Written by: Dennis A Porto MD (@daporteaux)
1. The sun is your enemy
Every discussion of anti-aging skin care regimens should start with sunscreen and sun avoidance. In addition to causing skin cancer, UV radiation from the sun (or tanning beds) directly causes some of the most classic signs of old age. UV radiation damages the elastic fibers in the skin leading to a sagging, wrinkled appearance. People also accumulate “sunspots” (also known as solar lentigines) on all of their skin that has been exposed to the sun. Finally, with significant sun exposure you can start to develop a condition called dermatoheliosis where your skin is persistent red with noticeable broken blood vessels called telangiectasias.
Some people believe that if they aren’t getting sunburns, then they must be protected from the aging effects of the sun. This is false. Just the few minutes spent getting sun through your car windshield on the way to work is enough to lead to significant damage. Truck drivers are an excellent example of this. After driving for years, the left side of their face can become much more aged than the right side due to light from the driver’s side window.
So what is the solution? Daily sunscreen regardless of the weather or your plans for the day. Simply apply an SPF 30+ to your face every morning before you leave the house. Make it a routine just like brushing your teeth. And, when outdoors, try to avoid the sun by sitting in the shade and reapply sunscreen every two hours.
2. Start applying a retinoid every night
One of the greatest breakthroughs in Dermatology happened in the 1980s with the discovery of Accutane. This oral retinoid allowed many people with even the worst cystic acne to have completely clear skin in a matter of months. Even though Accutane was discovered thirty years ago, it is still used frequently by dermatologists today.
In addition to clearing acne, dermatologists found that their patients on Accutane began to have a more youthful appearance. Their fine wrinkles disappeared, their skin tone was more even, and their face appeared fuller. Oral Accutane has many potential side effects, however, so a Dermatologist would never prescribe it just for these age-defying side effects. Luckily, there are retinoid creams and gels that are also very effective in creating a youthful appearance without all the side effects of Accutane. There are several popular brands including Retin-A (tretinoin) and Differin (adapalene). By applying a retinoid every night before bed, over months you will begin to notice fine lines and wrinkles disappear. Your skin will thicken, making your face appear fuller. Sunspots will start to fade away. Consistent use over months to years can make a dramatic improvement in your appearance.
3. Stop sleeping on your face
People who sleep on their sides or on their stomach will start to develop facial sleep lines that don’t go away when they wake up. The compression of their face against the pillow when sleeping leads to furrows that can be persistent. This is a hard habit to break, but your face will appreciate it!
4. Make healthy choices
Stop smoking. Everyone knows that this is an unhealthy habit that causes many types of cancer. However, it also causes an aged appearance of your skin and yellows your teeth, hair and nails. Eat a balanced diet that is rich in fish oils and anti-oxidants to help reverse the impact of sun damage. And, get enough sleep.
5. Consider cosmetic treatments with your dermatologist
There are numerous prescription cosmetic treatments that can be tailored to your specific needs. Things like dermabrasion and chemical peels can help even your pigment and reduce fine lines. Almost everyone can benefit from Botox injections to stamp out dynamic wrinkles. Different lasers can be used to address everything from wrinkles, to sunspots, to broken blood vessels. Filler injections can make dramatic, instantaneous improvements in your appearance by replenishing connective tissue in places where it has been lost with time. Only board certified dermatologists are experts in each of these different treatment modalities, including the indications for treatment, proper application, and potential side effects.
6. Start right away!
The younger you are when you start following these tips, the more effective they will be! A lifetime of sunscreen use, nightly retinoids, healthy choices, and guidance from a dermatologist will lead to much more improvement than hastily made changes later in life. Start today!
Medical Doctor and PhD candidate