One of the questions everyone asks either via e-mail or when I do a formal or informal skin care talk is: Other than skin care, what can I do to look younger?
And, believe it or not, the things that we need to do or not do to stay looking young are not always intuitive. Some are obvious, such as maintain a healthy lifestyle by proper diet and exercise. But what if a certain diet or exercise causes aging?
We also tend to think that certain things like cosmetic procedures are supposed to make us look younger, but what if it had the long-term effect of making us look older?
From my experience I have found that there are a few particular items that those who maintain a youthful appearance later in life have in common. And I have found that those who age poorly also share certain behaviors.
These are my findings:
1. Your weight can (anti)-age you
Being too thin, being overweight and a lifetime of yo-yo dieting all have the same effect: an aged face.
The reason why naturally thin children (or young adults) do not have a gaunt appearance is because they have an abundance of collagen in their face. However, with age, it is difficult to maintain thinness in a healthy way and we also naturally begin to lose collagen with each passing year. Those I know who are unnaturally thin past the age of 40 always look at least 10 years older than their actual age. The reason why is because they are trying to maintain their high school weight (often through unhealthy means) but do not have the collagen to provide that youthful plumpness. And despite being the same weight they were in high school, they do not look the same. A thin and gaunt face is aging.
Christian Bale's significant weight fluctuations for his various roles highlights how aging severe thinness (center photo) can be.
Being overweight can also age your face. The excess fat adds weight to the face leading to sagging. The aging effect is further compounded if the weight is lost later on because the face has essentially been deflated and the result is severe sagging.
Furthermore, a cohort-based survey on twins to determine the factors that affect aging found a correlation between increased weight and increased photoaging. Specifically that a heavier twin had more photo damage than their thinner twin. These findings support earlier studies which found that a high fat intake increases photosensitivity and increases one’s odds of getting skin cancer.
Perhaps more damaging than being too thin or too heavy is yo-yo dieting. Yo-yo dieting is the constant fluctuation in weight as a result of going on and off of a diet. Cycling between periods of restriction and indulgence which results in drastic highs and lows in weight is the hallmark of a yo-yo diet, and not only is it bad for your heart, it is bad for your skin. The reason why yo-yo dieting ages your skin is because if you are constantly gaining and losing weight, you are constantly inflating and deflating your face. Think about a balloon that has been inflated and deflated many times, it becomes saggy and wrinkled. The same is happening to your face with every crest and trough in the cycle of a yo-yo diet.
I have noticed that those over the age of 40 who look younger than their age are those who maintain a healthy weight. They have enough fat in their face to give a plumpness and mask wrinkles, but not so much fat that it causes the face to stretch or sag.
My suggestion to prevent your weight from aging you is to determine the weight that you are comfortable (and healthy) maintaining in the long-term. Find that weight and stick to it.
2. Those who avoid cosmetic procedures stay younger longer
Facelifts, injections, microneedling, peels all have the same thing in common: They age your face. I mentioned in previous posts how micro-needling and peels age you, and now its time to explore how facelifts and injections accelerate the aging process.
It is certainly counter-intuitive that a procedure that is done to make you look younger has the opposite effect of making you look older. However, what other effect could there be when you are causing permanent damage to the skin?
Facelifts are aging because, first and foremost, nobody has one facelift, they have several. And the reason for this is very simple: once you stretch something out, it becomes stretched out, and you have to stretch it out even more to get that original tautness. Chasing the firm skin dragon means an endless cycle of stretching, sagging and stretching.
Constantly stretching the skin out, cutting the slack, and stretching out more is the reason why people who get face lifts all look very similar: the unnaturally taut skin, the sunken upturned eyes, the stretched mouth are all results of the facelift cycle. Distorting the face to such extreme proportions is the reason why men and women who have had multiple facelifts look much older despite having wrinkle-free skin.
Jocelyn Wildenstein is the classic example of the extreme consequences of getting several facelifts
I spend part of my time in Newport Beach and part of my time in Los Angeles, both competing for facelift capital of the world. I see my fare share of the surgical outcome of a facelift on a daily basis. I know many personally who get the procedure with regularity. And not once have I ever thought that someone who had the procedure looked younger than their true age.
On the same note of stretching the skin out, injections are aging to the skin for the same reason facelifts age the skin. When you inject something into your skin, your skin stretches out to accommodate the new material. When your body dissolves the material (or you get it removed), your skin is still stretched out. The deflation causes sagging.
However, injections for the sake of plumping are not the only kind that age your skin, the type of injections intended to paralyze muscles are also aging. When we do not use a muscle, what happens? It atrophies. And an atrophied muscle shrinks and sags. When you paralyze a muscle for the sake of removing a wrinkle, all you are doing is paving the way for more wrinkles and sagging down the road. And since the effects of an injection only last 3-6 months, you have to keep getting them to have the smoothing effects. Over time, this effect wanes and the end result is aged skin.
When exercise the muscles in our face, such as through microcurrent, the result is a plump and youthful appearance.
Last year I purchased a Biologique Recherche Remodeling Face microcurrent machine and the woman who trained me on the device was in her 60s and had flawless skin. Her skin was plump, firm and without wrinkles. She was also 65 and attributed her great skin to skin care and using the micro current device for the last 10 years. She was the best advertisement for the device and made the purchase ($$$$) well worth the price.
My conclusion is to use your muscles, don’t abuse them.
3. Low impact exercise is best for anti-aging
Exercise is non-optional for being healthy. But not all exercises are healthy for your skin. I prefer low-impact exercises such as weight training for strength and cycling or the elliptical for cardio, and I have noticed that those who are older but have a more youthful appearance follow a similar regimen.
There is one particular exercise that I have found that those who look older tend to do: running.
Not all running, I noticed that people who run on a treadmill or indoor track do not seem to have an aged face. But those (especially over the age of 40) who run outside on the street, especially marathon running seem to have that hallmark "runners face", which is gaunt, with thin sagging skin, and deep wrinkles. I have noticed this so often I can tell when someone marathon runs before they even tell me, leading me to believe that this form of exercise ages the face faster than other forms of exercise.
The reason for this is twofold:
First is that if you are outside a lot you are exposed to the sun and the sun causes aging. And even if you wear sunscreen, the chance of you sweating it off is high.
Second is that the constant motion of bouncing up and down and pounding on the pavement causes the skin to go up and then forcefully down. And runners do this millions of times. If every forceful movement weakens a collagen or elastin fiber just so slightly, a lifetime of this behavior is severely damaging. All aging is, is the accumulation of damage.
If you like to run, I am not saying stop, but if you want to preserve your skin I recommend running on a track, grass or indoors.
4. Avoiding Alcohol Preserves Your Skin
Alcohol in your skin care is an obvious no-no and alcohol in your diet is also to be avoided if you want to keep your skin looking younger longer.
The effects of alcohol on the skin are most apparent when you look at those who drink heavily, and this isn’t just true for those who have been drinking for 30+ years. Drinking heavily for just a few years can dramatically age the face.
By the age of 30, it becomes apparent who is aging well and who is not. And those who are aging well didn’t drink their 20s away. Aging is cumulative and it begins accumulating at a young age.
Alcohol is toxic, and it is well understood why it is toxic to the liver or the kidneys. But, for most it is not so clear why alcohol is toxic to the skin and causes aging with every sip.
The reasons why alcohol is damaging to the skin include:
- Alcohol is dehydrating, and water is essential for skin health
- Alcohol consumption increases oxidative stress, causing free-radical (ROS) associated age degradation
- Alcohol consumption releases a class of enzymes that degrade collagen and elastin (MMPs)
- Alcohol consumption increases skin sensitivity to UV rays. Increased UV sensitivity causes increased UV-damage to the face and increases the susceptibility to skin cancer.
I don’t believe that any amount alcohol is healthy. So no, a glass of red wine isn’t ok. It is still alcohol, and it is going to have the same damaging effect of vodka, beer or any other alcoholic beverage. Regardless of what those antiquated studies found about a glass of red wine a day being healthy. You likely aren’t part of the 0.00001% of the population that has the genetics to be protected against the damaging effects of red wine. So if you want the antioxidants, its best to just eat grapes instead.
5. Healthy skin means avoiding all smoke.
Whether it is from tobacco, cannabis, vape pens or anything else, all smoke is bad. Tobacco and cannabis have a considerable amount of carcinogens, and cause vasoconstriction of the blood vessels. Lack of blood flow caused by smoke is why those who have smoked either (or both) for decades have the vertical lines around their mouth.
Tobacco and cannabis also release MMPs which degrade collagen and elastin, leading to pre-mature wrinkling.
Furthermore the heat from smoke or vapor further damages the skin because it causes dehydration, inflammation and a loss of collagen. All of which break the skin down and lead to aging.
No one ever said having great skin was easy.
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