If you're old enough for laugh lines, a skin care makeover can give you a fresher, younger look. Our skin dries and thins with age, so products used five years ago may look quite matronly today. A better routine calls for skin primer, according to Robin Rylant, a celebrity makeup artist who's worked with Celine Dion. A high-quality primer fills in small wrinkles, making them less visible.
Forgo Thick Foundation
If you still slather foundation directly over aging skin, you're likely adding years to your look. That thick top coat tends to break into deep cracks, which look far worse than the fine lines you're trying to hide. Instead, apply moisturizer, primer, then a light liquid foundation for additional skin-plumping moisture. Ryland suggests tapping it in gently with a sponge, rather than rubbing it in.
Avoid Clown Eyes
Applying flattering eye makeup requires precision. Unfortunately, eyesight tends to decline with age. "If you don't see as well, you may not get the makeup on correctly," Ryant says. The results can include clownish amounts of eye shadow or crooked eyeliner. The solution: "Get yourself a good magnifying mirror."
Enhance the Shape of the Eye
As we age, the eyelids tend to droop, so the goal is to draw attention away from the lid and toward the actual eye. Eyeliner is the key. Apply it in a thin streak along the line where the lashes begin, top and bottom. This will enhance the shape of your eye and create the illusion of thicker lashes. Use soft shades and a light touch when applying eye shadow.
Put Eyebrows Back On
"Eyebrows are extremely important because they frame the face," Ryant says. But the brows tend to grow thinner and grayer with age. To "put eyebrows back on," Ryant recommends using eyebrow pencil that complements your hair color. Placing powder over the pencil will help it stay put. Some people choose to have eyebrows permanently tattooed, but the FDA and Consumer Reports has raised safety concerns about this practice.
Don't Let the Lips 'Bleed'
Few things draw attention to wrinkles like bleeding lip color. This happens because lipstick is a cream, and it tends to slip into any low spaces -- including the lines around your lips. To keep color from traveling, use moisturizer, then coat the lips with foundation before applying lipstick.
Plump Up the Lips
Ryant offers three steps for creating plumper, younger-looking lips. Begin by coating the lips with foundation. Next, line the lips and fill them in completely with pencil. Finally, use a lipstick brush to apply a lip-plumping lipstick. Ryant sees good results, though Consumer Reports suggests the plumping may be modest. Choose a color with enough pigment to enhance the lips without being over-the-top bright.
Keep Lips Moist
Even the best quality makeup will have a tough time concealing dry, flaky lips. For this reason, it's essential to moisturize often. Lip balms with shea butter, petroleum jelly, or vitamin E work well, says Ryant. Look for a product with sunscreen to protect against the sun's drying effect. If you use extended-wear lipstick, be sure to let the stain dry completely before applying lip balm.
Whiten Stained Teeth
Whitening toothpastes can help remove surface stains so your teeth look about one shade lighter. To go deeper, try peroxide-based whitening gels or strips. These products bleach the enamel of your teeth to change your natural tooth color. For the most dramatic results, an in-office treatment with your dentist can make the teeth visibly whiter in less than an hour. Several treatments may be needed to get the desired shade.
Rejuvenate Tired Eyes
If your eyes look tired, the most obvious solution may be to get more rest. Sleep triggers the release of hormones that help the skin remain thicker and more elastic. To reduce eye puffiness, cut back on salt and stay well hydrated. You can also try soothing swollen eyes with cool cucumber slices or moist tea bags.
Reduce Dark Circles
Getting enough sleep can also minimize dark circles under the eyes. But in some people, the discoloration comes from too much pigmentation in the skin. In that case, creams containing lightening agents such as retinol, hydroquinone, green tea, or vitamin C may help. To camouflage dark circles, use a concealer one shade lighter than your skin and yellowish in tone. Wear SPF 30 sunscreen daily.
Sunglasses do triple-duty in the quest to look younger. A good pair will protect the delicate skin around the eyes from sun damage. It will also keep you from squinting, a motion that can create additional wrinkles over time. Finally, sunglasses may help delay cataracts, cloudy areas on the eyes' lenses that can diminish your vision. Long-term exposure to the sun's UV rays can increase the risk for cataracts. Make sure they have UV 400 lenses.
Boost Thinning Hair
You can give thinning hair the illusion of more body with some simple styling tricks. Use a large round brush to lift the hair and add volume. To set the style, use the cool button on your hairdryer. Styling with hot rollers is another good option. If you're looking for a low-maintenance way to add body, Ryant suggests a perm.
Don't Fret Over Grays
Exfoliation gets rid of dead, dry skin cells to reveal the fresher skin underneath. You can use a washcloth, along with an exfoliating cleanser, to gently scrub your face and body. Exfoliating regularly will help remove dull, flaky skin. But be careful not to scrub too hard or you could leave the skin raw and irritated.
Target Wrinkles With Retinoids
These chemical relatives of vitamin A can reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles for a more youthful look. Creams that require a prescription have the best track record, including tretinoin, tarazotene, and their brand-name versions. A less potent, OTC form is available too, called retinol. The best results come from regular use over several weeks or months. All can cause redness, irritation, peeling, and can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Fight Crow's Feet With AHAs
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are found in fruits, sugar cane, milk, and other foods. When applied topically, they exfoliate and remove the outer layer of dead skin cells, which may help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The results may be most apparent in the thin skin around the eyes. Mild skin irritation and redness can occur, and your skin may be extra sensitive to the sun while using AHAs.
Fade Age Spots With Hydroquinone
Hydroquinone is the active ingredient in popular bleaching creams. It interferes with the skin's production of melanin, the pigment that gives age spots their color. Hydroquinone is available over the counter or in stronger concentrations by prescription. Kojic acid is another skin lightener available in OTC products or by prescription.
Fight Damage With Antioxidants
Antioxidants are vitamins and minerals that can counter the damage caused in your body and skin by free radicals. You can eat foods rich in antioxidants or apply antioxidant creams directly to the skin. Studies suggest that topical vitamin C maybe especially helpful to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Check with a dermatologist for products that contain enough vitamin C to be effective.
Eat Salmon for Smoother Skin
Salmon offers a treasure trove of nutrients for the skin. It's packed with protein, a critical building block of healthy skin. And, along with other fatty fish, it's rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s may help fight wrinkles by keeping the skin plump.
Pamper Your Hands
The skin on the hands has very little fatty tissue underneath and can easily become crinkled when dry. Applying moisturizer throughout the day can draw water into the skin to help hands look plumper and more youthful. Look for a moisturizer that contains glycerin, hyaluronic acid, shea butter, or safflower seed oil. You can also use lightening creams to fade age spots on the hands.
Strengthen Your Nails
Prevent brittle nails by avoiding harsh soaps and moisturizing with thick creams or petroleum jelly. Vitamin B7 supplements, also called biotin, may help soften brittle, breakable nails. Ask your health care professional what amount is right for you. To avoid unsightly hangnails and ingrown nails, be sure to trim your nails correctly. Look for nippers that are shaped to follow the natural curve of the nail.
Soften Your Heels
After decades of walking, most people develop thick layers of skin on the heels and balls of the feet. While you're unlikely to regain the soft soles of your youth, you can take steps to shrink the calluses. Begin by soaking your feet in hot water. Once the dead skin is moist, you may be able to remove some of it by scrubbing with a pumice stone.
One of the surest ways to protect against skin damage is to avoid cigarettes. Studies of twins suggest smokers have skin that is more wrinkled and up to 40% thinner than nonsmokers. Researchers believe tobacco smoke releases an enzyme that breaks down collagen and elastin, compounds that are vital to the skin's structure and elasticity.
Use a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
You probably know that sunscreen can ward off wrinkles by blocking the sun's harmful rays. But did you know that SPF refers only to protection against ultraviolet B rays? It turns out that ultraviolet A rays may play a larger role in causing wrinkles. To block both UVA and UVB rays, look for a broad-spectrum or multi-spectrum sunscreen.
For More Dramatic Results ...
If your home-care regimen doesn't give you the look you want, cosmetic procedures can yield more dramatic results. A dermatologist can plump up laugh lines with injectable fillers. Those derived from the botulinum toxin are popular for the brow area, and are not toxic, despite the name. Chemical peels and dermabrasion can soften fine lines and age spots. And laser resurfacing is effective for reducing wrinkles and discoloration.
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Alysia Ryan, makeup artist, Cincinnati, Ohio.
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Audrey Kunin, MD, dermatologist, Kansas City, Mo.
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Bergfeld, W. Skincare: A Woman Doctor's Guide, Kensington Books, 2001.
Brandt, F.10 Minutes, 10 Years: Your Definitive Guide to a Beautiful and Youthful Appearance. Free Press, 2007.
National Eye Institute.
The Nemours Foundation.
Robin Ashinoff, MD, dermatologist, Hackensack University Medical Center, New Jersey.
Robin Ryant, celebrity makeup artist in Miami, Florida.
Skin Cancer Foundation.