- What Is Known About Aging Skin
- Healthy Steps: Aging Skin—First Steps
- Healthy Steps: Aging Skin—Full Program
- Preventing Aging Skin
The signs of aging appear slowly, but once you notice a few, you become vigilant looking for new ones. You examine your face from different angles and are perhaps seduced by cosmetic anti-aging products or have even considered skin-rejuvenating medical procedures. You're not alone. Fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and sagging skin drive increasing numbers of people to pursue Botox, chemical peels, laser treatments, and facelifts, sometimes to the point of absurdity. Or perhaps you're at the opposite end of the spectrum, and think, “I've earned these wrinkles!” and refuse to bow to our culture's obsession with youth.
My philosophy falls somewhere in the middle. We all know that the most important thing in life certainly isn't a youthful appearance, but there is no doubt that our external appearance can reflect our internal health and vitality. There's no question that a youthful impression can be conveyed by a lively expression in a weathered and wrinkled face, but if you wish to make the extra effort to preserve your skin's youthful appearance, there's plenty that you can do without resorting to chemicals or surgery.
Skin is remarkably resilient, but it's the rare person who escapes at least some signs of aging by the age of 40. How quickly and to what extent your skin ages depends primarily on 2 factors: genetics and lifestyle. While your genetic blueprint is the luck of the draw, there's a lot you can do in terms of lifestyle to keep your skin looking its best and to minimize age-related changes.
All of the basic tenets of a healthy lifestyle-a balanced, nutrient-rich diet; regular exercise; sufficient sleep; and minimizing stress-will go a long way toward keeping your skin healthy and beautiful. Protecting your skin from excessive sun exposure is critical because ultraviolet rays cause free radical damage that results in wrinkling, sagging, and age spots. Adopting a daily skin care routine that incorporates antioxidant-rich moisturizers and serums is also an essential part of an anti-aging skin care program.
Research shows that the same nutrients that keep your arteries clear, ward off cancer, and prevent diabetes are powerful means for creating smooth, wrinkle-free, radiant skin. My routine nutritional recommendations provide the anti-inflammatory foundation for healthy skin. If slowing the signs of skin aging is your goal, several foods stand out as being especially beneficial, including salmon, sardines, shrimp, spinach, blueberries, beef liver, and dark chocolate - yes, chocolate!
The number one food group for maintaining youthful skin is cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, halibut, and herring, which are rich in 2 essential fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), both critical nutrients for healthy skin. Another source of these invigorating fatty acids is a supplemental fish oil: my favorite is Barlean's Fish Oil. I take 1 tablespoon daily. DHA and EPA are responsible for keeping cell membranes flexible, allowing nutrients to enter cells and waste products to be eliminated. In addition, these healthful fatty acids calm the inflammation that causes aging skin.
Organic raw butter is a good source of healthful saturated fats that protect skin against oxidative damage and help maintain skin luster and resiliency. Don't be afraid of fats - without a sufficient supply of beneficial fats, skin becomes dry and wrinkled.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants and other skin-saving phytonutrients. In particular, berries and spinach have been shown to have special anti-aging benefits. An easy and often overlooked secret for beautiful skin is to drink plenty of pure water. Not only does water flush out toxins, but it helps to plump up skin cells and diminishes the appearance of fine lines.
A relative newcomer on the market is the highly promising anti-oxidant Astaxanthin, made from the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis. Astaxanthin has reduced visible signs of aging within 4 to 6 weeks of use, yielding firmer, less puffy and more elastic skin. There is certainly reason to hope that healthier skin will have greater intrinsic protection against all sun damaging effects, possibly including greater skin cancer resistance.
Here's one anti-aging recommendation few people will have difficulty following: for beautiful skin, eat a small amount of dark chocolate every day. Researchers in Germany say chocolate increases protection from UV damage and dilates blood vessels, bringing increased blood flow and nutrients to the skin.
In the same way that dietary antioxidants protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals on internal organs and tissues, topically applied antioxidants can also protect the skin. Free radicals are created through excessive sunlight exposure, environmental toxins, and internal metabolic processes. Left unchecked, free radical damage causes wrinkling, age spots, and loss of skin elasticity. Some of the most effective topical antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, retinol, and alpha lipoic acid. You'll get the best results from using products that offer a combination of antioxidants because together they act synergistically to protect and rejuvenate the skin.
In general, it's a good idea to avoid putting anything on your face that you wouldn't put into your mouth. Your skin is highly absorptive, and everything that goes onto your skin is essentially absorbed into your body.
The most youthful skin is also an untanned skin. For this result, choose a chemical-free natural mineral sunscreen and apply it every day, even on overcast days. Remember to catch 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure or to boost your vitamin D supplementation as needed to maintain healthy blood levels.
For the greatest improvement with the fewest steps, do the following:
- Eat cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, halibut, and herring, which provide essential nutrients for healthy skin.
- Astaxanthin. Start with 4 mg daily, increase to twice daily after 2 weeks.
- Use high-quality skin care products, such as Weleda or MyChelle.
- Make a habit of using the best sunscreens: hats, clothing, and mineral-based sunscreens. A good commercial option is the wide range of Alba Botanical products.
A comprehensive program involves many areas in which you can take action steps gradually or all at once. Start by following the basic nutrition and healthy lifestyle guidelines, with the following modifications:
Savor Helpful Foods
- Wild Alaskan salmon. This is the most important food for beautiful skin. Eat 2 to 3 times a week-ideally very lightly cooked or even raw. Avoid farmed salmon, which contains toxic chemicals and does not have the same beneficial fatty acid nutrient profile as wild salmon
- Anchovies and sardines. These small ocean fish are naturally rich sources of DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol), an organic compound that increases skin firmness.
- Shrimp. Shrimp and other seafood with natural pink coloring (wild salmon, crab, crawfish, and lobster) contain astaxanthin, a carotenoid with 10 times the antioxidant power of beta-carotene. This super-charged antioxidant helps to scavenge cell-damaging free radicals.
- Organic butter. Choose unsalted, cultured butter made from raw milk if possible, definitely grass-fed for its vitamin K2 component, helpful for connective tissue tone.
- Beef liver and beef heart. These two organ meats are among the richest food sources of Co-Q10, a powerful antioxidant. Cook lightly to preserve nutrients, and eat one to two times a week.
- Blueberries. The pigments that give blueberries their deep purple color- anthocyanins-are potent anti-inflammatories and shield cells from damaging free radicals created by excessive sun exposure, stress, and environmental toxins. Eat 1 cup of blueberries daily. For variety, substitute blackberries, red or purple grapes, or raspberries.
- Dark Chocolate. Antioxidant compounds called flavanols are responsible for the skin-beautifying benefits of chocolate. Along with UV protection and increased circulation, research shows that chocolate increases skin hydration, thickness, and smoothness. There's one caveat: To get sufficient flavanols, choose very dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao.
- Spinach. Dark leafy greens are packed with lutein, an antioxidant that increases skin hydration and elasticity. In addition, research shows that lutein helps keep skin youthful by preventing the oxidation of lipids in the skin. It's easy to get 10 mg of lutein from foods: It only takes about 1 cup of cooked dark leafy greens such as kale or spinach. If your diet falls short, take 20 mg of Now Foods Lutein Esters as a supplement.
- Brazil nuts 2-4 daily for selenium.
Avoid Problematic Foods
- High-glycemic foods. This includes all sugars and foods that increase blood sugar and insulin output such as bread, pasta, refined grains, and white potatoes. High-glycemic foods increase inflammation and trigger cellular glycation, which causes collagen to become stiff and inflexible.
- Gluten. It's the gluey protein substance that causes dough to be sticky. Wheat flour especially contains high amounts of gluten. Gluten contributes to permeability and inflammation of the intestinal lining, which can raise the body's general level of inflammation.
Supplements Can Help
- Barlean's Fish Oil. A daily dose of 1 tablespoon liquid provides essential omega 3's.
- Biotics Research Bio-D-Mulsion Forte. 4-6,000 mg daily (with FCLO).
- Thorne Basic Nutrients III. Take 2 with meals twice daily.
- Pure Encapsulations Lutein/Astaxanthin. Take one capsule twice daily indefinitely. A powerful anti-oxidant.
- Integrative Therapeutics UBQH is an excellent form of ubiquinol (CoQ10). Take 100 mg, 1-2 times daily.
- Pure Encapsulations Alpha Lipoic Acid. Unique in its ability to penetrate deeply into cells, alpha lipoic acid protects cells from free radical damage and inhibits glycation, which destroys elasticity. To obtain sufficient amounts of alpha lipoic acid, eat liver weekly or find a good supplement. Take 200 mg daily.
Daily Life Activities
- Sleep. Sufficient sleep is essential for slowing the aging process. During sleep, skin is rejuvenated, and levels of stress hormones are reduced. However, the way you sleep can exacerbate wrinkles. If you tend to sleep on your side, wrinkles on that side of your face will be more pronounced. Cultivate the habit of sleeping on your back (a special pillow that cradles your neck can be helpful). Sleeping on a satin pillowcase can also prevent wrinkles.
- Exercise. Regular exercise improves circulation, bringing fresh oxygen and nutrients to the skin and aiding in the elimination of toxins. However, choose your exercise wisely. Strength building exercises that increase muscle mass help to prevent skin aging by keeping skin firm and tight. Running, on the other hand, involves repeated bouncing movement that can contribute to sagging. This doesn't mean you shouldn't run if you enjoy running, but runners may wish to begin applying skin-firming ingredients at an early age.
- Wear sunscreen while driving. Most people do not realize that car windows don't block UVA rays, which are a primary cause for skin aging. For this reason, it is especially important to wear a special hat that covers your face or to wear a natural sunscreen whenever you are driving. It is particularly important for those with a long daily commute or those who live in sunny areas.
Topical Skin Care
- Daily skin care. Avoid overly hot and chlorinated water. Use high-quality skincare products; we recommend Weleda biodynamic and organic products. You can consult a skin care professional for help in designing a program for your specific needs.
- Routine is an important aspect of maintaining healthy skin. Include cleansing, moisturizing, sun protection and sun recovery in your program.
- Chill it! Cold water is an excellent skin toner: try cold water as a morning wake-up routine; follow warm showers or face bathing with cold water splashes.
The following homemade program is a reasonable anti-aging skin routine
- For cleansing, choose simple and natural products with no added chemicals, such as a moisturizing soap like pure goat's milk soap or a transparent soap. Avoid any cleanser that leaves skin feeling “tight.”
- Moisturize in the daytime with a natural moisturizer such as coconut oil. The healthful attributes of coconut oil when taken internally are thought by some to be equally beneficial when applied topically.
- Choose recommended sunscreens and use them regularly.
While there's no cure for aging skin, you should now be reassured that there is a great deal that you can do to slow the aging process. Most important is to calm the cellular inflammation that results in wrinkles, age spots, and sagging skin. Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, reducing stress, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising appropriately are powerful ways of calming inflammation and maintaining youthful skin. In addition, establishing an appropriate skincare routine using skin-restorative topical nutrients can refine and repair skin, restoring a youthful glow.
To prevent premature skin aging, it's essential to protect your skin from excessive sun exposure. The best sunscreens are physical: hats, clothing, and mineral based sunscreens. Avoid chemical sunscreens, which some studies show actually contribute to cellular damage. Instead, use natural sunscreens made from titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which safely provide excellent protection from both UVA and UVB rays.