It’s happened to all of us – or if it hasn’t yet, it’s inevitably going to.
Fiendish wrinkles appear around the eyes and lips; skin sinks and sags, losing pliability; and, especially for former beach bunnies or stingy sunscreen users, patches of discoloration emerge.
So if you’re like most American women, you’re desperate to do something. Anything.
But if you click on the TV or do a Google search, you’re literally pummeled with ads for hundreds of miracle results, marvel creams and transforming concealers.
You don’t even know where to begin.
Well, there are a few basics to start with.
First off: Prevention. Do as much as you can as early as possible, according to dermatologists.
The No. 1 essential? Sunscreen.
Find an effective sunblock – at least SPF 30 – for daily, year-round use, urged Dr. Joel Sabean of the Dermatology Center of Southern Maine in South Portland.
“It boils down primarily to sun protection,” he said. “It’s the single most effective option to reduce aging.”
And that doesn’t just go for the face, either. Many people “especially neglect” sunscreen use for their hands, neck and neckline, he noted. So if you only focus on your face, “the age difference can sometimes become very apparent,” Sabean said.
But if prevention isn’t enough – and you need a little healing, too – you have options. Lots of them, and they’ll only continue to expand. According to market research firm BCC Research, the global industry for anti-aging products and services is expected to swell to $274.5 billion in 2013, up from $162.2 billion in 2008.
To wade through the barrage, first consider lotions and moisturizers containing antioxidants, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, as they’ve been found to have sun-protection properties.
Sabean agreed, but encouraged research. “Look for products with antioxidants with a proven track record,” he said.
At night, try repairing products containing peptides (proteins that stimulate collagen production), growth factors (which play a role in cell division, new cell and blood vessel growth, and production and distribution of collagen and elastin), or retinoids, the dermatology academy suggests.
The latter “helps skin reproduce more normally,” Sabean explained.
Retinoids can also reduce brown discoloration – and as a bonus, they prevent “pore blockade.”
Typically, they should be used once a day, usually at night, he said. And for those with more sensitive skin, there are prescription alternatives, such as Atralin.
Meanwhile, research has shown vitamins to be, well, vital in the skin recovery process.
Vitamin B3 has been found to increase collagen production and reduce dark spots, according to the dermatology academy; Vitamins C and E taken together as an oral supplement can provide sun protection; and Vitamin C may reverse negative effects of ultra-violet radiation in the skin.
But maybe sun damage isn’t your main concern. Maybe you’re one of the 40 million to 50 million Americans (according to the dermatology academy) who suffer from acne.
To combat it, use oil-free and noncomedogenic (meaning, non pore-clogging) cosmetics, sunscreens and other products, and avoid harsh, alcohol-based astringents, which strip natural moisture out of skin. Also, Sabean noted, try to stay away from products with fragrance.
Meanwhile, for those without significant acne problems, well-advertised products like Murad and Proactiv are beneficial for day-to-day use, Sabean said.
In the end, with any product, ask yourself what it claims to do, and do some research on what studies have been done to back that up. Also, be wary of “biased” website claims, it stresses, and stick with well-known brands – as larger manufacturers tend to have more money behind their ingredients and product testing.
“Trust your instincts,” reads a cosmeceuticals section on the dematology academy’s website, www.aad.org. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
In any case, it’s a good idea to talk to your family doctor, or a dermatologist, plastic surgeon, or medical esthetician, encouraged Sabean.
And this might be one of the only places you’ll hear this: Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. There are many lower-cost alternatives that are “good grade,” he said.
“It’s not always the most expensive program that’s the most effective,” he said. Therefore, “People shouldn’t feel abashed at all about asking if there are less-expensive options.”