Your New Anti-Aging Arsenal: 11 Beauty Tricks to Look Younger
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Fitness

Your New Anti-Aging Arsenal: 11 Beauty Tricks to Look Younger

You never leave home without your sunscreen, so why are you still getting wrinkles and spots? Turns out, there's more to aging than UV rays. Your diet, your sleep habits, and even your travel plans can make you look older. Find out what's really aging your skin and how to stop it stat.

Age Accelerators

Pollution. Air pollutants generate free radicals, which damage our DNA, says Susan Taylor, MD, a dermatologist in Philadelphia. "That can lead to the loss of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid in the skin, causing wrinkles," she explains. A German study also found that women who were exposed to high levels of traffic emissions, soot, and other pollutants had more brown spots. Here's what you can do to protect your skin:

  • Don't exfoliate too often. "Daily use of alpha hydroxy acids breaks down the skin's barrier, making it easier for environmental pollutants to get in," says Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, MD, PhD, a dermatologist in New York City. She favors a once-a-month in-office peel or sloughing with the acids at home no more than once or twice a week. We like Philosophy The Microdelivery In-Home Vitamin C/Peptide Peel ($69, sephora.com), which contains salicylic and lactic acids, a combo that Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas says helps provide deeper exfoliation without the drying effect.
  • Load up on antioxidants. "Use a mix so you can effectively battle the different types of damaging substances you're exposed to," Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas says. Try Origins Smarty Plants CC SPF 20 Skin Complexion Corrector ($35, origins.com), which combines the proven free-radical fighters vitamins C and E with green tea in a time-release formula. "It's important to apply these creams in the morning to protect yourself all day, considering that intense sun exposure is probably at midday and you're putting them on at 8:00 a.m.," says Elizabeth F. Callahan, MD, a dermatologist in Sarasota, Florida.
  • Wear SPF. Pollution damages the earth's ozone layer, and, according to Drew Shindell, PhD, a senior scientist for NASA, UV exposure increases by 33 percent for every 20 percent of ozone loss -- possible reason for those brown spots on skin. That's why SPF is crucial year-round, even on gray days. Every morning, layer on sunscreen with at least SPF 30, or use an antioxidant-sunscreen combo such as Avon Anew Clinical SkinVincible Multi-Shield Lotion ($36, avon.com), with SPF 50 and six different antioxidants.

Extreme Temperature Change. Hitting the slopes this winter? "When the temperature and humidity drop, skin goes from well hydrated to red, flaky, and dry," Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas says. "That makes it susceptible to other forms of damage." Cold, dry air isn't the only thing that causes trouble. Extreme heat (hello, hot yoga!) can result in flushing and even broken capillaries. "Repeated exposure to high temperatures can leave skin permanently red, and that can make you look older," Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas notes. In a season marked by both blustery conditions and cozy fires, these strategies can help you keep your skin climate-controlled:

  • Fortify your defenses. Strengthening your skin's outermost layer will help protect it from harsh elements. Look for a moisturizing cream that includes ceramides, phospholipids (fatty acids), and/or hyaluronic acid. "New data show that sunflower and sandalwood extracts are also key," Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas says. Try Murad Hydration Maximizer ($35, murad.com), with hyaluronic acid and essential fatty acids, and Neova DNA Barrier Accelerator ($105, neova.com), with ceramides and sandalwood extract.
  • Plan accordingly. Hopping on a flight? "Start increasing your water intake a couple of days before you leave; don't wait to hydrate on the plane," Dr. Callahan says. If you're heading to the mountains, pack a portable cool-mist humidifier (you can find one at target.com) to offset the dry air. If you're skiing, wear a balaclava to cover your head, neck, and face, Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas suggests. And if you're prone to broken capillaries or have rosacea, skip sauna sessions and hot yoga.

More Skin Wreckers

Lack of Sleep. In a recent Estee Lauder study, researchers found that women between ages 30 and 60 who were poor sleepers showed more signs of aging and recovered slower from environmental assaults than those who snoozed soundly. "Lack of sleep may age us because it physically stresses our bodies and doesn't allow our cells time to repair themselves, or because we have more wrinkle-forming muscle tension in our faces when we're tired," says Neal Schultz, MD, a dermatologist in New York City and a FITNESS advisory board member. Try these techniques:

  • Call for backup. If you're not getting enough shut-eye, your cells are missing out on prime repair time. Warding off the daily onslaught of damage will make their job a little easier come nighttime. Reach for antioxidants, says Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas, who recommends applying a treatment that contains resveratrol, a potent plant-based one, before bed and in the morning. "Research shows that resveratrol increases cell survival," she says. Find it in Environ AVST 1 Moisturizer ($66, dermaconcepts.com for locations).
  • Fake it. Just as the caffeine in coffee can power you through a groggy workout, applying it topically can help skin recover from a sleepless night. In an eye cream, caffeine can constrict blood vessels, lessening dark circles and puffiness, Dr. Schultz says. We like La Roche-Posay Redermic R Eyes ($47, drugstores) and Arbonne RE9 Advanced Corrective Eye Creme ($55, arbonne.com).

Genetics. According to a recent Elizabeth Arden survey, nearly half of women under age 40 are more worried about aging gracefully than saving for their retirement. Here's the thing: When it comes to aging, genetics rule, according to Dr. Schultz. "If your parents had beautiful skin when they got older, you're more likely to have it too, provided you always wear sunscreen and don't smoke," he says. And "if your parents looked much older than their age, there's a chance you will too, despite doing everything right." But it's not all doom and gloom. There are new ways to beat your genes and head off aging:

  • Guard your DNA. The latest beauty buzzword is telomeres; these structures, located at the ends of our chromosomes, help our bodies to keep producing healthy cells. As we get older, our telomeres shorten, and wrinkles and other signs of aging appear. New topical products, such as Dr. Brandt Do Not Age (DNA) Time Reversing Cream ($130, sephora.com) and Kate Somerville Age Arrest Anti-Wrinkle Cream ($90, katesomerville.com), are claimed to help protect telomeres, slowing those visible signs of aging. As of yet, there are no studies showing that any cream can work directly on telomeres, but "these products do contain enzymes that are known to help repair DNA," Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas says.
  • Firm things up. Genetic aging tends to show up as lax or sagging skin, Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas says. Seek out peptides that boost collagen and elastin production, tightening up skin from within. Try G.M. Collin Bota-Peptide 5 Concentrate ($112, skin1.com).

Sugar. Some not-so-sweet news: Your 3:00 p.m. vending machine habit can make you look old. The culprit is glycation, a process in which glucose, aka sugar, binds to tissue in our bodies and produces substances that turn the collagen and elastin in our skin stiff and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging. To add insult to injury, eating sugar can also generate free radicals. To curb your sweet tooth and save your skin, try these tips:

  • Eat smarter. "It would be impossible to completely eliminate sugar from your diet," Dr. Callahan says. So cut back: Swap processed, refined foods for whole grains, fruits, and veggies. And switch up your cooking style. "Grilling, toasting, and frying alter the proteins in food and produce glucose," Dr. Taylor says. Instead, use healthier methods whenever you can, such as steaming, poaching, and boiling.
  • Consider a topical approach. New creams are said to stop the glycation process and the wrinkles it causes. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of such formulas; according to Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas, more research is needed in this area. If you would like to give an antiglycation cream a try, GlyTerra-gL ($135, glyterra.com) has demonstrated line-softening results in studies by the manufacturer, and Lumene Complete Rewind Recovery Night Cream ($30, cvs.com) contains wrinkle-fighting peptides and Arctic Sea buckthorn, an antioxidant-rich botanical that has been shown to protect against the free radicals that are created when we eat sugar.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, January 2014.

 
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