A Recipe for a Youthful Complexion

Aging is inevitable, but aging skin is not. A few simple steps can help prevent— and sometimes even reverse—the damage that adds years to your face. For a healthy, vibrant, youthful complexion, here’s what doctors recommend:

Shun The Sun

Most problems that plague older skin— roughness, dryness, wrinkling and sagging— are due to sun exposure. Both UVB (burning) and UVA (aging) radiation are primary causes of damage to the DNA in cells. This leads to the destruction of collagen and elastin— proteins that keep skin firm and supple. UV radiation is also considered the leading cause of skin cancers, including melanoma, the most serious form of the disease. Your best defense is an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen that blocks both UVB and UVA rays. Apply liberally to exposed areas, every day, year-round. For complete protection, add dark glasses, long sleeves and a broad-brimmed hat.

Don't Smoke

Smoking can age skin as much as 10 years or more, and the damage increases the longer you smoke. Tobacco’s toxic mix of nicotine and 4,000 other chemicals interferes with blood flow, depriving the skin of oxygen and vital nutrients. Smoking also destroys collagen and elastin, leading to wrinkles and sagging.

Choose The Right Products

In the last decade, skin care products have become much more sophisticated and effective. Look for ingredients such as peptides, niacinamide, green tea, alpha-and beta-hydroxy acids, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. Other proven treatments include the prescription drug retinoic acid and its less potent counterpart, retinol, which is available in many over-the-counter creams. Both help reverse sun damage and boost collagen production by remodeling skin on the cellular level.

Eat The Right Foods

Some of the best foods for overall health are also potent anti-agers that protect and rejuvenate skin. The essential fatty acids in salmon, walnuts and flax seeds, for instance, infuse skin with moisture and stop inflammation. Extra virgin olive oil, rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, strengthens cell membranes and helps skin look radiant. Green tea and berries of all types contain powerful antioxidants that protect cellular DNA.

Also, foods high in selenium, such as whole wheat, turkey and Brazil nuts, may help reduce sun damage and the risk of skin cancer. Avoiding certain foods can help, too. Studies suggest that limiting sugar and refined carbohydrates may slow skin aging.

Manage Stress

Scientists think that stress may rank second only to UV light as a cause of premature skin aging. Stress triggers a cascade of chemical reactions in the body that affect collagen and elastin as well as the DNA inside individual cells, speeding the aging process by as much as six years. Uncontrolled stress also makes skin more sensitive and reactive.

This can worsen existing problems such as eczema and trigger outbreaks of hives, rashes and acne. To manage stress, set reasonable limits and don’t feel guilty about saying “no.” And take some time each day for yourself to take a walk, read or meditate. If life still seems overwhelming, seek support from friends, family or a professional therapist.

Get Your Beauty Sleep

When you don’t get enough sleep, your skin can become dull and lifeless. Doctors recommend getting at least seven hours of sleep every night. If this isn’t possible, try to take a 15- to 30-minute nap in the afternoon to help make up for your sleep deficit.