Worldwide, people now spend more than $1 billion on anti-aging products, and the number of cosmetic procedures such as Botox injections has grown 20% in recent years. But even as aging baby boomers try to beat back time, many are loathe to do anything so drastic as injecting chemicals into their faces… instead they are jumping on the “green wagon” and looking for a more natural approach.
We consulted Jamison Starbuck, ND, a naturopathic physician in family practice and a lecturer at the University of Montana, both in Missoula, who said expensive and possibly risky high-tech interventions are not necessary. Healthy, glowing skin at all ages comes from inside. If you take good care of your body, your skin will reflect your good health. We asked her to share her natural strategies for keeping skin youthful.
FROM THE INSIDE OUT
You are what you eat, mom used to say, and—as usual—she was right. For optimal skin health, Dr. Starbuck advises following an anti-inflammatory, anti-aging diet. Replace trans fats, saturated fats and processed foods with fresh fruits and vegetables and foods rich in healthy fats (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids), such as walnuts, flaxseed and cold-water fish (wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, etc.). Since an anti-inflammatory diet is believed to improve circulation, you may find that within days of starting to eat this way, the puffiness and dark circles under the eyes begin to diminish.
According to Dr. Starbuck, the more colorful the produce, the richer it is in antioxidants, which help slow the aging process and maintain elasticity in skin and underlying tissue. Keep your kitchen stocked with bright, colorful fruits and veggies like blueberries, strawberries, spinach, carrots and broccoli.
PROTECT AGAINST THE SUN
To shield your skin from the ravages of the sun’s ultraviolet rays—which range from harmless age spots to deadly melanoma—steer clear of the midday sun. During the spring and summer, when you are outdoors a lot, make the application of sunscreen part of your daily skin care routine. If you live closer to the equator, do this more often. Choose a product that contains zinc oxide to block the sun, as well as the antioxidant vitamins C and E and selenium, since Dr. Starbuck says sunscreens that contain antioxidants are more helpful in preventing skin damage. Use products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and that offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Avoid chemicals and fragrances.
Also, Dr. Starbuck notes that many people believe they can apply sunscreen first thing in the morning and safely bask in the sun for hours. It doesn’t work that way. Don’t overestimate a sunscreen’s ability to protect you from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. If you are spending the day at the beach or in the sun, reapply every hour or so.
KICK THE BAD HABITS
Young people can stay out late or work till the wee hours and still look and feel fresh the next day. Not so as you grow older, when every indiscretion seems to show. Dr. Starbuck’s advice…
- Don’t smoke or overindulge in alcohol.
- Reduce your exposure to toxic substances such as air pollutants, herbicides and household chemicals including cleaning products. Use common sense and be aware of the environment around you. For example, stay inside as much as possible on smog alert days… avoid all harsh chemical products that cause skin irritation… choose natural alternatives whenever possible.
- Avoid exposing your skin to harsh detergent and antibacterial soaps, instead choosing milder, fragrance-free, chemical-free, natural cleansers. Another thing you can do to reduce the toxic load on your skin is go green in your home. Avoid cleaning products made from toxic ingredients. Personally, I really like the natural, green cleaning products made by Melaleuca.
MORE EXERCISE GIVES YOU FIRMER SKIN TONE
When you’re fit, your circulatory system works optimally to deliver a better supply of blood and oxygen to tissue and skin. Exercise also promotes firm muscles, resulting in less cellulite. The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recommends at least three 20-minute aerobic workouts a week (e.g., brisk walking, bicycling or swimming) and three 30-minute strength training sessions. Don’t forget to drink lots of water when you exercise. Dehydrated skin sags… not a pretty picture. Even worse, it is more vulnerable to damage from irritants of all kinds.
USE NATURAL SKIN CARE PRODUCTS
The more antioxidants and the fewer chemicals, the better, Dr. Starbuck advises. She recommends simple, fragrance-free, dye-free products, such as good, old-fashioned Ivory soap and naturally based soaps and moisturizers made with cucumber or calendula. For the best effect, use moisturizing creams immediately after bathing, when your skin is better able to absorb them.
Also, she says there is no need to waste money on expensive face creams that make false promises to banish wrinkles. A Consumer Reports study found no difference between pricey products (which can cost literally hundreds of dollars per ounce) at upscale department stores, and down-to-earth, economical drugstore brands. Also, other research shows that skin responds well to topical antioxidants. Choose skin care products that contain antioxidants such as vitamins C, A and E.
DR. STARBUCK’S PERSONAL FAVORITE
Dr. Starbuck says one of her most relaxing, effective and detoxifying treats is hydrotherapy. She explains that alternating hot and cold tones the body and stimulates blood and oxygen flow. Dr. Starbuck says that intense heat eliminates toxins through the skin, after which a brief plunge in cold water tightens pores, stimulating and invigorating both your skin and your mood. (Caution: This is not recommended for pregnant women or people with vascular problems such as hypertension.) This effect can easily be created in your own home. Just follow up a hot bath or shower with a 30-second cold rinse. This closes pores and brings refreshment and blood flow to skin.
LOVE THE SKIN YOU’RE IN
If you follow a lifestyle that emphasizes fitness and wellness, it will be reflected in your good health overall, including clear, firm and radiant skin.