If surgeon’s scalpels and Botox fill you with fear here’s a softer approach to fighting wrinkles that works
There are two ways your skin shows the ravages of time. First, there’s intrinsic ageing, the natural, biological processes that occur in the skin, including hormonal changes such as the loss of estrogen in the body which makes our skin drier, the slowing down of collagen and elastin production, so skin loses its plumpness as well as less melanin, the substance that gives our skin its colour, making us more susceptible to UV damage, sun spots and wrinkles.
Second, there’s extrinsic ageing, which refers to the environmental factors that influence the way we age, for example our exposure to free radicals – organic molecules responsible for tissue damage, and possibly some diseases that come from pollution, smoke, sunlight and food. You probably know that certain habits slow this down, most significantly wearing sunscreen and giving up smoking. Now, experts are finding more evidence that other lifestyle factors can influence specific effects of extrinsic ageing.
Of course, genes are important in determining how quickly our blood vessels and skin ages but that aside, there are things you can do to help the action of your genes and delay ageing. In fact, scientists now believe up to 40 per cent of how we age is within our power to slow down. Here’s what you can do:
Stop smoking ‘Cigarettes contain some 40,000 toxins, each deposited directly into the DNA of skin cells each time you take a drag,’ says Dr Alex Karidis, consultant plastic surgeon. ‘Numerous studies in identical twins have found that smokers look ten years older than non-smokers. That evidence is profound in lines around the eyes.’ Talk to your doctor about NHS-assisted programmes to help you quit.
Deal with stress Chronic stress – anything more than a few weeks on end – causes an increase in the hormone cortisol in our bodies, says Dr Amy Wechsler, a New York based dermatologist and psychiatrist and author of The Mind Beauty Connection (Free Press £6.99 from amazon). ‘High levels of cortisol cause a breakdown of collagen, which is the building block of new skin. It also causes water loss from the skin’s surface, so skin looks more wrinkly, simply because it’s dried out.’ According to Wechsler, just ten minutes daily of active relaxation, breathing techniques or even just walking in nature, can reverse this response and promote more plump looking skin. Our favourite relaxation CD is Just Ten Minutes by meditation teacher Heather Bestel, £10 from healtherbestel.com
Quick fix: The most miraculous wrinkle fix we have ever tried is Tri-Aktiline Deep Wrinkle Filler. You literally use it like Polyfilla, squeezing a little into each line over or under make-up and wait for it to set. It’s absolutely miraculous at making lines disappear temporarily. £32.99 from pharmacies and amazon.
Use your face ‘Facial muscles are just like body muscles,’ says Charlotte Vohtz, author of Naturally Gorgeous (Ebury £9.99). ‘The more you use them, the stronger they get and the less likely they are to sag and atrophy.’
Eat protein A diet high in protein and essential fatty acids, both found in salmon and other oily fish, eggs, nuts and seeds is a skin-friendly one. Low-fat diets are enemies for skin and can give you a drawn, sagging complexion by starving the skin of essential fats and amino acids (only in protein-based foods) it needs to look plump from the inside out. Read more in dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams’s expert blog post: What to eat for great skin
Quick fix: Try this quick cheek workout from Charlotte Vohtz, to help build up sagging facial muscles: look in a mirror, smile as broadly as possible while keeping your lips closed and mouth corners turned up. Try to make your mouth corners touch your ears. Next, wrinkle your nose and see your cheek muscles move upwards. Stay like this for a count of five, then relax. Repeat 10 times.
Pin it up Half of Hollywood is allegedly hooked on the face-saving, radiance-boosting power of cosmetic acupuncture. The results are evident after just one session, especially in lifting the outer corners of the brow.
According to experts, it stimulates skin cells to lay down new collagen fibres under wrinkles, ‘filling them in’ literally while also toning different muscles to restore glow. The added bonus is that most cosmetic acupuncturists treat underlying problems that could be causing your skin to look older, such as insomnia and bad digestion. Find a practitioner through The British Acupuncture Council, acupuncture.org.uk. Read Healthista Glow Girl bloggers’ review of the treatment.
Quick fix: Sagging eyebrows are one of the first signs of age, so treating these can make a huge difference. That’s why after eyebrow threading, some women tend to look like they have had a facelift. Make sure you go to someone reputable and ensure your eyebrows are nicely arched and not too thin. We love the work of threading supremo and London A-list facialist Vaishaly Patel.
Drink less ‘If you have a tendency to flush and blush when you drink alcohol,’ says Professor Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist at London’s Cranley Clinic, ‘then you could be risking the formation of thread veins and broken capillaries above the nostrils and on the cheeks as alcohol is one of the key causes.’
Quick fix: If you already have thread veins and broken capillaries on your face, you may benefit from some non-surgical light treatment such as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL). During IPL a dermatologist applies light in precise pulses to the skin through a handpiece which feels much like little elastics being snapped onto your face. It can remove red discolourations such as thread veins and rosacea as well as unwanted hair and pigmentation spots (see below) from too much sun exposure. A course of two to eight is usually required at a cost of £2-500 per area of treatment. Find a dermatologist at the British Association of Dermatologists
Facial massage Who doesn’t crave that inside-out glow that of some healthy super-beings? Thankfully, it needn’t cost you a lifetime of mung beans. One of the best short cuts to a more radiant, glowing skin tone is facial massage. It stimulates the skin, along with the complex network of blood vessels, muscles and lymph drainage points underneath the surface to restore skin to vibrancy. Facial massage is best done at night when most of us have a little more time. You can simply use your facial cleanser as a lubricant for the massage. But if your skin is particularly dry, say in the winter months, try massaging it with a few drops of a skin-nourishing oil such as rosehip before applying your night cream. Rosehip oil applied to the face is proven to help alleviate fine lines and skin hyperpigmentation, when used for a period of three months or more. The ‘queen’ of facial massage is A-list facialist Vaishaly Patel – you can steal her step by step facial massage technique at vaishaly.com.
Quick fix: Try this ancient Indian facial yoga technique that brings circulation to the face, from US-based ‘face yoga’ expert Annelise Hagen, author of The Yoga Face: Eliminate Wrinkles with the Ultimate Natural Facelift ($14.95US from amazon.com): Pull your middle ear lobes out to the sides with your thumb and index finger four times. Grab your lower earlobes and pull down lightly four times. Then grab your upper ear lobes and pull up four times. Do this a few times throughout the day.