Woman to Woman: Youthful Skin Forever
Woman to Woman: Youthful Skin Forever

By Elizabeth Parker

Cleopatra was known for soaking her skin in a rose petal and milk bath to keep it soft. The ancient Greeks used honey and the Romans olive oil as natural skin moisturizers. So what’s the real deal? Here, eight skin care essentials from the experts to increase your chances of having great-looking skin:

1. Protect your skin from the sun

“The absolute most important thing you can do is protect your skin from the sun,” says Dr. Jennifer Reichel of the Pacific Dermatology and Cosmetic Center in Seattle. Repeated exposure to the sun -- at any time of year, not just summer -- can cause wrinkles and age spots and give skin a leathery look. Fortunately, “most skin care products have an SPF in them,” says Reichel. “Use ones that have an SPF of 15 or higher.”

2. Don’t smoke

Smoking can be ruinous for your skin. The constant puckering of the lips creates lines around the mouth, and years of smoking can eventually give skin an unattractive yellowish cast, according to Reichel.

3. Nourish your skin from within

Eat a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins A, B and C, as well as green tea and soy extracts. This will help nourish your skin from the inside out and can be particularly beneficial to people who are concerned about wrinkles, according to Dr. Diane S. Berson, spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology and assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell University.

4. Keep clean

Regular cleansing and moisturizing is a must. But you don’t have to go crazy, notes Reichel. Just wash your face once a day, more often if you’ve been especially active. Mild soap and water are fine, used with a washcloth. “I don’t advocate scrubbing,” Reichel adds, as this can irritate skin. After patting your face dry with a towel, apply a moisturizer that suits your skin type. Look for products that contain poly hydroxy acids (PHA), which can help skin retain moisture and thus look less dry.

5. Exfoliate!

Dead cells on the surface of your skin can give your face a dull look. Exfoliants are rich cleansers that contain sand-like granules and chemicals, such as glycolic or salicylic acids, which remove dead cells from the skin’s surface. Once or twice a week works well for most women, less if it causes skin irritation or redness.

6. Stick with what works

If you’ve found skin care products that you like, stick with them, advises Reichel. Changing brands too often can cause skin irritation. Also keep in mind that expensive products are not necessarily better than cheaper ones, adds Berson. And be wary of too-good-to-be-true claims.

7. Consider Retin A

If your skin has already suffered from sun damage or has some wrinkles, talk to your doctor about Retin A, which has been shown in studies to reduce wrinkles and brown pigmentation, says Reichel.

8. Include a dermatologist in your skin care routine

“Every woman should have a yearly check-up with her dermatologist,” says Dr. Peter Goldman, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Los Angeles. A dermatologist can offer the best guidance for maintaining youthful-looking skin and the most up-to-date treatments for sun-damaged or aging skin, such as light chemical peels or treatments with intense pulse light (IPL) and fraxel repair lasers. But even more important, a dermatologist will help safeguard your health by checking for pre-cancers and skin cancers.

So permission granted to pamper your skin. With a little special care, skin care products you love and a dermatologist you trust, you can keep a healthy glow no matter your age.

Elizabeth Parker is a Los Angeles-based writer who has written for numerous national publications.

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Woman to Woman: "Youthful Skin Forever"