your appearance is just one of the many reasons why you shouldn't smoke, so take steps to quit today.
Aging is inevitable, but looking older doesn’t have to be. While a certain amount of how your skin ages is due to genetic factors beyond your control, just knowing I can help keep Father Time at bay with a healthy lifestyle makes me feel better about the future. Bring on the 40s—I'm ready to put my best face forward! Are you?