Step 3: Load Up on Antioxidants continued...
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.
What to try: "The one thing that seems to ring true for everyone is to pick a bedtime, and then an hour beforehand, no more BlackBerry-ing, e-mailing, or TV news," says Dr. Wechsler. "Instead, read a novel, watch something funny on TV, or have sex." Cortisol is at its lowest when you're sleeping, during exercise, and after sex, she says. Then, if you wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back asleep, do something that bores you, like reading your least favorite section of the newspaper (hello, sports page).
Years younger: 2-3. If your skin is aging due to lack of zzz's, improving your sleep habits will definitely give it a youth boost. "It's hard to know exactly how much younger you will look by sleeping more," says Dr. Dover, "but when someone who doesn't get enough sleep or tends to stress a lot comes back from a relaxing holiday, she almost always looks a few years younger."
Step 5: Exfoliate Gently and Often
Why this works: At-home peels or even a simple face scrub can make your complexion look much more youthful and radiant and may also boost collagen production, says Leslie Baumann, M.D., director of the University of Miami Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute. "It's one of the best ways to see a quick difference," she says. As you age, skin tends to be drier and dead cells cling to the surface, giving it a rougher texture. When you shed those dead cells with a scrub or peel, it enhances the functioning of your skin: Water-retaining cells come to the surface, and active ingredients in your skin care — like antioxidants and retinoids — penetrate better. "Regular exfoliating is also therapeutic if you have acne-prone skin," says Dr. Glogau. One caveat: People who have sensitive complexions or rosacea should skip this step — or at least exfoliate less often — since those dead cells actually shield skin from irritation.