All you need to know to keep your skin in tip-top shape from head to toe
Ready for some eye-opening news? According to a recent study by the University of Göttingen in Germany, the appearance of the skin on a woman's hands, chest, and arms has a huge impact on her perceived age. The 240 participants of the P&G-sponsored study judged women with dull, dry skin to be older than their actual age, and those with smooth, radiant skin to be up to 10 years younger. But here's the kicker: Those delicate areas are especially prone to visible signs of aging, such as sun damage, and a disparity between the conditions of the face and body can exaggerate the overall appearance of aging. So while it's important to put our best face forward, it's time to go full steam ahead with whole-body beauty routines, too. What does this mean? Daily sun protection and moisturization, of course, as well as looking for products that go beyond the basics and fight dullness, dryness, and lack of elasticity on all fronts. Thankfully, advances in skin care are making it as easy as one, two, three....
Hydrated skin not only looks great (glowing, healthy, and even-toned), but it's stronger, more resilient, and better equipped to fend off irritation. Moisturizers contain two skin-saving components: Humectants, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, draw water from the air into the skin; and emollients, such as mineral oil and dimethicone, strengthen the lipid barrier, holding in moisture. To keep skin supple post-shower, use a body wash that contains hydrating ingredients, such as jojoba butter, or try an inshower body lotion.
If skin's lipid barrier is compromised and irritants slip through, the resulting inflammatory response leads to redness, itching, and overall discomfort. Prevent this by using fragrance-free lotions with niacinamide, a skin-strengthening and protecting derivative of vitamin B3. To calm skin quickly, spot-treat areas of concern with capillary-constricting cold compresses, which draw redness away from skin's surface, or pop OTC antihistamine, which blocks the same chemical that produces allergy symptoms.
Your diet doesn't just affect your waistline— it can also save your skin: Green tea's main freeradical- fighting polyphenol EGCG not only protects collagen, it could help prevent skin cancer; wild salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which aid skin's barrier-repair function; sweet potatoes are chock-full of antioxidant beta-carotene (synthesized as fine-linefighter vitamin A); blueberries' antioxidant content protects precious cells inside and out; and spinach's antioxidant lutein helps preserve your vision (less squinting equals fewer wrinkles).
While you're fast asleep, your body is busy releasing hormones that boost cell turnover. Take advantage of this nightly skin-renewal window by applying age-fighting actives such as beta hydroxy acid and retinoids, both potent (but sunsensitizing) exfoliating wrinkle-erasers. It may sound tacky, but trade up to satin sheets if you want to realize your dream of sag-free skin: Over time, rubbing and reduced circulation caused by tossing and turning in rougher sheets can create more friction and break down collagen, leading to wrinkles.
Dead skin cells? Yuck! Keep skin smooth and boost radiance with cell-sloughing exfoliation. A physical exfoliant, such as a scrub, a body wash with gentle beads, or a razor (when shaving, of course), buffs away debris, while alpha or beta hydroxy acids dissolve the bonds between cells, so the old cells easily wash away, revealing soft, glowing skin.
Though age and sun damage can cause skin to lose elasticity over time, fighting back is getting easier:
Recent research shows that maintaining a healthy, moisturized epidermis will help prevent the breakdown of the skin's collagen and elastin infrastructure. Look for creams containing barrier-strengthening palmitoyl peptides and niacinamide, as well as caffeine, which can tighten skin on both the face and the body (see ya, cellulite!) by revving up circulation and hydration.
The best way to banish wrinkles before they begin is to develop good habits, such as vetoing sunbathing and cigarettes, which trigger free radicals that damage DNA in cells. Regular application of retinol- or niacinamide-laced creams from head to toe will help thicken skin and boost collagen synthesis, and it's also important to keep hydrated with hyaluronicacid- rich moisturizers—if skin is thirsty, fine lines will be more apparent. Ready to bring out the big guns? Inoffice procedures such as Thermage can rebuild collagen from the inside out.
Don't neglect skin below the neck: Brown spots on the chest and on the backs of the hands are red flags of aging just as much as when they appear on the face. Fade them away with products containing melanin-reducing niacinamide, glucosamine, and vitamin C, or visit the derm for an intense pulsed light treatment (IPL), which can quell overactive melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells in skin.
Glowing skin can make you feel sexier and look a few pounds thinner, but avoid harmful rays. Selftanners add sun-free radiance to light-tomedium skin tones and reduce ashiness in darker tones. The active ingredient, DHA, reacts with the outer layer of skin cells, turning them brown. Scared of streaks? Use a daily lotion with a low dose of DHA for a gradual, subtle glow, or try a body wash or lotion with shimmer.
Protect your skin for a beautiful future. A full-on solar defense starts with broad-spectrum sunscreen that guards against both UVB and UVA rays by using a mix of physical blockers (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) and chemical blockers (avobenzone/Parsol 1789). Make sunscreen the first step in your regimen; applying it to bare skin binds it to cells, boosting its efficacy.