Step 4: Sleep Well continued...
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.
What to try: The most effective, least expensive options are grainy scrubs that have small, round particles. Try St. Ives Elements Microdermabrasion ($7, drugstores) or SkinEffects Cell2Cell Anti-Aging Exfoliating Cleansing Scrub ($10, CVS). "The particles should be smooth and feel like sugar in your hand," says Dr. Baumann. If they are too big or rough, they can tear skin. At-home chemical exfoliators work more slowly and may cost more, but they too help loosen dead cells. If manual scrubs are too harsh for your skin, choose a chemical wash with glycolic acid, or try a gentler salicylic acid formula (it may also treat acne). Try Aveda Enbrightenment Brightening Cleanser ($35, aveda.com). And if you're also using a retinoid, try sloughing skin twice instead of three or four times weekly.
Years younger: 2-3. There are two provisos, say experts. First, you've got to stick with it to keep seeing improvement. You'll get even better results by also doing monthly doctor's-office peels (glycolic acid or microdermabrasion), which remove the upper layer of skin and may stimulate collagen production. Second, you'll benefit the most if you combine this step with one (or more) of the others listed here.