Beauty may be only skin-deep, as the old saying goes, but when it comes to the face, it seems to be another story. “There’s a tremendous emotional and psychological drive that people have to look good,” says Illinois-based dermatologist and internist Robert Polisky, M.D.
Facial appearance is linked with overall health, and research has found that changes in the skin on your face due to aging (such as wrinkling) affect self-esteem and overall well-being. More shocking, your perceived age—how old your face looks—can actually predict life expectancy.
Does this mean you need a bag full of products for your face? Not necessarily, says Polisky, a proponent of natural skin-care treatments. “Simple regimens trump something highly complex.” But, experts agree, you do need to support your face. As you age, your collagen production slows down and there’s increased free-radical attack from UV radiation, pollution and stress—creating a cumulative skin-damaging effect. “The body has a wonderful ability to fight free radicals, but as we age we lose a bit of that ability and have to help it,” says Diane Madfes, M.D., a New York City–based dermatologist and assistant professor at Mt. Sinai Medical Center.
Remember: Many people think that if they’ve experienced damage to the skin on their face in the past that it’s too late to improve it, says Madfes. The skin is actually an active mechanism that’s able to repair itself. “It regenerates every single day, so the idea is to provide optimum regenerative processes,” she says.
Beauty from the Inside Out
Step one is to focus on a healthy body. You need to eat a well-balanced diet and not too much excess, says Madfes, noting that nutrients directly feed collagen. There’s only so much you can put on the surface of your face; you need to nourish it from the inside with omega-3s, antioxidants and less sugar, she says.
Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that a diet higher in carbohydrates and fat is associated with more face wrinkling and atrophy. Yet a diet rich in vitamin C and linoleic acid correlates with fewer wrinkles and less dryness. Other studies have found that everything from fruits, vegetables and olive oil to vitamins E and C, carotenoids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids protect against sun damage.
You also need to exercise, adds Madfes, because it increases blood flow to the skin. And don’t forget to breathe. “I’ve seen stressed-out adults with really persistent acne,” says Polisky.
Wash and Moisturize
Next, create a face-care routine tailored to your needs. Wash your face every morning and evening; in addition to removing dirt and makeup, washing removes the day’s exposure to pollution. Use any gentle, soap-free cleanser with lukewarm water (hot water can be too drying), and don’t scrub. Too much abrasiveness is a common mistake, says Madfes; it can strip away oils that maintain your skin’s natural moisture.
Follow washing with a moisturizer. Your skin loses moisture with each decade, causing your moisturizing needs to change. When you’re in your 20s, use a light moisturizer, preferably in a sunblock-combination product, each morning. In your 30s, apply a light moisturizer in the evening as well (night is when the skin regenerates). In your 40s and beyond, your skin’s lipid production decreases, causing more dryness and wrinkles, so it can benefit from a heavier product with linoleic acid, shea butter, lipids or ceramides. Heavier products can also help in the winter, when dry heat causes skin to lose more moisture, says Madfes.
When choosing skin-care products, look for oils—shea butter or lanolin (called occlusion ingredients)—to prevent moisture loss, and combine with glycerin or hyaluronic acid (called humectants) to retain it. In addition to reducing wrinkles and making skin more supple, moisture also maintains the epidermal barrier of the skin, keeping pollutants—and potential damage—out.
Enjoy the Sun—with Protection
Last but not least is the sun, which is believed to be the face’s number-one enemy, according to dermatologists, causing wrinkling and cancer. As much as you may be cold and want to feel the sun on your face, in winter the sun is actually closer to Earth, so you are getting more sun than you think, says Madfes. In winter, face lotion with an SPF of 15 is enough (added antioxidants such as vitamin C can also help), but be sure to apply it in the morning, daily, without exception. Remember: Studies show that sun exposure can account for up to 80 percent of the face’s visible signs of aging.
Did you know? Considered a sexual organ, the lips are highly attractive to potential mates, and humans have drawn attention to them with lipsticks and glosses for thousands of years, says Sheril Kirshenbaum, author of the The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us (Grand Central, 2011). If you’re reaching for your scented lip balm, note this: The most important step to maintain your lips this winter is sun protection, says Lisa Donofrio, M.D., fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. Secondary is to keep lips moist. Chapping occurs because of loss of moisture from a faulty barrier in the lips and too much lip licking, both of which are exacerbated by dry winter air, says Donofrio. Look for products with SPF, plus waxes and oils to seal in moisture.
Products We Like
Derma • e Firming DMAE Moisturizer
This nourishing, non-greasy moisturizer is good for all skin types to help hydrate and firm skin. Key ingredients are Alpha Lipoic Acid, a naturally occurring antioxidant that prevents inflammation, and DMAE, known as nature’s firming agent.
Acure Day Cream
Best suited for normal to dry skin, this daily moisturizer contains gotu kola stem cells from plants to help with cellular regeneration, and chlorella, an algae rich in amino acids and antioxidants to protect your skin.
Acure Brightening Facial Scrub
Organic sea kelp and lemon peel gently exfoliate your skin, while French green clay cleanses away excess oil. Argan stem cells from plants and chlorella, an algae rich in antioxidants, make complexion more radiant.
Acure Eye Cream
Hydrate and restore dry, delicate skin around your eyes with this cream. Edelweiss stem cells from plants and chlorella, an algae rich in amino acids and antioxidants, moisturize and protect.
Burt’s Bees Renewal Firming Day Lotion
Part of a new skincare line, this hydrating cream is host to a hibiscus and apple rejuvenating complex clinically shown to improve skin firmness and reduce appearance of lines and wrinkles in as little as 4 weeks. Also has SPF 30 protection.
Burt’s Bees Hibiscus Tinted Lip Balm
Made with 100 percent natural ingredients, including shea butter and botanical waxes, this balm will keep your lips moisturized for up to eight hours. The hibiscus tint is warm and neutral, without any shimmer.