Tightness, fine lines, itching, and flaking are all skin woes we’d rather skip. Keep time on your side with a few smart strategies that maintain beautiful, age-defying skin.
What Makes Skin Dry as We Age?
Dermatologist Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD, says fewer natural oils, sun damage, and decreased cell renewal can all lead to dry, rougher skin as we get older.
Loss of hormones can also lead to drier skin. Dermatologist Carolyn Jacob, MD, says, "The skin doesn't produce as much natural moisturizing factor as it used to, and the top layers of skin become dry."
So what can you do today to help keep skin supple tomorrow?
Smooth on the Sunscreen
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that sun damage is the major cause of unwanted changes to the skin.
The sun's rays can be as intense in winter as in summer. The damage those UVA and UVB rays cause not only speeds up the skin's aging process, it can also lead to spider veins, age spots, wrinkles, and melanomas.
To protect your skin every day and all year, use a sunscreen containing a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater. Leslie Baumann, MD, director of the Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute at the University of Miami, says reach for a broad-spectrum sunscreen -- one that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to reapply generously at least every two hours you're outside, and more often if you're in and out of the water or working up a sweat.
And don't forget your lips, the AAD says. "Lips get sunburned too, so apply a lip balm that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher."
Finally, wear a wide-brimmed hat and protective clothing, like a long-sleeved shirt and pants, and stay out of the sun when it's at its most intense, which is usually between about 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Vitamin A Is Vital
Vitamin A is another weapon in your fight against dry, prematurely aging skin.
To help keep skin looking its best, "a vitamin A cream is very important," Badreshia-Bansal says. That's because creams enhanced with vitamin A can help prevent wrinkles and pigmentation.
Florida dermatologist Andrea Lynn Cambio, MD, FAAD, agrees. She considers vitamin A derivatives, like retinoids, the most important nutrient in maintaining smooth, healthy skin.
Chemically related to vitamin A, retinoids such as retinol, Atralin, Differin, Retin A, and Tazarac slow down collagen breakdown, Jacob says. Collagen, along with elastin, is a fibrous protein vital in keeping skin firm, elastic, and youthful-looking.
"Adding a topical retinoid -- over the counter or by prescription -- is a great way to undo some sun damage, fine lines, and wrinkles and give a brighter, healthier glow," Cambio says.
You can also give your diet a vitamin A boost by eating foods such as low-fat milk and cheese, eggs, leafy greens, oranges, carrots, and cantaloupe.