Your skin is the first thing people see when they look at you. Strangely enough, it's considered the largest organ in the human body -- right up there with the intestines, lungs, and liver. It serves many purposes, including acting as our first defense against germs and the environment, and converting sunlight to vitamin D. The layer of fat under the skin's surface helps ensure that the important fluids inside our bodies stay inside our bodies.
The ironic thing about skin is that when people are young, their biggest concern about their skin may be how to get a tan. But as we get older, our top skin priority becomes preventing wrinkles -- and the No. 1 way to do this, of course, is NOT to tan.
(Since I am the kind of person who doesn't tan but only turns different shades of pink, I figured out at a young age that sun worshipping just wasn't in my genetic code. My younger sister did tan as a teen and young adult. And I have to say, I do seem to have fewer wrinkles.)
So when does it become crucial to start taking care of your skin? It's probably earlier than you think. Mark G. Rubin, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology of the University of San Diego, believes that not smoking and avoiding the sun starting in your teens will pay off later.
"Since prevention plays a big role in skin aging, the sooner you start the better," he says. "By the time you see changes you don't like in your skin, a lot of damage has already been done."
If you think about it, what we're basically trying to do is delay the normal aging of skin, which ages as all organs do. The best way to slow the aging of many things in the human body, on a cellular level, is to keep body cells from oxidizing. And the best way to keep your body from needlessly oxidizing, experts say, is to avoid smoking and to eat a diet rich in antioxidants (more on this below).