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3 Ways to Not Look Your Age

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Younger looking skin may well be the hallmark of good health. After all, who wants to look their age — or worse yet, older than they actually are? As one television ad puts it, “Age gracefully? Not me. I’m going to fight it every step of the way.”

Sure, there are a ton of products out there that promise to keep your skin looking young, but so far, no one has guaranteed access to the Fountain of Youth. Besides, there has to be a better way to defy Mother Nature, and keep younger looking skin naturally. Here’s three tips from the experts:

Protect your skin from sun damage

“Ultraviolet radiation is known to cause several forms of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell cancer and deadly melanoma,” said Dr. Kerry Hanson, a senior research scientist at University of California at Riverside.

Dr. Hanson, who has consulted for the sunscreen industry, studies the effects of UV light upon reactive oxygen species generation in the skin.

As a post-doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois, her research showed sunscreens with a sun protection factor of 15 can block up to 94 percent of the ultraviolet light but the residual light that does penetrate the skin creates free radicals -- highly reactive molecules that can weaken or destroy cell membranes. Free radicals can also damage DNA, create age spots and wrinkles, and depress the immune system, increasing the risk of skin cancer.

By simply using a sunscreen infused with antioxidants, such as vitamins E or C can help prevent skin cancer and keep skin firm and young looking. Dr. Hanson found antioxidants added to sunscreen significantly reduced free-radical generation. She said vitamin C works best.

“There are natural enzymes in your skin that cleave the phosphate group and form a reservoir of vitamin C. The best results were achieved after multiple applications of the antioxidants when a significant amount of vitamin C accumulated within the skin. Any free radicals that are generated will be quenched by the vitamin C stored in your skin,” she said.

Don’t Smoke

Research shows that smoking alone ages skin. In a study published in the Archives of Dermatology in 2007, researchers at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, showed how smoking is related to skin aging from examining the upper inner arms of smokers and non-smokers aged from 22 to 91.

The researchers used a nine-point scale to measure damage to the skin not exposed to sunlight and took into account several variables, including age, the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the influence of sun exposure.

In participants age 65 and older, there was almost a two-point difference between smokers and non-smokers. In the over-40 group, the difference was around a point, demonstrating a significant amount of skin damage just from smoking.

Collagen, a protein that helps skin strength, gradually degrades with age, leading to wrinkles. Smoking causes this to happen sooner and also causes the tiny blood vessels in the skin to tighten, which reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that the skin cells receive, which also reduces elasticity and accelerates aging, the study said.

Eat a healthy diet
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so it makes sense that meeting proper nutritional requirements could have an anti-aging effect, said Dr. Susan Taylor, MD, FAAD, and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City.

Perhaps the simplest way to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and ensure the skin is getting optimal nutrition from the foods we eat is to follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Daily Food Guide recommendations, commonly referred to as the food pyramid, she said.

Vitamins A, B, C and E and essential minerals found in many fruits and vegetables and whole grains maintain and repairs skin, hair and nail cells.

“The foods recommended by the USDA as part of a healthy diet contain valuable vitamins, that have proven health benefits for our bodies,” said Dr. Taylor. “Eating a variety of healthy foods and drinking plenty of water so the skin stays hydrated should help most people improve the appearance of their skin.”

Lynette Summerill, an award-winning writer and scuba enthusiast lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and two beach loving dogs. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in newspapers and magazines around the world.

Study shows antioxidants play vital role in protecting skin. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2001-08/uoia-ssa083001.php

Effect of smoking on aging of photoprotected skin. Archives of Dermatology Research. Yolanda Helfrich MD, et al. Vol. 143 No. 3, March 2007. Abstract accessed online 14 December 2011 at:

What to eat for glowing healthy skin. Science Daily. 9 Nov. 2007. Accessed online 14 December 2011 at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071109201438.htm

Reviewed December 15, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.