By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
If you don’t like what you’re seeing in the mirror, you can still improve your aging skin’s appearance. By age 55, changes in the body have begun to affect the skin in noticeable ways.
“Age spots, fine lines and wrinkles are all signs of aging, due in large part to intrinsic and extrinsic elements of aging,” said physician Ramsay Farah, chief of dermatology at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, where he is an associate professor of pathology. “Intrinsic are the normal physiologic and biochemical processes of aging, and extrinsic factors are environmental factors, such as the sun.”
Farah is also in private practice at Farah Dermatology in Syracuse and other locations in the region.
Of course, wearing sun screen each day should represent the foundation of proper skincare. Farah said they help block the UV rays that damage skin.
He recommends SPF 30 or higher, applied every two hours when exposed to sun. Sunscreen should also be reapplied after excessive sweating or towel drying. Farah prefers physical blockers containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
Avoiding exposure to sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and wearing a hat and sunglasses can also help prevent further damage.
Short of inventing a time machine and going back to your youth to slather on sunscreen, you can’t undo all of the sun damage you’ve experienced. However, you can improve your skin’s appearance. Since the skin turns over more slowly later in life, it’s helpful to use the right products to help reverse the appearance of sun damage. Farah suggested those containing retinols and retinoids.
“They help with age spots and fine lines and wrinkles,” he said. “I also am a big fan of antioxidants. These help absorb some of the rays of the sun and render them less harmful. Vitamin C products are an example. I would use these in the morning, the retinol or retinoids in the evening and sunscreens throughout the day.”
Facials, peels, microderm abrasion, and laser treatments can help. These modalities break down the skin’s top layer, the epidermis and reduce the appearance of discoloration and fine lines as the skin renews itself. It appears less dull.
“There are so many procedures that one can do for age spots and wrinkles,” Farah said. “These range from lasers, to Botox, to micro needling. The micro needling is interesting, as that creates thousands of microscopic holes in the skin and that allows us to apply topicals immediately after that then go into the holes, into the skin, and have a better biologic affect since they are absorbed better. An example of this is to do micro needling and then apply Sculptra on top of that.”
Sculptra is a filler that helps the skin generate more collagen to plump up the skin.
It’s also vital to feed the skin with a diet rich in nutrients to improve skin’s appearance.
“Poor diet decisions equal poor skin,” Farah said. “Eating an unhealthy diet will make your skin look dull and dry and promote inflammation and inflammation can lead to signs of aging. In general, try and eat an anti-inflammatory diet which generally means green, leafy things and less meat and processed foods and sugars in particular, like sodas. On the contrary, foods that contain antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids are known to increase collagen production and may, therefore, better your skin quality.”
Most people find that as they grow older, their skin becomes drier. This may require greater water intake as well as “using a good daily moisturizer, which can help restore the skin to a more normal physiologic function,” Farah said.
A good over-the-counter product he likes is CeraVe.
A healthy body with healthy skin also relies upon obtaining sufficient sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
“When one is not sleeping well and is tired, one’s hormonal equilibrium is off and when this happens, the barrier function of the skin and the mucous membranes breaks down, leading to signs of aging,” Farah explained. “So, you may begin to notice wrinkles, skin sagging, and lackluster skin. A healthy balance of exercise is also important, as that improves blood flow everywhere but also to the skin.”
Smoking contributes to numerous disease processes and is toxic to the body and most of its functions. But Farah added that it causes wrinkles and premature aging, along with dehydrating the skin.
“It also significantly decreases the blood flow to your skin,” he said. “Therefore, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your skin and your overall health.”