Read Your Face: The 4 Signs of Aging continued...
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.
What a doctor can do: If you have only a few superficial spots, ask about a light chemical peel or microdermabrasion, which will take off the top layer of skin, says Joshua Wieder, M.D., an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Los Angeles. If you need a more potent plan, look into a series of Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments. The improvement is gradual, Dr. Wieder says, but freckles and other dark spots eventually lighten dramatically or disappear altogether.