How to Prevent Skin Aging: Anti-Aging Skincare Basics

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Even though most of us are under the age of 25, that's no reason not to think about anti-aging now. Take a look at all these beautiful women who look amazing at age 40 and above - Demi Moore, Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Halle Berry. One of the ways they look so fab (aside from great genes) is because they started taking care of their skin at an early age.

I don't know about you, but one of my goals has always been to keep my skin as young and healthy as possible for as long as possible. I'd love to be one of those hot 40 year olds in 20 years! How does one accomplish that? Simple - by learning about anti-aging and putting it into practice as soon as possible.

Here's a guide to anti-aging skincare, and all the things you can do now to prevent skin aging in the future!

What causes skin aging?

Tanning bed



Photo by evilerin.

Before you can effectively prevent skin aging, it's important to understand what exactly causes our skin to look older. Here are some of the main culprits behind wrinkles, sagging skin, and other factors that determine how old your skin looks.

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Sun Damage - You knew this one was coming, didn't you? Well you hear it everywhere because it's true - the sun ages your skin more than anything else. Literally a few minutes a day over the years is enough to cause wrinkles, age spots, rough and leathery skin, a blotchy complexion, and of course, skin cancer. People with fair skin see more skin aging from sun exposure, but those with dark skin are not immune either.

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Smoking - Cigarette smoke is a major contributor to skin aging. Research has shown that smokers are statistically more likely to develop deeply wrinkled, leathery skin than nonsmokers. People who smoke also tend to develop an unhealthy yellowish tone to their complexion. And a study from 2002 showed that facial wrinkles could be seen under a microscope in 20 year old smokers.

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Pollution - Car exhaust, smog, and other pollution common in urban areas is another skin enemy. Pollution creates free radicals, which are oxygen molecules that have been stripped of one of their electrons. Because of this, free radicals are looking for replacement electrons and attack skin components like collagen. Scary, right?

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Lack of Moisture - They tell you to drink more water for a reason! Dry skin is not a cause of aging, but a symptom - it's actually a sign that your skin isn't holding enough water for its repair enzymes to work correctly. Basically, when the enzymes can't work right, your skin can't repair the inflammation caused by the sun, excess sugar intake, and pollution. Just another reason to finally buy that cute Sigg bottle...

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Genetics - Unfortunately, a portion of your skin aging comes from something you can't control - your own genetic makeup. To a certain extent, how our skin ages will mimic the way our parents' skin aged. Of course, genetics are only one piece of the puzzle, so even if you have bad skin genes, it's still possible to keep your skin looking great for many years to come!

Anti-aging skincare basics

Skin cream



Photo by sunshinecity.

If you want to prevent your skin from aging too fast, there are tons of skincare products out there that claim to fight wrinkles, age spots, sagging skin, and everything else. But let's cut through the clutter and talk about what really works - the ingredients themselves are what make the biggest difference.

Here's a list of must-have products that contain ingredients proven to help pause the aging process. There's no magic bullet that will cure aging, but the following products, especially when used together, form a great defense against what ages our skin the most.

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A good-quality sunscreen - SPF 15 or higher! This is perhaps the most important thing you can put on your face now that will keep you looking young for years to come. Once you find a good sunscreen, you need to wear it EVERY DAY - not just when you plan to be out in the sun for a while. UV rays are present even when it's cloudy, and incidental sun exposure (walking to class, going to and from your car, waiting for a bus) all adds up. To help even more, try to reduce how much time you spend out in the sun. It all helps.

There are tons of great sunscreens out there, and really, any sunscreen is better than none. But if you want a high-quality sunscreen, the best ones for your face (as recommended by skincare experts) include Neutrogena Visibly Even Daily SPF 15 Moisturizer ($13.09), Almay Sun Protector for Face SPF 30 ($8.99), Kiss My Face Face Factor Face + Neck SPF 30 ($10), and Clinique City Block Sheer Oil-Free Daily Face Protector SPF 25 ($16.50).

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A topical exfoliant. This step isn't an absolute must, but is recommended. Topical exfoliants remove the top layer of dead skin cells, which improves skin texture, unclogs pores, and makes your skin absorb moisturizers better. There's also research that indicates the alpha and beta-hydroxy acids in exfoliants can increase production of collagen, an ingredient your skin loses as it ages.

To find a topical exfoliant, look for a product that has glycolic or lactic acid (if you have normal to dry skin), or salicylic acid (if you have normal to oily skin). Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion, Night ($12.59) is great for normal or dry skin, and Neutrogena Acne Stress Control 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment ($7.99) is perfect if you have oily or combination skin (I use it myself and it rocks!).

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Vitamins A, C, E, and B3. Another nonessential, but important if you've been out in the sun a lot and are concerned about wrinkles forming already. All three of these vitamins have been proven to reduce and even help reverse the aging process (all the details here)! Just remember, using a product with vitamins and antioxidants is not as important as simply wearing sunscreen, so these won't do you any good if you run around outside every day without SPF!

If you do want the added benefits of vitamins, though, here are some highly recommended products that contain them: Jason Natural Ester-C Lotion Anti-Oxidant Regenerating Moisturizer ($16), Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum - Fragrance-Free ($18.99), and Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 Anti-Aging Moisturizer ($17.49).

Prevent aging with your diet.

Fruits and vegetables



Photo by BeckyKP

Skincare is only one piece of the anti-aging puzzle. What you eat also has a huge impact on how your skin ages. Fresh, healthy foods contain vitamin antioxidants that can again help protect against free radical damage. Here are some foods you should load up on for maximum anti-aging power:

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Fruits: Papayas, mangoes, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruits, berries (all types)

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Vegetables: Spinach, leaf lettuce, carrots, squash, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, bell peppers

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Whole Grains

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Fish: Salmon, tuna

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Oils: Olive oil, vegetable oil

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Green Tea

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Dairy products: Low fat yogurt, low fat milk

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Nuts: Almonds, sunflower seeds

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Dark Chocolate (!!!)

There you have it - a guide to preventing some of the most common forms of skin aging. Follow this guide starting now and I'm confident you'll be looking (and feeling) amazing through your 40's and beyond!

What do you think? Are you concerned about anti-aging, or has it been something you thought you'd worry about later? Will you be thinking more about it now? Leave a comment and let me know!