Step 3: Load Up on Antioxidants
Why this works: Antioxidants act as scavengers that neutralize free radicals — the particles that, in skin, cause sun damage and wrinkles, and can lead to skin cancer. They can also help protect against damage from environmental assaults like pollution and smoking, says Dr. Hirsch. Though there is still some debate about whether they can reverse sun damage, at the least they deliver modest skin brightening, says Dr. Dover, since better-protected skin appears more even-toned.
What to try: Some foods are loaded with antioxidants that are beneficial to the body overall, "but most people don't eat enough of them to benefit skin," says Dr. Hirsch. She recommends ingesting them and applying them topically. Look for vitamins C and E, pomegranate, idebenone, soy, green tea, niacinamide, and coenzyme Q10 in the top half of a product's ingredient list to get the most benefits from these often-pricey potions. Try Vichy Liftactiv CxP Bio-Lifting Care ($43, drugstores) or Desert Essence Organics Age Reversal Pomegranate Face Serum ($15, Whole Foods).
Years younger: 1-2. If your skin immediately radiates youthfulness after slathering on an antioxidant-rich cream, thank your moisturizer; antioxidants won't work that fast. You have to keep using them for five or six months, says Dr. Dover, to see the benefits. After that time, not only should your skin tone be more even, but some of the fine lines may smooth out, and drier-looking skin will appear revitalized.
Step 4: Sleep Well
Why this works: Lack of sleep definitely saps your glow, instantly aging you (think puffy, red eyes). But it also affects your skin in stealth ways: Fatigue causes cortisol, the stress hormone, to rise sharply. "If cortisol is chronically high, it can age you by breaking down collagen in skin," says Amy Wechsler, M.D., dermatologist, psychiatrist, and author of The Mind-Beauty Connection. Just one nighttime sleep disruption can prompt your immune system to turn against healthy organs and tissue: When researchers at UCLA interrupted volunteers' shut-eye from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., they found that sleep loss triggered the body's inflammation response; curiously, this effect was found in women only.