The natural aging process begins in the mid-20s at a cellular level, but isn’t always visually obvious until your 30s. Getting a jumpstart on it early will keep it affordable and simple, as it is much more costly if you abuse your skin and try to reverse damage later on.
Aging is a process that involves both intrinsic and extrinsic influences. Intrinsic aging is determined by genetic makeup. This is not really controllable and why we age similarly to our parents, to some degree. Extrinsic aging, which accounts for nearly 85 percent of aging, is determined by environmental factors that you can control. Lifestyle choices, including nutrition and exercise, will affect the health of your skin. Sweat removes toxins and impurities that build up in the skin. Exercise enhances blood flow to the skin, nourishing the cells. Avoiding alcohol is essential, as alcohol will dehydrate your skin and deplete the body of all water soluble vitamins. For each alcoholic beverage, drink two glasses of water and add in B complex and vitamin C supplements. Smoking and second-hand smoke should be completely avoided, as smoking causes irreversible DNA damage and decreases blood flow to all cells, including the skin. In America, sugar in the diet has the worst long-term effects on the skin, as sugar binds to the protein molecules in the collagen structures of the skin, leading to skin rigidity, sagging, sallow appearance and wrinkles. Sugar also plays a role in causing brown spots on the skin in the presence of sunlight. Seek a diet rich in colorful vegetables in conjunction with healthy sources of proteins and fats (avocado, wild fish, and nuts).
By the mid-20s, collagen production slows, resulting in reduced skin elasticity. The skin doesn’t bounce back as easily. Cell turnover can take twice as long as you get older. This slowed cell turnover appears as dry, rough skin.
So, now I hope you realize that creams and in-office procedures are a small amount of what you need to do in your 20s to minimize aging! The essentials and recommendations are as follows:
1. You must use a daily SPF 30-plus sunscreen before leaving the house every single day
UV rays will damage the collagen permanently and also cause discoloration of the skin and broken blood vessels. Most of the chronic sun damage is from incidental UV coming in from windows while driving or walking to and from the car and house. This can add up to hundreds of hours per year. If you are actually planning activities in the sun, you absolutely must wear a wide-brimmed hat. Treat your neck, chest and back of your hands as preciously as your face or you will pay for it in your 40s. I always tell my patients that it is better to look a little dorky for an hour hike in the hot Arizona sun than to look horrible the other 23 hours. No magical cream can make up for damage caused by ultraviolet rays. You really can’t ever reverse the damage, even with expensive and painful treatments. I am a huge fan of the EltaMD products and think the Elta Clear tinted is a great product for anyone in their 20s. SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 is also a winner. The tint can work as a makeup base and cover up any blemishes or brown spots. Both have broad spectrum coverage and will not break you out.
Least expensive and best accessible option is RoC Retinol. Use a small amount to your entire face nightly as your first step. Moisturizer can be used over. CeraVe PM is a nice moisturizer. Neither will cause breakouts. Stronger products can be purchased in your dermatologist’s office or be written by prescription.
Do not buy a cheap vitamin C over the counter, as it will become inactive as soon as it is exposed to air. My favorite is SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF to apply first step after washing every morning under sunscreen. In addition to preventing DNA damage from environmental toxins (pollution, UV), it corrects existing damage by stimulating the growth of new collagen in the skin. Average cost $1.50/day.
If you are looking to do any in-office procedures, I only recommend going to a medical aesthetician at a dermatologist’s office. The cost is not much more than you would pay elsewhere, but the quality of the procedures and products used is much better. Microdermabrasion and/or light chemical peels with an average cost of $125 should be done once a quarter. When done properly, these treatments will remove dead, adherent skin cells and stimulate new collagen to form and keeping that radiant glow.