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How to Face and Fight Signs of Aging

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As you get older each day, your skin steadily shows signs of wear and wisdom. This is natural and is even a little refreshing; even though your most youthful days fade into memory, each forehead wrinkle and crow’s feet is indication of a life well lived. So you might ask why should we fight signs of aging?

Well, there’s another side of aging that you shouldn’t embrace so willingly—the premature and unnecessary “aging” of the skin that is resultant of bad habits. This is when the skin changes in texture, color, consistency, and gets much more worn than is natural. Much of it is entirely preventable, and even reversible. In its wake, you’ll have brighter, smoother skin, even between the happy wrinkles of your smile. But most importantly, you’ll never look 20 years older than you actually are, and you’ll build a regimen that might shed 5 or 10 years off your reflection. Even if you’re embracing aging whole heartedly, there’s nothing wrong with a little youthfulness in your gaze, either.

Here, then, are four key ways to address and build your anti-aging regimen.

1. Use SPF moisturizers and serums by day

Products are some of the best ways to prevent photo-aging (that is, the obvious signs of aging, like wrinkles, fine lines, dark spots, rough texture, and dullness). First and foremost, you should be wearing SPF every day, even if it’s cloudy or if it’s the middle of winter. The sun’s harmful UV rays break through the clouds any day of the year (and some even cut through glass). These rays lead to photo-aging and can also cause skin cancer and sunburn. An SPF moisturizer of 30 or greater will shield you from nearly all of them, and prevent you from looking leathery and pruney halfway through life. Just apply it in the morning to a freshly cleansed face, and again after lunch. Secondly, a serum is a good way to correct and strengthen the skin from additional wear. (However, it should be applied before your SPF moisturizer.) Unlike the moisturizer, which sits atop the skin and shields it from environmental damage, the serum seeps into all three layers of the skin to brighten and firm complexion, and to keep you looking younger on the daily.

2. Apply night creams and retinol before bed

Your regimen at bedtime is cut from the same cloth as your daytime routine, but it incorporates different products. You do not need SPF as you sleep, and in its place you can apply a retinol product. These vitamin-A derivatives come packed inside many night creams, or you can get a stronger prescription from your dermatologist. They work to correct signs of aging and effectively reverse things like dark spots, fine lines, large pores, and acne, though they usually require 90+ days of use to show their effects. Retinols also make your skin sensitive to the sun, so talk to your dermatologist about the best ways to protect yourself. (Typically this can be done by cleansing the skin in the morning and applying SPF30 or greater.) Always apply retinol to cleansed skin, and only wear it at bedtime, because of the sensitivity to sun. Secondly, you should apply a dense night cream in the evening over top the retinol (or blend them together.) This cream acts as a defense against any dry air—doubly important in winter or air conditioned rooms—and it is packed with nutrients and moisture to help your skin stay supple and firm as you sleep. Because you apply these products before bed, they work with your body’s natural replenishment cycle to help heal, tighten, and smooth your skin faster and more effectively. Just be sure to get a full night’s rest regularly, or you’re canceling out the impact of the products.

3. Cut back on vices, double down on hydration

Don’t act surprised: Lots of the things you love and crave are bad for your skin. Processed junk food, alcohol, cigarettes, and excess caffeine can come back to negatively impact your complexion. They can cause dull, leathery texture, or can lead to excess breakouts and skin breakage. Typically, the more your diet and habits center on natural, healthy ingredients—and the more pure water you consume in place of processed juices and sodas—the better your skin will look. The best way to approach this is, if something is bad for your health, it’s also bad for your skin. We often separate our internal and external bodily processes, but your skin and its cells are just as impacted by your choices as the rest of you.

4. De-stress and prioritize rest

While you can’t simply and quickly wipe stress out of your life, you can make it a goal to neutralize or minimize the things that give you grief. That’s because stress impacts your skin and appearance both short term and long term; it leads to hormone spikes that in turn increase the odds of clogged pores and pimples. In the long term, it increases those photo-aging signs, like fine lines and wrinkles, and decreases your body’s ability to regenerate healthy cells quickly and effectively. One way to keep stress and cortisol levels lower is to get ample sleep (7 or 8 hours per night). This is the time your body needs to rejuvenate, and it does far more for your skin than magnify the impact of your retinol and night creams. By lowering the stress levels in your body, it also improves your complexion from the inside, and helps your skin look as bright as the optimism with which you wake.