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Can You "Turn Back the Clock" on Your Aging Skin?


What person hasn't experienced this unwelcome jolt? You look in the mirror and ask, "Who is that? I don't feel that old." When you weren't looking (because mostly you're not), your skin was succumbing to the ravages of time. Age spots, wrinkles, blotchiness, or leather skin might be staring right back at you. It can come as quite a shock!

Depending on the genes you inherit, your skin may age faster than the next person's. Yet lifestyle factors such as exposure to the sun also have a big impact on your skin. In fact, recent studies of twins show that as much as 40 percent of aging-related skin changes have nothing to do with your parents. Instead, they're from factors you can control.

In addition to sun exposure and gravity, which you can't control other causes of skin aging include:

         Smoking, which causes biochemical changes that speed aging

         Certain sleeping positions, which create "sleep lines" etched onto the surface of your skin from pressing your face against the pillow each night

         Repeated facial expressions, which can engrave wrinkles into your face

         Being overweight, which may not always be obvious because extra weight can "fill out" your skin

         Not using sunscreen, which protects against damaging ultraviolet light1,2

So, you can't exactly turn back the hands of time. But you can do some things to slow them down. Stay out of the sun during the hours of the day when the sun's rays are strongest from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. When in the sun, protect yourself with a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and sunscreen. Use sunscreen with ultraviolet A and B protection and a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. It's important to remember that skin cancer can also result from too much exposure to the sun.

Of course you can ask a dermatologist about the wide range of options for anti-aging treatments. They include everything from topical treatments and injectable fillers to laser resurfacing and facelifts. 1 But know that it's easy to fall prey to the promises of instant youth. It's so inviting that Americans spend billions each year on skin products.

Dermatologists suggest that you really do your homework before you buy skin products. That's because claims are often too good to be true. Also, just because a product is expensive doesn't mean it is necessarily better. And, not all products work for everyone. As a general rule, make sure the product you buy contains an active ingredient with evidence of anti-aging effectiveness. Some examples are retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, azelaic acid, salicylic acid, and vitamins C and E applied directly on your skin. A good moisturizer is also important.

If you're looking for an over-the-counter skin product, I can provide you an overview of the latest treatment options. Of course, your dermatologist is another reliable source. Remember that it's not just about what you put on your skin that matters. Good nutrition and drinking at least eight glasses of water each day can also make a big difference.