“7 Years Younger,” by the editors of Good Housekeeping, is a revolutionary plan to reverse the signs of aging. It kicks off with a 7-day Jumpstart plan offering all the tools you need to start your total rejuvenation. You'll be surprised at how much you can turn back the clock on your own-without stepping near a plastic surgeon's office, or spending a fortune on expensive beauty products. Here is an excerpt.
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Reclaim Your Beautiful Skin
Appreciate how utterly alive skin is, and you’ll have grasped the fundamental principle that allows you to turn back the clock on your complexion. As a living, breathing organ, your skin—like your heart or your lungs—is in a constant state of flux: dividing into new cells, repairing damaged cells, discarding old cells, and responding to changes in its internal and external environment 24/7. This natural repair and renewal system ensures that fresh skin cells are continually pushed to the surface, old ones sloughed off. And the cells responsible for structural support are constantly stimulated, keeping your skin fresh, intact, and resilient. The multistep nature of this cellular assembly line gives you plenty of opportunity to intervene at one, several, or all points during the process to create healthier, younger-looking skin.
You have more control over aging than you may think—and the time to take action is now. Surprisingly, genes have less to do with your skin’s appearance through the years than your lifestyle. Lines, wrinkles, spots, uneven tone, and other signs of aging are primarily determined by factors like sun exposure, stress, a poor diet, and smoking. And if you have any doubt about the nature-nurture balance, consider this twin study conducted by researchers at Case Western Reserve University. Although each pair among the 186 identical twins assessed was genetically programmed to age at the same rate, some of the women might have been taken for their twin’s older sister (ouch!). Based on professional ratings of photos of the subjects, the researchers calculated the following aging effects:
• Smoking — adds 2.5 years for every decade you puff.
• Sun exposure (an extra 30 hours per week) —makes you look 2 years older by age 40 and 3.5 years older by 70.
• Stress — divorce tacks on 1.7 years; being widowed, 2 years.
Most experts agree that one of the main reasons lifestyle factors can accelerate skin aging is that they create an abundance of free radicals. These unstable molecules damage cells, weakening their ability to repair themselves, and destroy skin’s support fibers, collagen and elastin. Eventually, this excess injury takes its toll and shows up as skin aging. But as you’ll see in this chapter, by fine-tuning your daily habits, lifestyle choices, and skin-care product selection as well as your body’s internal and external environments, you can improve the appearance, feel, and health of your skin and look years younger than your actual age.
Here’s news you can use: A study of women ages 45 to 65 at the University of Göttingen in Germany found that skin exposure was an important indicator of attractiveness and youth. Researchers noted that when a woman’s arms and chest were on view, she was perceived as younger than when just her face was visible.
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Regular exfoliating and moisturizing coupled with sun protection will help your skin remain radiant. Two-in-one formulas (moisturizers with sunscreen, exfoliating moisturizers, or body scrubs) are a great way to save time and show off healthy, supple body skin. Here are additional tips from head to toe.
Treat: Help fade spots with daily exfoliation. To skip an extra step, look for a body wash with niacinamide, a vitamin B derivative shown to help prevent dark spots. For a nighttime treatment, try a tone-improving 1.5 percent retinol serum.
Prevent: Sun protection is the best way to avoid future brown spots. When you’re applying sunscreen to your face and neck in the morning, extend it down to the exposed areas of your chest.
Doctor Rx: In-office IPL treatments cause spots to darken and peel off within a few weeks. Typically, you’ll need at least two sessions. “But if the whole chest area has uneven pigmentation and lots of freckling, the Fraxel laser—which can cover a wider area—is the best tool,” says Dr. Bank. On average you’ll need two to three Fraxel treatments. Expect skin to have some redness and flaking for about a week after each session.
Fast fix: For the quickest results, moisturize. Over time, hands lose some of their fat cushioning and the skin gets less elastic. Applying a cream or ointment (vs. a lightweight lotion) will immediately plump up skin. Look for a formula with emollients, such as shea butter or petrolatum, and humectants like glycerin that attract moisture to the skin.
Treat: Smooth on a retinoid treatment nightly to help diminish wrinkles, increase plumpness, remove dead cells, and bolster the thickness of thinning skin. The same prescription versions you’d use on your face (see page 41) make skin on the hands look firmer, fuller, and smoother, too. Also look for OTC overnight hand creams that feature retinol. (Tip: Always rub any extra anti-aging face cream on your hands once you’re done applying it to your complexion.)
Using a sloughing cream with glycolic acid will also help speed cell turnover, yet both retinoids and AHAs can be irritating if your hands are very red and chapped. Instead, try slathering on a barrier cream with fat molecules called ceramides and hyaluronic acid, and wearing cotton gloves overnight. After your hands heal, you can treat the wrinkles.
Prevent: Hands are sun-exposed nearly every day; that’s the reason they’re such giveaways of age. To prevent more dark spots and roughness, apply a hand cream with SPF several times daily. Keep tubes where you’re likeliest to spot them—in your purse or desk, beside the sink—and, if possible, reapply every time you wash your hands. Not near a sink? Stash convenient sunscreen-infused wipes in your car, purse, or gym bag for on-the-go coverage.
Doctor Rx: Laser treatments (such as DioLite, which heats and shrinks vessels in one or two sessions) can help reduce protruding back-of-hand veins. Injections of the filler Radiesse go at it from another direction, adding volume and hiding veins and tendons. “Results may last for more than a year,” explains Linda K. Franks, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. Finally, if brown spots are making you wish you could wear gloves in the summer, the best treatments are the same as for other parts of your body (see “Achieve It By: Fading Age Spots,” page 31).
Treat: About 40 percent of women develop varicose veins (women are two to three times more likely to get them than men), and the risk grows as you get older. Reticular veins, which are smaller than varicose veins, and spider veins—small dilated blood vessels—are additional hallmarks of time (they can occur on the face as well as the legs) but are more web-like in appearance. Exercises such as rolling up onto your toes to work your calf muscles and keep blood flowing (repeated throughout the day) help. Support hose can minimize the bulging of varicose veins; opaque legwear can hide spiders.
Prevent: Pregnancy, obesity, and being on your feet for long periods increase the likelihood of varicose veins. Since there is a familial component, if you have a family history, take care to maintain a healthy body weight, put your feet up often, and exercise regularly. Margaret E. Parsons, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Davis, cautions against sitting with your legs crossed. “The pressure makes the body try to correct the cut-off circulation by creating new blood vessels—and those can become spider veins,” she says.
Doctor Rx: Veins bulge when valves that control blood flow weaken and blood pools in them. If you have bulging varicose veins, a vascular surgeon should evaluate you; they may be a sign of a medical condition. Spider veins, reticular veins, and small varicose veins can easily be treated by sclerotherapy, which dissolves veins with a quick injection of saline or glycerin. “The vessels then collapse and disappear within a month or so,” says Dr. Parsons.
Treat: Use pumice or a foot file regularly to prevent calluses from forming (foot files work best on dry skin). Also, rub olive or coconut oil onto rough spots, then put on a pair of socks and leave the treatment on for at least an hour a day to make feet sandal-worthy.
Prevent: Regularly massage in an alpha hydroxy acid–containing cream to control the buildup of tough, dry skin. And whenever you can, choose supportive shoes (most lace-up athletic sneakers fit the bill) over zero-support alternatives such as flip-flops. Another smart strategy: Use insoles for a comfortable fit. When feet slip around inside shoes, calluses are frequently the result.
Doctor Rx: “If calluses are uncomfortable and tough to file down, see a podiatrist to have the skin buildup safely removed,” says Marlene Reid, D.P.M., a podiatrist who practices in Naperville, IL. (A pedicurist isn’t licensed to use a blade to trim calluses.)
Excerpted from 7 Years Younger: The Revolutionary 7-Week Anti-Aging Plan by the editors of Good Housekeeping. Copyright © 2012 by Hearst Communications, Inc. Reprinted by arrangement with 7YY/Hearst Magazines.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive