By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness
It seems like every time I look in the mirror, I see yet another wrinkle or age spot that wasn’t there the day before. Of course, I may be exaggerating a bit, but these signs of aging cannot be denied. And I’m not alone. I constantly hear from other women, hoping to find a way to turn back the clock.
For the answer, I went to see Kim Erickson—my go-to girl on everything skincare.
Kim is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. She has spent more than a decade investigating the beauty industry and conducting in-depth research on skin physiology, cosmetic ingredients and nontoxic alternatives. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What causes premature skin aging?
A: In a word, sun. Exposure to UV rays generate free radicals in the skin that break down collagen and elastin—the building blocks of a firm, healthy complexion. And the damage is cumulative. The wrinkles, fine lines or age spots you see at the age of 40 are the result of years of sun exposure. To prevent future damage, it’s important to use an SPF 15 sunscreen every day.
Q: What should I look for in a sunscreen?
A: When it comes to sunscreen, look for a natural product based on titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. These are both safe and effective minerals that essentially block damaging UV rays. Avoid products that contain chemicals like avobenzone or the cinnamates. Studies show that these chemicals are estrogenic and may disrupt your hormones.
Apply your sunscreen to all of your exposed parts before your moisturizer. Then wait for at least five minutes to give your skin a chance to absorb it. Just don’t rely on the sunscreen in your liquid foundation or mineral makeup. These products usually don’t contain enough sunscreen to give you all-day protection.
Q: What is hyperpigmentation and how can I reverse it?
Hyperpigmentation is a change in skin color. Brown patches of skin, more commonly called age spots, occur as a result of sun damage, birth control pills, pregnancy or estrogen replacement therapy. Regardless of the source, the issue is the same: Melanin (the pigment in your skin) production is stimulated, causing the discoloration.
The best way to lighten hyperpigmentation is by exfoliating with fruit acids like those contained in pumpkin, papaya or strawberries. These are natural alpha hydroxy acids that remove dead skin cells and lighten discoloration with continued use. Just be aware that these fruit acids can sting and cause redness. For this reason, I don’t recommend using this type of exfoliator more than two or three times per week. It’s also important to use them at night since they can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.
Q: Should I exfoliate even if I don’t have age spots?
A: Exfoliating is a crucial step that reveals the healthy layers of skin by removing the surface layer of dead skin cells. Your skin will glow when using the correct products! Acne & congested skins benefit greatly since acne is caused by a buildup of dead skin cells & bacteria. Pigmentation problems can be corrected & prevented with exfoliation, sunscreens and serums. You have a variety of choices including granular scrubs, masques, alpha hydroxy acids, glycolic acid—the list goes on and on. Just make sure you use a natural exfolator.
Q: How do you reduce undereye dark circles?
A: First, make sure you are getting enough sleep (at least seven hours a night) and that you’re drinking enough water. It’s also important to use a good eye cream that contains peptides and natural skin lighteners like arbuten. To cover dark circles, use a yellow based concealer under your foundation.
Q: I’ve heard a lot about peptides. Can they really reduce the signs of aging?
A: Yes, they can! Peptides target and regulate cell function and stimulate collagen production. This, in turn, reduces fine lines while firming the skin and boosting skin tone. Peptide technology is remarkable. These wonderful compounds can penetrate the skin without producing redness or irritation. They are perfect for all skin types.
Q: Are there any lifestyle tips to keep aging at bay?
A: Absolutely! The most important thing you can do for your skin is to eat a healthy diet rich in skin-friendly antioxidants like vitamins C and E. Foods that are especially good for your skin include blueberries, raspberries, grapefruit, broccoli and spinach. Aim for nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily for more radient skin. It’s also important to get plenty of essential fatty acids from fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseed. These healthy fats reduce inflammation and help lubricate your skin from the inside out. And swap out your cup of coffee for green tea. The polyphenols in green tea inhibit free radical damage, reduce inflammation and may even provide some internal sun protection.
Getting at least 30 minutes of cardio five or more days per week can also keep premature aging at bay by boosting your circulation. And exercise enhances skin detoxification and cell renewal. Taken together, a good workout can leave your skin looking radiant. Just make sure to wash your face after a sweaty cardio routine to prevent breakouts and clogged pores.
Finally—and this should go without saying—if you smoke, stop. Nothing besides the sun can age your skin faster. Smoking breaks down collagen and can eventually cause lines or wrinkles that radiate at right angles from the upper and lower lips or the corners of your eyes. Smoking can also cause deep lines on the cheeks, as well as shallow lines on the cheeks and lower jaw. If that’s wasn’t enough, chronic smoking thins the skin and can make it look leathery with a grayish cast. There are many ways to quit this awful habit. Find one that works for you and you’ll not only feel better, you’ll start to see the benefits of a smoke-free life whenever you look in the mirror.
Coelho SG, et al. Short- and long-term effects of UV radiation on the pigmentation of human skin. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Symposium Proceedings. 2009;14:32-35.
Fields K, et al. Bioactive peptides: signaling the future. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2009;8:8-13.
Li YH, et al. Protective effects of green tea extracts on photoaging and photommunosuppression. Skin Research and Technology. 2009;15:338-345