Tips for Better Skin as You Age
Medically reviewed by Leann Poston, M.D. on 9/25/20
Your skin is the largest and most exposed organ on your body, and the one that is most visible to the world regularly. It can play a big role in your self-esteem and how confident you are about your appearance. But, as you age, it can also start to become a source of stress and concern, as the signs of aging most readily show up on your skin. Wrinkles, fine lines, sun and age spots, discoloration, scars – the cumulative effects of the years – are just some of the signs of aging that develop as you get older. Naturally, many people want to minimize these visible effects of aging and are hungry for advice on how to have better skin with age. Keeping your skin healthy, and taking preventative steps against damage, will translate into fewer visible signs of aging and a reduced risk for developing skin-related health problems as you age.
In this guide, we’ll look at the typical ways skin changes with age – because there are aspects of aging that you cannot avoid, and changes to the skin that will occur regardless of your efforts. This leads to a discussion of the goals of our tips, along with anti-aging treatments, foods, and habits that make up much of the anti-aging skincare arsenal today. Finally, we’ll highlight several tips and topics related to skincare and aging that will allow you to make changes to your beauty routine, lifestyle, and skincare regimen, and optimize your chances for better skin as you age.
Typical Ways Skin Changes with Age
Let’s start with some of the basic, biological changes that occur in your skin and supporting structures as you age. There are no shortcuts or ways around these, unfortunately, and they seem to have different levels of impact on different individuals, seemingly at random. While there may be a genetic component as to how extreme these changes may be, no one has yet “cracked the code,” so to speak, so the extent of their effect on you is a bit of a roll of the dice.
- As you age, skin becomes thinner, and the underlying fat stores tend to decrease and disappear. This means that rather than having a healthy plumpness, the skin takes on a somewhat rougher surface texture and visibly looks thinner and less full or youthful as well.
- The effects of gravity are cumulative. As skin weakens, and changes occur in the collagen and elastin protein mesh that makes up our skin support system, skin starts to sag. This is most common under the neck, on the upper arms, and in breast tissue.
- Genetics, race, and other intrinsic factors about which you can do nothing play a large role in the extent of the aging-based changes to the skin. Even if you people had identical life experiences, exposures to outside forces, diets, and so on, one could end up looking 75 by age 55, whereas the other might get to 75 and still look 55.
Goals of Skin Anti-Aging Treatments, Foods, and Habits
With all of that said, there are many things you can control, and treatments, lifestyle changes, and habits you can adopt, which all can have an impact on providing you with better skin as you age. The efficacy and extent that these will help vary from person to person, just as with the genetic factors discussed above. However, these pieces of advice all work toward similar goals (with the overall goal being better skin as you age and retaining a youthful appearance). Specific goals or the purposes behind these treatments (and the advice we’ll get to in a moment) include one or more of the following:
- Reduce the damage or impact of natural skin aging processes
- Rebuild or augment the collagen and elastin protein matrix that makes up skin and skin’s support mechanisms
- Hydrate or rehydrate the skin
- Smooth out the skin to give it a more youthful texture
- Reduce the appearance of lines, wrinkles, age spots, sun spots, and discoloration
- Make skin more resilient and reduce the “thin” or “crepe-like” appearance of aging skin
- Offset existing damage or reduce the risk of new damage from external and internal sources
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the top tips for better skin as you age, which all are built around these principles and goals.
Better Skin Starts with Diet
One of the keys to healthy skin is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Some of the best options are fruits and vegetables, which are not only rich in vitamins and essential nutrients, but can help you stay hydrated, and even protect against sun damage! Many red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables are high in carotenoids, pigments that give them their color. These compounds have been shown to work as a form of internal sunscreen, decreasing the amount of harmful radiation that your skin absorbs from the sun, and reducing both the damage that sun exposure may do to you and reducing the risk of developing skin cancers. Other aspects of a healthy diet include cutting out excessive saturated fats and sugar, reducing processed food intake, and ensuring you get plenty of lean protein, which is essential for the compounds that make up your skin and skin support system.
ALSO READ – The Best Foods for Your 40s and Beyond
The Role of Exercise
Exercise can also play a big role in the overall health and appearance of your skin. Not only does exercise help keep you healthy, but it can provide a boost to your immune system, mood, and even your appearance. Sweating from exercise also helps pores to remain open and unclogged, triggers your need for water, which helps hydration levels, and much more. Exercise can also help with skin flexibility, and increase tissue resiliency; boosts circulation meaning more vital nutrients and hydration get to your skin cells, and provides better wound healing (and potentially decreased scarring from injuries to the skin as well).
Good Hygiene is Important
When you’re talking about better skin as you age, some of the best advice is basic and goes back to what we were all taught when we were young. Good hygiene is important for keeping the skin healthy. Bathe or shower regularly, and wash your skin with soap or body wash. Don’t wash your face or body too often, however, as this can dry out and irritate the skin, contributing to premature aging. Likewise, if you don’t shower or bathe often enough, the bacteria on the skin can reproduce, raising your risk of infection, increasing pimple breakouts, and leaving potentially irritating compounds on your skin for far longer than they should be present.
Cold is one of the key factors we discussed at the top of our guide, and avoiding excessive cold exposure is a great piece of advice for better skin as you age. Cold temperatures make it easier for your skin to dry out, or become damaged from frostbite or related phenomena. Avoid prolonged outdoor exposure during cold months, and wear gloves, hats, scarves, and/or earmuffs, along with seasonally-appropriate jackets and clothing. That will help keep your skin fully hydrated, and the support matrix beneath it loose and limber, able to cope with the flexing and moving that takes place in our daily lives – without becoming overly fragile or damaged. If you’ve ever seen one of those videos where a rubber ball is placed in liquid nitrogen, and then no longer bounces, but shatters on impact with the floor, then you’ll understand how cold can drastically change the resiliency and flexibility of membranes like skin.
This tip is mostly aimed at women, as, by and large, most men don’t wear makeup regularly. It’s important for people who use makeup only to use products that don’t irritate your skin. If it stings or burns when you’re putting it on, it’s very likely harming your skin, and that damage can build up over time. Try to keep makeup to a minimum, at least occasionally, so that your skin can fully breathe and rehydrate via your body’s natural oils. Cleanse makeup with appropriate, non-irritating makeup wipes or cleansers to fully remove the remnants from your skin. Do your research and choose brands and products designed for sensitive skin – they’re usually gentler and take less of a toll on your appearance long-term.
Without a doubt, the sun is the most prominent cause of skin damage and premature skin aging. Completely avoiding sun exposure is not practical or possible. However, always wearing sunscreen and avoiding prolonged or stationary sun exposure, especially during the peak hours of 10 am to 3 pm, can go a long way towards avoiding sun-based skin damage. Don’t intentionally seek out a tan via the sun, or allow your skin to be sunburned. Don’t go outside for any lengthy period of time (even 15 minutes can be too long) without a sufficient sun-screen of at least SPF 15. Get periodic checks from a dermatologist for any sign of skin cancer, use an umbrella or parasol if you spend a lot of time at the beach, wear a hat or visor, and wear sunglasses – they protect your eyes as well as reduce squinting, which can be a major factor in developing so-called crow’s feet or wrinkles and lines around the eyes.
On that same topic, repeated common facial expressions, especially if held for long periods of time, can be a major cause of wrinkles and lines. Laugh lines, frown lines, forehead lines – many of them develop as the result of repeated or long-held facial expressions, which may not even be conscious thought for most people, but nevertheless add up over time. Try to learn to relax your face when you don’t need to be laughing, crying, frowning, squinting, or looking puzzled. If you have characteristic movements of the face that stress the same areas of skin over and over, try spending time with a mirror and “unlearning” those mannerisms. Also, always try to reduce stress and relax before going to bed – holding tension in your facial muscles while you sleep is another way in which age can start to show prematurely.
Alcohol and Tobacco
One of the most basic things you can do to improve your skin’s appearance and achieve better skin as you age is to cut out alcohol and tobacco. If you smoke, you should quit – not only for the myriad of health consequences it can have as you get older but for your skin as well. Likewise, alcohol can greatly impact your appearance, especially in the skin of your face. Reducing the frequency and amount of alcohol you drink can make a very real difference in preserving or restoring a more youthful appearance.
Skin Care Products
Finally, consider using some basic skincare products regularly. You don’t need to have a million different skincare creams and serums, and there are a lot of options out there – some of which have dubious science behind them. A moisturizing cream or similar product is usually all that is required to treat skin once daily and help it remain hydrated, plump, and full. If you wish to try other, more exotic products that claim to contain or rebuild collagen and elastin, you are of course free to do so. But, for most people, a simple daily moisturizer can work wonders and is highly affordable. That advice goes for both genders, too – men, start getting in the habit of using moisturizer on your face and hands, at the very least, and you’ll be amazed at how effective it can be to give you better skin as you age!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is oily skin better for aging?
In some ways, oily skin is actually better for aging. While those who have excessive oil on their skin, especially on the face, may deal with increased pimples and acne throughout their life, the oil is actually beneficial. Provided you follow normal good hygiene practices, having higher oil levels on your skin can help it look younger longer. The oil helps to keep the skin hydrated and full, with a youthful glow. Drier skin tends to exacerbate the signs and symptoms of aging, and look older than comparable-age oily skin. So, to some extent, oily skin does make better skin for aging, but it is only one small part of the total equation for maintaining and improving your skin’s appearance as you age.
What factors make skin age faster than it should?
There are a number of lifestyle and related factors that can result in prematurely aging skin, or play a significant role in the aging process of skin. Three primary factors are the “worst of the worst”, however, and are at the core of external forces resulting in visible aging or premature aging of skin: sun, cold, and moisture. Sun exposure causes everything from spots and discoloration on the skin to drier or leathery skin to sunburns and even skin cancer. It’s one of the most potent forces in causing the skin to look older than it should, even at a young age, and can present serious health problems as well. Exposure to cold can also damage skin, drying it out, freezing and damaging it, and even lead to skin death in the case of extreme exposure. Most people don’t need to worry about frostbite, but even casual, occasional cold exposure can take a toll over time. Finally, moisture – or really, lack of moisture – is a major problem for skin aging. The plump, healthy appearance of the skin largely relies on hydration (water), and protein compounds. Dehydration and dry skin is much more prone to become wrinkly, show lines and other blemishes, and become thinner and look older than it should.
Why is alcohol so bad for your facial appearance?
Alcohol, in moderation, is a fairly accepted vice. However, prolonged or excessive alcohol use can have serious negative health effects, some of which are most visible on your skin, especially on your face. The breakdown products of alcohol in your body can create a reddish patchiness on your face, which is characteristic of alcoholics and heavy drinkers. It can also cause burst capillaries in your cheeks, eyes, and other visible areas of the face, and indeed throughout the body. Effectively, the hangover that you feel indirectly shows itself to the outside world via your face and appearance. Alcohol also acts to dehydrate you, reducing moisture in all the tissues of your body, which in turn causes the skin to look older. It can interfere with the proper production of the chemicals needed to keep your skin resilient and in good repair. It can also lead to poor nutrition, and with insufficient intakes of vitamins and minerals, many of the processes that maintain your skin and give it a healthy look start to go dormant or at least slow down. The end result is a seriously detrimental effect on your appearance, especially on your facial appearance, as a result of alcohol use.
If you take care of your skin and follow some of the basic skincare advice we’ve outlined in this guide, then you’ll have good odds of maintaining and preserving better skin as you age. Genetics and other factors beyond your control may have other plans, but if you make some effort on the things you can control, and implement some basic skincare and good lifestyle habits, you can make the most of what genetics has given you, and maximize the youthful appearance of your skin into older adulthood.
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While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.