How to prevent premature skin ageing

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We cannot stop the natural ageing process. With time, we will all develop visible lines or wrinkles and our faces will lose their youthful fullness. This process is largely influenced by our genes, however there are a number of environmental and lifestyle factors that can cause our skin to age prematurely. Prevention is key to minimising wrinkles and the earlier you start to take care of your skin before they appear the better. The following lifestyle changes, products and medical procedures can be used to keep your skin looking fresher for longer. I would strongly recommend that you do your research and find a suitably qualified medical practitioner if you are considering any of these procedures. Confirmation that a doctor is on the specialist register can easily done by checking the GMC list of registered medical practitioners (http://www.gmc-uk.org/doctors/register/LRMP.asp).

What You'll Need

  • A gentle cleanser.
  • Vitamin C serum under your moisturiser.
  • Sun protection moisturiser (broad spectrum SPF 30 +) each and every morning.
  • Topical retinoid at night (with plain moisturiser on top if the skin feels dry).
  • Consider further eye creams or serums that contain AHAs, peptides or growth factors.

What You'll Do

  • Avoid the sun. Sun protection against both UVA and UVB is critical 365 days a year using an SPF of at least 30. If you have reservations about using sunscreen with traditional chemical filters, you can opt for zinc or titanium-based products i.e. physical protectants.
  • Don’t smoke. Not only does smoking cause a dull complexion, it accelerates the ageing process by impairing blood flow to the skin and damaging the collagen and elastin fibres that give your skin its strength and elasticity. The more you smoke and the longer you smoke, the worse the damage can be.
  • Get your eyes tested and wear glasses if appropriate. When you squint, you contract the underlying muscles. If you repeatedly contract the same muscles again and again, these lines eventually become permanent. This is one of the reasons that wrinkles often appear around the eyes before anywhere else. Don’t forget to wear sunglasses in brighter weather too.
  • Moisturise. Whilst moisturiser doesn’t strictly influence the ageing process, it holds water in the skin, reducing the appearance of sagging and dehydration and giving a smoother and more youthful complexion. Applying a moisturiser at night can also make retinoids and other potentially irritating topical anti-ageing products easier to tolerate.
  • Topical vitamin C. Free radicals induced by environmental stressors such as UVA, UVB and pollution can lead to DNA damage and accelerated skin ageing. Apply a vitamin C antioxidant serum under your moisturiser to neutralise these.
  • Peptides such as matrixyl, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) e.g. glycolic and lactic acid, and growth factors are found in numerous high street cosmeceuticals. They are said to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as a result of new collagen synthesis, improve the appearance of age spots and even out irregular pigmentation, reduce roughness and improve skin texture and elasticity. There is some evidence to support these claims and it may be worth incorporating a serum, moisturiser or eye cream containing these ingredients into your regime.
  • Botulinum toxin. Botox is highly effective at both preventing future wrinkles and smoothing existing ones. It is a neuromodulator which means that it works by relaxing the muscles that cause facial contractions. As we age and our skin loses its ability to stay elastic, repeated contractions cause wrinkles to form and become deeper. By relaxing the muscles that cause these wrinkles, Botox lets the skin rest and smooths wrinkles, while preventing future wrinkles as well. Many first-time users are afraid of the “frozen” look, however with targeted injections by a highly skilled consultant dermatologist or plastic surgeon, you will still be able to make normal facial expressions, but your wrinkles will be softer.
  • Chemical peels. A chemical solution e.g. TCA is applied to the skin and causes exfoliation and peeling. The new, regenerated skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin. It is also temporarily more sensitive to the sun thus chemical peels should be avoided in spring and summer as strict sun avoidance is paramount.
  • Laser or light resurfacing. Laser can be a good choice for comprehensive skin rejuvenation, as it can smooth fine lines and wrinkles, even skin tone and texture and address dark spots and pigmentation problems, but it is often a lot more expensive than other therapeutic modalities for skin rejuvenation.
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