Drugstore shelves and beauty counters at department stores are filled with an almost overwhelming array of products promising youthful skin, a dewy or glowing complexion, reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, and even skin tone, and more. Dermatologists’ offices can provide botox injections for wrinkles and laugh lines, collagen injections to reduce the “parentheses” from the corners of your mouth to the outer edges of your nostrils or to give you full lips, and chemical peels to uncover the “real you” beneath layers of dead skin. Along with all that, Botulinum toxin therapy has been used to treat many neurologic disorders making it a really useful and effective medical therapy.
But does having beautiful skin need to be so complicated, expensive, or even dangerous? Of course not. By following these five simple and inexpensive steps and choosing a few products, you can keep your face looking its best at any age.
- Moisturize. Whether you are 19 or 90, whether your skin could single-handedly solve the oil crisis or is as dry as the Sahara, there is a moisturizer just for your skin, and you should use it twice a day. If you spend money on only one product, it should be the right moisturizer for your skin. It doesn’t have to break the bank, either; for example, Olay makes a Complete Defense Moisturizer TM for every skin type (dry, oily, normal, combination, and sensitive) for around $8, available at discount chains like Wal-Mart and Target as well as pharmacy chains like Walgreens, CVS, and Eckert’s. One bottle should last you about two months. There are other brands in the same price range, or higher if you want to go that route. Just find the right moisturizer for your skin type, and use it religiously in the morning (after you cleanse but before your make-up!) and at bedtime. Be sure to apply it in an upward direction from the chin up, and don’t forget your throat and decollete.
- Wash your face gently. Soaps can be drying (in a bad way) to your skin, and scrubbing away at oily skin will only cause it to produce more oil. In the evening, wash off the day’s make-up and environmental pollutants with the gentlest non-soap cleanser you can find. Cetaphil makes a gentle cleanser for under $10, in a big bottle that should last at least three months. Olay makes a moisture-balancing foaming cleanser for the same skin types as its Complete Defense moisturizer, also around $8. If you want to spend a little more, L’Occitane’s Comfort Cleansing Fluid TM with milk and honey wipes the grime from your face by putting a little bit on a cotton ball and wiping it over your face. It doesn’t even need to be rinsed off. Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple cleanser sells for $20 for an 8-ounce bottle on QVC, and a little bit goes a very long way. That one is gentle enough to clean off your eyeshadow without causing any burning or other problems for your eyes. But you don’t need to spend a lot to get a gentle cleanser. You should use the cleanser at night, to remove the day before applying moisturizer; in the morning, rinsing with warm water is really all you need to do. Never use hot water on your face.
- Use a sunscreen. Even the exposure your face gets by walking from your car to your office, or your house to the mailbox can damage your skin. You should use a sunscreen every day, and make sure it provides both UVA and UVB protection. Olay’s “Complete Defense” moisturizer got that name because it contains sunscreen with an SPF of 15, and both UVA and UVB protection. Many other moisturizers and some foundations also contain a sunscreen. If your exposure to the sun will be limited, an SPF of 15 is enough, but if you will be spending more time than that in the sun, you should use a sunscreen formulated for the face with an SPF of 30 (testing has shown that more than 30 is really no more effective than 30, so don’t waste your money by going higher). Do reapply sunscreen several times during the day. Because the skin of your face is more delicate than the rest of your body, be sure to use a sunscreen that is specifically for your face on your face, and not the one you’d put on your arms, legs or back. As much as some of us love the sun, avoiding it is better for your skin.
- Stay hydrated. For the sake of your face as well as your body, drink at least five 8 ounce glasses of water a day. Coffee and soft drinks don’t count; your body and your skin crave water. If you don’t like the taste, add a slice of lemon or lime. Carry around a 16-ounce sports bottle, and sip out of it all day, refill as necessary, and you’ll get that 40 ounces of water in without even noticing it. It will help keep your skin firm, and help to moisturize from the inside out. As a bonus, if you’re trying to lose weight, filling up on water, especially drinking an 8-ounce glass about 15 minutes before a meal, will help you to eat less and eat smaller portions.
- Use an eye cream. If you are over 18, it’s not too early (or too late) to start using a moisturizing cream or gel formulated just for the eye area. That skin is thinner and less resilient than the rest of the skin on your face. Using a cream just for eyes will help to prevent, and some brands will help eliminate, the fine lines and the crepey skin that develops as you age. Use it morning and evening, and use it sparingly. The reason it comes in that little bottle is that a very small amount goes a long way.
- (Bonus Tip) Exfoliate once a week. Exfoliation, using a gentle and non-chemical exfoliant (try Alba brand Pineapple Enzyme Facial Scrub from Alba Organics, around $8 for 4 ounces), done once a week, will remove dead cells from the surface of your face and reveal the glowing new cells beneath. If you don’t want to buy an exfoliant, even an inexpensive one, you can make one with ingredients from your own kitchen (see my article on making your own exfoliants here on AC).
- (Bonus Tip 2) If you smoke, stop now. The sooner you stop smoking, the better, for your skin and the rest of your body. Smoking causes the formation of lines around your mouth and eyes, and the tar and nicotine in tobacco can cause your skin to appear blotchy and discolored. Besides, smoking is the number one cause of heart disease, and heart disease is the number one killer of women in America. Stopping will not only help keep your skin young, but it might save your life.
Follow these steps, use make-up sparingly, and your skin will look fresher and younger, and you’ll feel better too. Add a smile, and you’re gorgeous and ready to go!