None of us like to admit that we’re getting older. But let’s be real: we’re all aging — and so is our skin. The primary cause of skin aging is something most of us enjoy: wonderful, life-giving sunshine. But the more we enjoy it, the “older” our skin becomes.
One way to visualize the aging process is to imagine what happens to a rubber band when it is left in the sunshine. After a while, it loses its elasticity. It becomes brittle, won’t return to its original shape, and is easily damaged. Like a rubber band, the elastin in youthful skin is compromised by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, and the effects are similar along with increased number of sun spots and elevated skin cancer risk. So my first (and second and third) piece of advice is to adequately protect your skin from the sun. This means avoiding sunburns and tanning. You can’t back up a train without stopping it first, which is what it’s like trying to fight aging without sun protection! Using a facial moisturizer with a SPF of 30 every morning is a good place to start.
With those basics out of the way, we can discuss more aggressive ways to fight the aging process. One of the most common medical interventions for facial wrinkles is botulinum toxin, commonly known as Botox. In small, safe amounts, the toxin is injected into muscle tissue in order to weaken it, thereby preventing the muscle from causing wrinkles on the skin. This makes Botox an excellent choice for doing away with frown lines and crow’s feet. Botox has both the benefit and drawback of being fairly temporary as it only works for 3-4 months and then wears off.
The lines around the mouth (where Botox isn’t a good choice due to its paralytic properties) are better treated with fillers. Juvederm and Restylane are examples of fillers, which are clear, smooth gels similar to natural substances found in our skin. Fillers last longer than Botox, usually nine months to a year, or even longer.
Another way to prevent skin aging is exfoliation. This is the removal of the top layer of skin in order to achieve even skin tone and prevent age spots from developing. Chemical peels, cleansing brushes, scrubs or even a rough washcloth can work. Many aestheticians also perform microdermabrasion, a more thorough form of exfoliation. Areas that don’t respond to exfoliation can be faded with retinol-containing night creams, prescription tretinoin (Retin-A) or removed by freezing or laser treatments. Lastly, remember to moisturize after exfoliation to avoid irritation and dryness.
So, while there may be no way to completely stop the clock with regard to skin aging, there are ways to slow it down. Sun protection, exfoliation, and cosmetic procedures can’t make you young again, but they can help your skin look and feel that way!
Amber Robbins, MD is a board certified dermatologist with Robbins Dermatology, P.C.