If you're old enough to read this column, you're old enough to worry about aging skin. Long the cliched obsession of socialites and stars, the rest of us were told to make do with cold cream and get over it. This month's alternative is in response to a reader, a regular guy who writes that as he enters his senior years, his skin isn't what it used to be.
Three professionals--a dermatologist, a spa owner and an herbalist--offer three very different approaches. None of which include "Get over it!"
Dr. Nasreen Babu-Khan, cosmetic dermatologist
Family Medical Associates, Glendale
"It's a little difficult to prevent aging skin because everyone's aging," says Babu-Kahn.
A number of factors go into how a person's skin holds up, including genetics, smoking and prolonged exposure to the sun. "Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.," Babu-Kahn advises. "Children under 6 months should be completely out of the sun." Anyone older than 6 monthsneeds to cover up with sun blocks or sunscreen, hats and clothing.
"Smoking has a very bad effect on skin," Babu-Kahn adds. Not only does nicotine and smoke affect skin texture, but the continual pursing of lips on the cigarette increases wrinkles. "Drinking Diet Coke from a straw all day does the same thing."
Older skin requires different care; as skin ages, it can become more sensitive and dry.
It also doesn't have the elasticity it once had, Babu-Kahn says. She likens it to a building: "You're losing the beams that hold up the structure."
Babu-Kahn suggests a bathing regimen that helps dry skin or eczema: lukewarm five-minute showers once a day with a very mild soap, such as Aveeno, Purpose, Basis or Cetaphil. Then, moisturize right after to seal in moisture with Vaseline petroleum jelly. "You have to get used to the greasiness and oiliness of it," she says.
Other helpful creams are ones that contain glycolic or lactic acid.
Dermatology offers a myriad of treatments for removing wrinkles, ranging from prescribing Retin A to laser surgery, with chemical peels and Botox treatments in between.
Vera Brown, aesthetician
Owner, Vera's Retreat in the Glen,
Brown was the protege of skin-care legend Venner Kelsen, who kept Hollywood stars, including Jack Benny, looking young. Brown, who also invented the ponytail band, is the one who coined the famous phrase: "Until you're 30, you have the face you were born with and after 30 you have the face you deserve."
Her most important formula for skin care is this: "Every morning, brush your teeth, look in the mirror and love who you see." Without that, she says, no miracle cream will help.
After that, she says, choose simple products and follow a cleansing routine twice a day.
"Less, as you age, is better. That contradicts all the theories that most of your facial salons and your department stores will tell you," says Brown.
Brown understands not having time or money for regular facials. She, herself, can't stand to lie still long enough for a facial at her spa.
"Keep your pores squeaky clean. At night when you go to bed, don't treat your pillowcase." Brown suggests having only about four products: a cleanser, a freshener or facial mist, a moisture cream for daily use and a mask for once or twice a week.
"People have enough products in their medicine chests to start their own beauty salons," she says.
"Select a cleansing cream void of mineral oil and lanolin. . . . That's like putting Crisco on," she says. Massage in the cleanser and then wash it off three times with a warm washcloth, not tissue paper. And it's OK to use soaps, especially if you still have oily skin. "Women are so brainwashed not to use soaps." A glycerin-based soap is best for oily skin.
Massaging your face is important, Brown says. "As you get older, your circulation and your whole body slows down. It is vitally important to bring circulation to your skin. That's the difference between youth and aging."
Next, apply a freshener to return the skin's pH balance. Brown warns not to use a freshener based in alcohol or witch hazel--both are too strong for older skin.
"The only real way to address aging skin is internally," says McFeely, who is most likely to treat aging or troubled skin with a combination of diet, nutrition counseling and herbs.
She asks many questions, including: Is the client getting enough water? Has the skin been protected from the sun? Is the person menopausal or post-menopausal?
"Hormones very much affect the skin," she says. "High estrogen foods like tofu, soy-type foods can all help to maintain hormone levels." Other hormone balancers include the herbs black cohosh and chaste tree berries.
"Taking care of the liver is always very important," she says. Milk thistle and dandelion roots help cleanse and rejuvenate the liver.
Omega oils, found in flaxseed, evening primrose and fish oil, are also crucial to healthy skin.