No. 1 and No. 2: Smoking No, Sunscreen Yes
Imagine two people starting out with the same exact DNA. One smoked and sunbathed, the other avoided both. Would that make a difference in the appearance of their skin?
A team of experts led by plastic surgeon Bahman Guyuron, MD, of Case Western Reserve University analyzed photographs of the faces of 186 pairs of identical twins taken at the Twins Day Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. The twins had also filled out detailed questionnaires about their lives and daily habits.
Those who smoked and spent lots of time outdoors without wearing sunscreen looked years older than the brother or sister who shunned cigarettes and tanning. They had more fine lines, deeper and more plentiful wrinkles, and skin that was more mottled.
Bourelly isn’t surprised. "Many of the things that my patients complain about -- dull, rough skin and uneven skin tone -- are related to chronic sun exposure," she says. "And studies have shown that smoking is associated with premature wrinkling." Her advice:
- Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of 30 or higher, even on cloudy days.
- Reapply your sunscreen every two to three hours you’re outdoors.
- Don't smoke -- for the sake of your overall health as well as your appearance.
No. 3: Consider Retinoids
Retinoids unplug pores, help clear up acne, reduce fine lines, boost collagen production, lighten brown spots and freckles, and improve skin texture. They can even help treat precancerous lesions.
Retinoids are sold by prescription only under names that include Renova, Retin-A, and the generic Tretinoin.
"A retinoid should be the foundation of any topical anti-aging regimen," says dermatologist Paul M. Friedman, MD, co-author of Beautiful Skin Revealed: The Ultimate Guide to Better Skin.
He recommends that men and women make a retinoid part of their evening regimen beginning in their 20s.
The downside is that retinoids can cause dryness, flaking, and redness at first.
Starting out slowly by applying a pea-sized amount of retinoid every second or third night can help your skin adjust to the powerful ingredient.
Or consider an over-the-counter cream, gel, or serum containing retinol. This nonprescription version of a retinoid works more gradually and gently but is still effective in rejuvenating your skin.
No. 4: Keep Skincare Simple
Overuse of products is the biggest mistake people make in their skincare regimens, says Jeanie Leddon, MD, PhD, a dermatologist in Boulder, Colo.
"Some patients come in with a grocery bag full of products and wonder why their skin doesn’t look or feel great," Leddon says.
Using a lot of different ingredients can be irritating, and some ingredients cancel out eachother's benefits.
For example, the acid in salicylic or glycolic acid breaks down ingredients like retinol, hydroquinone, or vitamin C. "More," Leddon says, "is not necessarily better."
Friedman agrees. He says the products needed for beautiful skin are "a simple cleanser, sunscreen, moisturizer, and a retinoid or retinol."
The simpler your skincare regimen, the more likely you are to stick with it.
No. 5: Give Products Time to Work
Changing your products every couple of weeks can also be counterproductive.
Give them a chance, Leddon says. Finish the entire tube or bottle of a skincare potion before you decide how well it works.
You might, though, want to adjust your beauty regimen seasonally, swapping, say, the oil-free moisturizer you use in the summer for one that’s more emollient during the winter when frigid temperatures and indoor heating can rob your skin of moisture.
The exception: If your skin reacts with swelling, redness, or burning to a new product you’ve tried, stop using it immediately.
If not, Leddon says, finish the entire tube or bottle of a skincare potion before you give up on it.
No. 6: A Balanced Life Leads to Your Best Skin
Campbell says about her traffic-stopping gorgeous skin, "I don’t have a secret."
But then she reveals a host of healthy daily habits:
- She’s a vegan who starts her day with a mango, blueberry, and spinach smoothie, shuns processed foods and buys organic fruits and vegetables at her local farmers market.
- She teaches yoga part-time and practices a vigorous form of yoga daily.
- She also get seven or more hours of sleep a night.
- All these markers of a healthy lifestyle undoubtedly help Campbell keep her skin looking its best.
Regular sleep, Friedman says, optimizes the natural secretion of human growth hormone, which promotes cell turnover and collagen production. And exercise increases circulation and the flow of nutrients to the skin.
Activities like yoga and meditation help keep stress in check, which in turn reduces the release of stress hormones that worsen conditions like acne, eczema, and rosacea.
Meditating regularly may even make treatment more effective. In one study, people with psoriasis, a condition that causes itchy, scaly skin, listened to meditation tapes while they received ultraviolet light treatments. The results: They healed four times as fast as non-meditators.
The key to gorgeous skin turns out to be a mix of science, common sense, overall good health habits, and a simple stick-to-it skincare regimen. The spinach smoothie is strictly optional.