How often do you gaze in your mirror and think to yourself, “Hmmmm. . . .my skin isn’t looking as good as it used to“? It’s a common complaint when patients walk into my East Tennessee office! Our skin is the first thing people see when they look at us and it only takes 7 seconds to make a first impression! When we walk into a business meeting, head out to the latest Knoxville social event, go on a date, etc. we definitely want our skin to be on point—soft, glowing, youthful, flawless.
Whether you want to maintain your skin or need to refresh your look and get back to a more youthful look, these tips are for you! Certainly, the earlier you start a skin regimen the better and you may avoid or at least delay the need for more significant interventions in the future (i.e. surgery). But on the flip side, it’s never too late to start either (I recently formulated a non-surgical treatment plan for a new 87 year old patient . . . .she’s now the envy of all her bridge friends, from what I’m told).
- Cut Out Toxins Our skin is a living breathing organ and is significantly affected by its environment. It’s important that we avoid environmental exposures that negatively impact our skin and hence it’s appearance—tobacco smoke, pollution, harsh chemicals. These pollutants can permanently damage our skin, increasing premature formation of wrinkles, loss of collagen and elasticity causing laxity, skin thinning, and dullness. Tobacco smoke is the BIGGEST of these and this includes second-hand exposure. There are medical studies that show people who smoke have significant, negative changes in their skin composition compared to people who do not smoke (Google “identical twin smoking study” for side by side photo proof).
- You Are What You Eat You’ve heard this old adage, but it’s true! Your skin reflects the health of your overall body and if you are eating a diet high in carbohydrates, sugars, and processed foods, your skin will have a duller, flat, aged appearance! Transition to whole foods (preferably organic), fewer carbs and simple sugars, and remove processed foods from your diet. Not only will this help your overall health and likely help shed some fat but will also remove the unnatural chemicals that are often hidden in these food items! Consider limiting or removing soda, excess caffeine (as an avid coffee drinker and mom of 2 littles, I’d never advise complete elimination), dairy, and other inflammatory foods. Exchange them for hydrating drinks like water and coconut water and “beauty foods” that are high in antioxidants such as rosemary, tomatoes, pomegranate, etc. to increase skin hydration and to improvethe clarity and brightness of skin.
- Take Your Vitamins Certain vitamins and supplements can help improve the thickness, healing, and smoothness to our skin as well as minimize the appearance of fine lines and inflammation. It is most beneficial when you have a deficit of these vitamins but will likely help even if you do not. Of course, prior to starting any new vitamins/supplements speak to your doctor to ensure they are appropriate for you.
- Vitamin B helps improve dry, itchy skin
- Vitamin C is essential for collagen formation and has a protective effect against sun damage
- Vitamin E and Selenium are antioxidants that help protect from cancers (including skin cancer) and help to protect the skin from damage due to toxins and sun exposure
- Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant supplement that can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and slows the aging process
- Collagen has been shown to increase the hydration of skin and slow the effects of aging on the skin
- Luscious Serums Serums are light, fast-absorbing yummy products that are filled with concentrated vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin C) as well as anti-aging proprietary ingredients that help kick start our day and improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and reducing age spots. They should be applied first thing in the morning, immediately after washing skin and prior to any moisturizer or sunscreen. These products can be irritating for sensitive skin and people with certain skin conditions such as eczema so be sure to speak to your plastic surgeon or dermatologist prior to starting. A few brands I really like to use personally and recommend to patients include SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic and Obagi Pro-C Serum. People often ask if over the counter products are as good as medical grade—while something is better than nothing, often the medical grade products you purchase at the doctor’s office have higher concentrations of the key active ingredients compared to store bought brands.
- Protect Yourself Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. AND ABSOLUTELY NO TANNING BEDS. This is probably one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from aging! It’s known that sun damage contributes to 80% of premature aging! The ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun damages skin by causing injury to our DNA as well as structural changes in our skin which leads to sagging, skin furrows, decreased collagen and elasticity, increased age spots, and cancer. Immediately after applying your serum and moisturizer, do your skin a favor and apply a nice sunscreen with SPF of 30-45. I prefer mineral-based products with Zinc and/or Titanium as the main ingredients because they are blockers rather than the chemical based products that actually get absorbed into your skin (see #1). Don’t forget to apply to your hands as well, since this is another area where our age can betray us! Use protective gear such as large-brimmed hats and sunglasses as well to help avoid squinting and those little crow’s feet around the eyes.
- Retin-A (tretinoin) This product is a Vitamin A derived topical anti-aging treatment. While originally developed to treat acne, users soon realized that with long-term use people that use Retin-A have better, younger-looking skin than those that never used it! It works by increasing cell turnover, increasing collagen and thickening the skin, reducing excess pigment deposition, and minimizing wrinkles. This product does sensitize your skin to the sun so I recommend applying a small pea-size amount at night after you wash your face. It will cause some skin irritation for the first few weeks (e.g. dryness, flaking, slight redness) but push through and keep using it because that means it’s working! Start every other night then go to nightly once your skin adjusts. If you are going to make any changes, sunscreen and Retin-A are your top priority. Similar to other products, medical grade products are much more potent than the retinol products available in the drug store.
- Check In with your Dermatologist Regular skin checks help keep the skin in good shape and healthy. The most important part of this is looking for any concerning moles, skin cancers, or pre-skin cancers. Skin cancers, age spots, and other skin imperfections such as actinic keratosis are not only medically important but contribute to an aged appearance to the skin.
- Botox and similar products (e.g. Dysport, Jeuveau) work to temporarily relax the muscles of the face that cause wrinkles when we move or animate our face such as raising the eyebrows, squinting, or wrinkling the nose. These products are commonly misunderstood or misused and don’t have to paralyze the face so you can’t move, don’t leave you with a constant surprised look on your face, and can’t give you “duck lips”. When used appropriately they soften the muscle just enough that you can still move the face but when you do, it’s weakened so the skin doesn’t fold and crinkle. The products should be administered by a board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist with a very small needle. I often offer my patients a topical numbing cream and use ice on the skin to dull the needle sticks enough that you can hardly feel them. . . .if at all. Most people will see an effect for an average of 3-4 months but some may see a longer effect if you’re lucky.
- Laser Skin Peels Similar to chemical peels but sans the chemicals and with much more precision, laser peels remove the top layers of skin to reveal skin that is brighter and smoother with less wrinkling and removes age spots. Laser peels or “resurfacing” come in a wide variety of options and there are many different laser machines on the market. I try to keep it simple for my patients by finding out how many days they can afford in the healing period or “downtime”. The intensity of the treatment reflects the time needed to heal, so a light laser peel will have a shorter downtime than a deeper laser peel BUT the results will be more gradual through a series of 3-4 lighter treatments rather than one deeper treatment. People that start laser peels earlier will likely only need maintenance treatments with light peels to keep the skin fresh, youthful, and bright and prevent development of fine lines. Just make sure that you have these types of treatments by board-certified plastic surgeons or dermatologists as they should only be performed by medical professionals that are highly-trained on the machines and perform them regularly.
- Scrub A Dub I prefer a gentle weekly exfoliation of my skin in between laser peels to keep the skin from getting dull and to keep any dead skin cells off. This process will just help keep the skin bright in between laser treatments and is a supplement, not a replacement for them. Don’t try to simulate a laser treatment with an overly aggressive exfoliation—I have seen patients that attempted this and ended up scarring their face from over doing it! While there are a million facial scrubs on the market, my personal favorite is a fine, all-natural scrub from Lush Cosmetics—Ocean Salt—which is not something that must be picked up in a doctor’s office. You can also make a DIY salt scrub . . .I’ll share my recipe soon!
Take a look at your current skin care regimen and see which above tips you need to add. Small changes like these now will likely eliminate or at least delay the need for more aggressive interventions down the road but more importantly will keep that skin of yours looking good! Stay Beautiful.