More than Skin Deep: Skincare at Every Age

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Regardless of sex or age, the most common question my patients ask is how the overall aging process can be prevented. Unfortunately, the answer is not simple. The key to anti-aging is taking care of your skin starting at infancy and continuing through the rest of your life.

While genetics, environment and stress play a factor in the aging process, the most significant factor that causes skin to age, discolor and wrinkle is sun exposure. There is a 10-20 year lag period from the time you're exposed to ultraviolet light, sun irradiation, environmental toxins and pollutants to the development of both skin cancer and aged skin. Basically, sun damage accumulates over a long period and is visible 10-20 years later.

The most effective defense against unhealthy, aged skin is to use a broad-spectrum UVB/UVA sunblock in your daily skincare regimen. Everyone in your family, regardless of age should apply sunblock daily - from infancy onwards.

To reverse or at least slow down the aging process, I recommend that in your early 20's, you begin incorporating an antioxidant topical like Reservatol, idebenone, vitamin C or vitamin E in addition to broad-spectrum sunblock. Products containing retinoids or an alpha-hydroxy acid derivative help build new collagen and slow down the aging process.

In your 30's and 40's, the signs of aging start to become visible with variations in tone and texture of your skin, and dark spots (or darker areas) start to come to the surface. I recommend you start laser and light treatments to counteract the appearance of damage. Intense pulsed light (IPL) is a very effective first line of defense to counteract aging that can have a significant impact on discoloration and diffuse redness in your skin.

For those with more extensive aging and damage, there are a wide variety of technologies and treatments that can be incorporated into your anti-aging program. If your skin is becoming lax or wrinkles are more evident, skin-tightening technologies can be extremely effective. These technologies include Thermage, Titan, Refirme and Affirm. They all use different techniques to tighten skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. In choosing the technology best for you, you should take into consideration your skin needs, your pain tolerance and the amount of downtime required.

Skin health and appearance also improves when skin cells are turned over to reveal healthy, balanced skin. Treatments include chemical peels and laser rejuvenation. There are many different technologies and treatments ranging from regular facials with light glycolic peels and microdermabrasion to more comprehensive rejuvenation technologies such as Plasma Portrait, Fraxel or Smartxide CO2 fractional resurfacing.

These more involved treatments usually have increased downtime, but the results are well worth it as they can help your body build and stimulate new collagen growth over time. They can actually slow down the aging process, making your skin healthier, decreasing the incidence of skin cancer and decreasing the need for more invasive surgical procedures.

The steps are simple. First get a broad spectrum sunblock and start using it everyday. While the anti-aging benefits may not be immediately visible, I assure you that this is the first and most important step in maintaining healthy skin. Introducing new, high-potency antioxidants in your 20's and IPL and laser collagen stimulating technologies in your 30's, can not only slow down the aging process and decrease the instance of skin cancer, but give you healthier, more natural looking skin. The best advice I can give is to start early in order to maintain healthy, youthful skin throughout your life.

Dr. Neil Sadick is one of the most renowned dermatologists and researchers whose multiple discoveries have strongly influenced and transformed the future of dermatology. He is a Professor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and President of the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation. Dr. Sadick is author, or co-author, of more than 500 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and has contributed more than 75 chapters of medical books. Read more at