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Is Your Skin Aging Faster Than You Are?

Genetics, smoking, and sun can make you look older, but doctors say there are ways to fight back.

In Your 20s continued...

Lior also recommends people in their 20s begin getting screened for precancerous lesions. "Precancers called actinic keratoses begin to show in the 20s and 30s, particularly in fair-skinned people who spend a lot of time in the sun. A few of those people will actually have skin cancers that early, which is the scary part."

If found early, actinic keratoses can be removed before they have a chance to become cancerous. The American Academy of Dermatology describes them as rough, red, scaly patches, or crusts commonly found on the sides of the forehead, the ears, the scalp of bald men, and the backs of the hands. The lesions range from the size of a pinhead to larger than a quarter. While skin cancer is hardly on the minds of most young adults, Massa says it's never too soon to start checking your skin. "Examine your own skin once a month and if you see anything changing or new, get it checked."

In Your 30s

"Patients in their 30s are often concerned about keeping their skin healthier, more radiant, and more even in color," Massa tells WebMD. "They may notice more brown spots related to sun exposure or may feel their skin has a duller look."

One way to improve skin tone is to look for products containing retinol and alpha-hydroxy acids. These products are available over the counter, although stronger solutions require a prescription. For more dramatic results, Massa says, "Light chemical peels can make the skin look smoother, more radiant and more refreshed."

Lior agrees. "The glow or radiance kids have - you lose that with time because your cells don't turn over as often. Chemical peels can assist in this exfoliation process. They allow the radiance and glow to show through by sloughing off the older cells on top."

In addition to changes in skin tone, Massa says people in their 30s may notice their first few wrinkles. "We see a lot of people in the late 20s or early 30s that are starting to see the finest lines around their eyes. They're starting to see the folds between the eyebrows." She says it's not uncommon for women in this age group to request Botox injections to soften lines in the upper face. "Botox is a very appropriate treatment for anyone who is starting to be bothered by lines between the eyebrows, horizontal forehead lines, and crow's feet. However, it is not appropriate for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding."

In Your 40s

"In the 40s, everything hits," Massa says. "The skin is duller, not as smooth, not as glowing. There are more problems with pigmentation as sun exposure really catches up with them. There are complaints about lines around the eyes, lines in the forehead, lines around the mouth. The corners of the mouth tend to be a little down-turned, making them look sad when they are not. The lips get smaller. The skin starts to sag."

But Massa insists 40-somethings don't have to take all this lying down. There are chemical peels to even out skin tone, Botox for lines around the eyes, and fillers such as collagen or hyaluronic acid for lines around the mouth. Shrinking lips can be augmented. For sagging skin, Massa recommends Thermage, a procedure that uses heat to tighten and tone the skin without surgery.

Brush Up on Beauty

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