Updated 10/21/17. The definition of “anti-aging”: products or techniques designed to prevent the appearance of getting older. As an esthetician, I’m always asked, “What should I be doing to my skin NOW to prevent wrinkles from appearing later?” My clients come to me because they are committed investing in their skin to ensure their face stays healthy and youthful-looking. And if you’re reading this post, I’m sure you’re someone who takes his/her skin seriously, too. Read on for some beneficial anti-aging information that you need to know.
The demand for skin care products to prevent the signs of aging is at an all-time high. When I first started my career as an esthetician back in the late 1980s, skin care was very focused on solving problems—like smoothing wrinkles, fading browns spots and lessening dryness. The concept of preventing such problems was just beginning to develop. While skin care professionals still focus on this type of personalized problem solving, today we have a much greater understanding of how to slow down the effects of aging from becoming visible in the first place. Anti-aging, preventative aging, healthy-aging, age-defying, or whatever you choose to call it, should be a focus for everyone—and every skin type and age. (I’m a skin type #2. Which type are you? Take my Skin Type Quiz to find out.)
Here’s what you need to know to prevent visible aging from coming on so quickly.
Intrinsic/extrinsic aging: We’ve all heard someone say, “Look how young she looks. She must have good genes.” While we are genetically programmed from birth to age a certain way (called intrinsic aging), genetics are now only thought to be responsible for 20-30% of aging. The other 70%-80% of how you’ll visibly age depends on extrinsic aging. This comes from your environment and lifestyle choices—both things that you can have control over. This is great news because this confirms that how your care for your skin far outweighs your genetic predisposition. If you want to retain your youthful self from the inside out, you need to focus on what you can control. You can control what you eat, how much time you spend in the sun or daylight, whether or not you smoke and various other lifestyle factors.
What makes the look of the skin age faster?
The sun. UV rays given off by the sun are the number one reason for premature skin aging. To prevent this, you must wear sunscreen every day, 365 days a year, rain or shine, inside or out. I started wearing sunscreen every day when I was 28 years old, which was considered pretty early back in 1998. I really envy (and congratulate!) all of the teens out there who are diligent about wearing sunscreen. You are so lucky to have this knowledge and be able to put it into practice at such a young age. Sunscreen will undoubtedly dramatically slow how quickly the skin shows visible signs of aging. (The beautiful actress, Sofia Vergara swears by this sunscreen and has spoken publicly about the importance of wearing it every day of the year.)
Sleeping positions. Did you know that sleeping may be the second most prominent cause of wrinkles? One surprising cause of premature wrinkling on the face and décolleté (chest) is sleep, or more precisely, the position of the body during sleep. To prevent crepes between the breasts, marionette lines around the mouth and wrinkles around the eyes, try to get in the habit of sleeping on your back. After sun exposure, sleeping on the side is like ironing wrinkles into the skin. If you sleep on your side, you could be spending more than 2,500 hours per year potentially reversing the positive effects of your skin care treatments. (See how I sleep.)
Facial expressions. Creases from repetitive face movements (squinting, laughing, smiling, talking, yawning) eventually set in. This ultimately resulting in lines and wrinkles. Of course, our faces were meant to move, but you do want to avoid facial expressions that are unnecessary. Also, don’t put off getting your eyes checked. Squinting from blurry vision will most definitely accelerate wrinkles around the eyes. Be sure to wear sunglasses when outdoors since brightness causes squinting.
Gravity. The pull of gravity through the years causes the muscles of the face to sag, especially those that are never used. Skin professionals used to think that this was not preventable, but now we understand the importance of exercising the muscles beneath the skin. This helps the skin to appear tighter and firmer. Did you know that we have 53 muscles in our face, and 32 of them are accessible for exercise? Professional microcurrent treatments are excellent for strengthening the facial muscles. Furthermore, Nu Face makes a great at-home device to keep up the results. This can be used at any age. Bottom line, we CAN defy gravity.
Smoking. Smoking starves cells of oxygen, resulting in dull, tired-looking skin. Also, collagen-destroying enzymes (MMPs) ramp up when exposed to tobacco smoke. This dramatically increases how quickly the skin ages. Read more about how smoking affects the skin.
Drug use. Every drug will affect the body differently, but generally speaking, medications and drug use can stress the nervous system. This, in turn, elevates hormones (adrenals). This contributes to the wear and tear of connective tissue, resulting in flaccid, loose, sagging skin.
To learn more about how lifestyle choices affect the skin’s appearance, check out what researchers confirmed through two studies of 144 pairs of identical twins in 2009 and 2013. They concluded, most importantly, that smoking, sun exposure, and other factors such as BMI, marital status, and anti-depressants, can age us. Then there is always the choice of your profession. These jobs might age your skin faster.
At what age should you start using preventative aging products? Since the sun is the primary cause of premature aging, this makes sunscreen the most biologically active ingredient available. Sunscreen, more so than any other over-the-counter skin care product, has the greatest ability to prevent wrinkles and premature skin aging. Sunscreen can be applied to children as young as six months of age. This essentially means that anti-aging begins at less than one year of age. Never too early to start, right?
What type of ingredients should be in your skin care products for anti-aging? When it comes to caring for your skin, there have been incredible advancements in skincare technology. In the past 25 years, we have learned so much about how the skin works and what we can do to slow down (and sometimes reverse) the visible signs of aging. Skin care products and treatments are becoming increasingly sophisticated at targeting the critical functions of skin health. For example, the production and maintenance of collagen and elastin, the building blocks of healthy skin.
We can now safely speed up the skin renewal process without unwanted dryness and irritation with products that contain retinol, like Advanced Resurfacing Serum. New products entering the market may be able to mimic DNA functions of healthy skin. This will allow them to repair skin damage on an individual cell level. Many products already successfully harness the healing power of antioxidants, which play a very important role in preventing cell aging caused by free radicals. In other words, if you want true change in your skin, there is no better place to find it than with science.
I’m often asked if my own product line is organic. The answer is no. But do I use natural ingredients and avoid using bad chemicals? Absolutely. I do believe there are benefits to both science and a natural approach, so in my skin care line I embrace the best of both. Nature offers us a slow and steady course that works gently with the skin with proven results. Science, on the other hand, offers more advanced, sometimes stronger ingredients. Learn more about the ingredients I choose to use and avoid in the Renée Rouleau product line. Also, read my Beginner’s Guide to Retinol or Prescription Retinoids.
Here are ten of my favorite age-defying ingredients that you should be using in your skin care products.
What if your skin is still prone to clogged pores and breakouts? Will anti-aging products make this worse? It’s important to know that you must choose all anti-aging products appropriate for your skin type. Many cosmetic companies (not Renée Rouleau, of course) assume those who want anti-aging care must have dry skin. For those who produce oil and are prone to breakouts (like skin types #1-#4), this can be quite problematic. It is possible for all skin types to preserve their youthful appearance and achieve their skin care goals with the right balance of products. Take my Skin Type Quiz to learn about which products are best suited for your skin’s unique needs.
What else will help? Let’s not forget the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating foods high in nutritional value and antioxidants, sleeping 7-9 hours a night, exercising to keep good circulation in the body and focusing on living your best, happiest life filled with love and laughter. As for laughter, doctors and health professionals are prescribing laughter to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and increase disease-fighting cells, which lead to a healthier immune system. Laughter is free, fun and everyone can do it. It’s no wonder that you always hear, “Laughter is the best medicine.”
Bottom line: It’s all about prevention. How you take care of your skin, body and mind now will pave the road for how you will look and feel in the future. Make caring for your skin a priority and you will get the reward of beautiful, healthy skin for a lifetime. Be sure to read my blog to get all my expert advice.
P.S. Consider yourself lucky if you have these three genetic facial features that will guarantee you’ll look younger longer.
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Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”