Read Your Face: The 4 Signs of Aging continued...
Rough Texture (and, Yes, Wrinkles)
Why can't we all have baby-smooth skin? As your body ages, it produces less oil (which means the skin, especially the top layer, gets drier); plus, your skin's under-the-surface structure is not as elastic or supple as it used to be, so it takes longer to bounce back than it once did. The visible results of these changes: fine lines, deep wrinkles, dry patches, crepey areas, and increased healing time for scars and breakouts.
What you can do at home: Moisturizer helps, but it can't do the entire job. To treat texture issues along with the dryness, go for an active treatment, one that's as strong as your skin can tolerate. This will chemically exfoliate the surface and speed up the renewal process so your skin looks smoother. Try Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion ($10.50, drugstores). But don't overdo it or fixate on one area. "A lot of women I see get focused on one or two wrinkles in particular," says dermatologist Manjula Jegasothy, M.D., director of the Miami Skin Institute. "They overtreat those areas with something very irritating, which only creates more problems," she says. If your skin is reasonably tolerant, do an at-home peel or use a microdermabrasion kit at least once a month. Relax your face whenever possible, since scrunching and squinting only contribute to the problem. (You can also reduce squinting by wearing sunglasses and having your eyes checked to see if you need new glasses.)
What a doctor can do: Treatments abound, from injectables like Botox (which relaxes furrowed areas) to peels (deep chemical exfoliation) and laser resurfacing (another form of intensive exfoliation). All will dramatically improve your skin's surface texture, but all require multiple treatments — not cheap — as well as regular maintenance (frequency depends on the specific treatment).
Discoloration and Dullness
Though we hate to see a new wrinkle, it's often random facial spots and patches of darkness that make us look tired or older. In fact, one Procter & Gamble study found that people were perceived as older simply because of their skin tone. Pigmentation problems are often a result of sun damage. "In the movies, makeup artists who want to quickly age a character often do it the easy way: by painting on constellations of brown spots and sun damage," says Dr. Hirsch. If that can make a 30-year-old movie star look 70, imagine what it does for the rest of us. Another instant ager: dullness, which usually results from dead cells collected on the surface of the skin.
What you can do at home: First, study your skin when it's clean. If you see unevenness, start using the active combination of vitamins A and C to help skin turn over old cells and reveal new ones faster, advises Dr. Weiss. The result is brighter skin and less noticeable pigmentation. Try Philosophy Save Me ($60, sephora.com). You can also use a gentle facial scrub like Nivea Q10 Gentle Spa Micro-Dermabrasion Kit ($20, drugstores) or an at-home peel like Good Skin All Bright 2 Step Facial Peel Pads ($30, Kohl's) up to four times a month, depending on how blah your skin looks. Bathe in sunscreen daily (an exaggeration, but you get the idea) to prevent further discoloration, and apply bronzer to help disguise problem areas.