Here’s the good news: you have an awful lot of control over your skin’s appearance. Sure, there are some factors you can’t change—like your genetics, or the suntans you got when you were 16. But you do have control over the factors that affect your skin right now:
- sun exposure
- external care
By readjusting these factors, you can bring back youthful skin…firmer, healthier, and (mostly) wrinkle-free. But to do that, you have to understand a few facts about your body’s largest organ. (Yes, it is your skin.) First, to maintain young looking skin on the outside, you have to build it up from the inside. Second, we now have lots of safe ways to refresh surface skin, bringing back a smooth wrinklefree appearance. Third, we know what to avoid to prevent older-looking skin from making a comeback.
Let’s tackle number three first. There’s a pretty well-known list of things to avoid if you want your skin to look young and healthy:
- too much sun
- junk food
To save your skin, you have to keep these in the never-to-hardly-ever range.
That doesn’t mean you have to avoid sun and junk food entirely—it just means be reasonable. In fact you should be sure to get some vitamin-D inducing sun every day. And on the food front, there are actually foods you can eat that can counteract the stresses of aging and keep you looking as young as you feel. As for smoking, though, quitting (as tough as that is ) can only help you…no two ways about it.
Now let’s talk about skin “resurfacing solutions,” as I saw them called in a brochure my aunt had lying around. You’ve got your exfoliants, which help slough off the top layer of skin, allowing new skin to grow and show. You’ve got your prescription creams (tretinoin, popularly sold as Retin-A) and your over-the-counter creams (alpha-hydroxy acids, or AHAs) that also help your skin shed that damaged outer layer. And you’ve got procedures like chemical peels and microdermabrasion.
The first two methods (exfoliation and creams) have been used safely for years, with pretty good track records. They work well to keep your skin looking smoother and clearer, and they help fade dark spots. For fine lines and wrinkles, these products may be all you need. But when it comes to ironing out deeper wrinkles, you may need to pull out bigger guns—and that may mean a visit to a skin specialist. While you can actually buy products and try them at home, I’ve never seen the results of a do-it yourself treatment turn out as well as when the same was performed by a dermatologist.
(Besides, then it might be covered by your insurance company.)
Let’s start with chemical peels, where a chemical solution is applied directly to your face to take off the damaged top layer of skin. These have become very popular, despite the immediate “hideout” period: After the peel, your skin will probably be very red and irritated, and that can take a day or two to settle down. If you can stand that, chemical peels are a very effective way to strip off wrinkles. In most cases, you’ll need a treatment about once a month.
Next up is microdermabrasion, a kinder, gentler version of traditional dermabrasion.
In this process, a rotating brush with little crystals is used to polish your skin. It can reach deeper layers of skin than the other methods mentioned so far, so it can treat deeper wrinkles. The micro version uses smaller crystals, so it’s not as uncomfortable or traumatic for your skin. With this method, you may be able to go three or four months between treatments.
At the far (and most expensive) end of the scale is the face-lift. This complex surgery may remove bags and sags, at least for a good long while. But it is still surgery, and comes with all the dangers inherent in any operation. My take:
Talk to a plastic surgeon only after you’ve tried the other, much safer options.
The latest way to smoother skin
There used to be only two ways to deal with wrinkles: live with them or visit a plastic surgeon. Then came Botox, which gained quickly in popularity despite potentially toxic side effects. Now there’s a fourth choice, one that comes with negligible side effects, minimal (if any) pain, virtually no recovery time, and smoother, younger-looking skin in no time flat. This “miracle” treatment is facial acupuncture, and I recommend it for anyone who wants to erase wrinkles.
Facial acupuncture works by balancing the Qi (life energy) in your body. Tiny needles are inserted directly into wrinkles to help restore blood flow and Qi to the spot. Each treatment takes only about 30 minutes, and it often takes more than one session for noticeable results.
Some practitioners also offer facial massage and herbal masks as part of an overall treatment, which increases the session time to about an hour. But that’s a far cry from the time it takes to get, and recover from, either Botox or surgery…and there’s typically no facial swelling involved. Plus, while the timesaving aspect is a definite bonus, the money-saving aspect is even better. Plastic surgery can cost thousands of dollars, and one round of Botox can set you back about $400, but facial acupuncture typically costs only $40 to $75 per treatment.
A word about Botox
Yes, I know Botox is FDA approved. And I know that many people have used it to erase wrinkles, with no problem. But here’s what I say about that: It’s POISON, and you’re getting POISON injected into your face.
Even though there are plenty of “success” stories, there are plenty of potential dangers too. Earlier good luck with the procedure doesn’t protect you from future problems. All it takes is a shot that misses the mark, and you’ve got a disfigured face (probably just temporary, but still something to consider).
Erase varicose veins
Varicose veins can be troubling—especially for those of you who like to show off your legs. But you can combat this unsightly ailment with a miraculous (and very safe) herbal supplement, called gotu kola.
An Italian study found that taking gotu kola for just two months led to noticeable improvements in vein function… and minimized the appearance of varicose veins. It works by beefing up circulation and by strengthening the tissue around the veins, keeping those veins in better shape. You can safely take up to 800 mg of the whole crude herb in capsule form, three times a day.
The healthy skin diet
When it comes to feeding your face, some foods are more important than others to keep your skin looking smooth and supple. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that counteract the effect of free radicals, which can cause a lot of damage to your skin. Fibrous foods can help detoxify your body, so toxins don’t flow out through your pores causing damage. The “good” fats can replenish your skin and plump it up from the inside out so that wrinkles are less apparent.
Of course, when it comes to foods, some are better than others at achieving these specific goals. The very best are listed below. Here’s a beautiful-skin grocer list that you can copy down and carry with you every time you go to the store:
- red grapefruit
- dark, leafy greens (shopper’s choice)
- whole-grain bread
- wild salmon
- laxseed (or flaxseed oil)
Adding these foods to your regular diet—and cutting way back on junk—can bring about a noticeable improvement in your skin’s appearance, but it will take some time (months, not days). Even better, though, it will arm your body to fight against new damage and may slow down additional signs of aging.
Dr. Allan Spreen
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