Health & Fitness

Want soft skin as you age? Stay out of the sun

Dr. Shasa Hu
Dr. Shasa Hu UHealth-the University of Miami Health System

As women age, more attention needs to be paid to skin care to keep the skin from drying out and losing its luster.

“Lysozymes don’t really work as well so toxins can build up in your cells as you get older. Cells don’t divide as quickly and so you don’t heal as fast,” said Dr. Leslie Baumann, who started the Cosmetic Division of Dermatology at the University of Miami and now runs Baumann Cosmetic and Research Institute.

Although people tend to associate aging with wrinkles, Baumann, a Miami Herald columnist, said skin discoloration is the more pressing problem. Other issues include drier skin, brown spots, thinner skin, broken blood vessels, roughness and loss of radiance.

“As women mature, they go through menopause and the drop in estrogen clearly affects their skin. Commonly, we see drier skin and the skin loses its elasticity. All these potential problems can be helped with the appropriate skin care,” said Dr. Shasa Hu, a dermatologist at UHealth — the University of Miami’s Health System.

Despite these hormonal changes, dermatologists agree that signs of aging and skin problems, such as skin cancer, can be prevented with proper skin care and a healthy lifestyle.

USE SUNSCREEN

Year round, especially in South Florida, it is important to wear sunscreen every day. Even minimal sun exposure, such as the walk from the parking lot to the office or walking between buildings, can damage maturing skin. Baumann suggests applying half a teaspoon of sunscreen at least 15 SPF every morning.

“The rate of skin cancer rises as we get older, mainly because cumulatively we’re getting more sun exposure. Also, as we get older, our skin immune system is in decline so we’re not able to fight off mutations as well,” Hu said.

Hu also recommends that women stay out of the sun during peak hours, which are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. During these hours, UV light emitted from the sun is the strongest and can cause the greatest amount of damage.

“Sunscreen is key. It doesn’t have to be the water resistant, tackier versions of the sunscreen. It can be something that feels more like a very elegant moisturizer-type product, ” said Dr. Ileana Perez-Quintairos, a dermatologist with Baptist Health Quality Network.

After putting on sunscreen, women should also re-apply the product every two hours, especially if they’re exposed to the sun for a long period of time such as at the pool or at the beach.

ANTIOXIDANTS AND RETINOIDS

Antioxidants not only boost the body’s internal immune system, but they can also boost the skin’s immune system. Topical antioxidants, Baumann suggests, should be applied twice daily.

The most popular and readily available topical antioxidant is vitamin C. Applying vitamin C can brighten the skin while also preventing and repairing damage. Baumann also suggests using a retinoid product, such as a cream, before going to bed.

“Using topical retinoid products help increase the collagen and elastin content in the skin over time and helps in prevention,” Perez-Quintairos said.

Collagen and elastin are proteins that give skin its shape and firmness. Some of the effects of aging, such as wrinkles and sagging, can be attributed to the body producing less of those proteins.

Skin can also be improved from the inside out by eating antioxidant-rich foods, such as ginger, green tea, dark chocolate and drinking coffee. Sugar consumption should be minimized to prevent the glycation that can make skin age.

AVOIDING “BUZZWORDS”

When buying skincare products, avoid overspending on products that won’t work and find products that tailor to specific skin types and skin problems.

“A lot of the time, I see my patients just go to the store and pick out labels with some of the ‘buzzwords’, ‘all-natural’, ‘organic.’ They don’t pick the right skin products,” Hu said. “Over-the-counter skin products will incorporate various natural oils and unfortunately natural oils can be very irritating to mature skin when the skin is already dry and sensitive.”

When looking for products, it’s also important to note the differences between cosmetics, cosmeceuticals and prescription products.

“There are over-the-counter-type products that may not have as much scientific evidence as far as their usefulness on the skin. Cosmeceutical products tend to be sold and dispensed by physicians and those products tend to have more evidence that what they claim is true. Prescription agents have the most evidence that they do indeed work,” Perez-Quintairos said.

Baumann warns against buying products with stem cells.

“They’re expensive and they don’t work. They have things like plant stem cells, apple stem cells and they don’t work because they’re not human stem cells. They’re a waste of money,” Baumann said.

EXERCISE AND SLEEP

Another way to take care of not only the body, but also the skin, is to exercise and get enough sleep. As cells mature, the mitochondria — the powerhouse of the cell — doesn’t work as well, which makes it more difficult for the body to repair itself.

“New studies have shown that weight-bearing exercise, not cardio, but lifting weights, might improve mitochondrial function and make cells act younger,” Baumann said. “It also lowers your stress, lowers your cortisol, lowers your sugar and that also helps prevent aging.”

Cortisol is a stress hormone that can accelerate aging. Another way to prevent stress, lower cortisol levels and keep blood sugar low, Baumann said, is to get at least seven hours of sleep a night.

TIPS

▪ Wear half a teaspoon of at least 15 SPF sunscreen daily and minimize sun exposure

▪ Apply a topical antioxidant twice daily

▪ Apply a retinoid product at night

▪ Be wary of skin care products and carefully read labels

▪ Incorporate weight-bearing exercise to lower stress hormones and blood sugar

▪ Eat healthy and minimize sugar consumption

▪ Get at least seven hours of sleep a night

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