Ask the Dermatologist: Looking Your Best as Your Skin Ages
As the years go by, our appearance changes and matures. How does the passage of time affect our skin? Are there products available that are more appropriate for the mature consumer? How do we navigate the seemingly endless array of skincare lines?
California Skin Institute’s Dr. Jennifer Sorrell, a triple board-certified dermatologist, answers common questions about caring for mature skin and ensuring that it looks its best.
Q: How does skin change as we get older?
A: It’s complex. The simplified answer is that the cell network deep inside our skin weakens and elasticity is reduced. Skin becomes less efficient at holding onto a substance called hyaluronic acid — and, thus, water — leading to wrinkles and a less plump appearance.
We also don’t produce as much collagen, which is a protein responsible for giving our skin structure. Chronic UV light exposure is a major contributor to the breakdown of that network in our skin and accelerates visible aging. Accordingly, someone who doesn’t protect their skin from the sun or who has excessive sun exposure over time will “look older” than someone of the same age and coloring who has not had a lot of sun.
Q: What is the single most important thing I can do to keep my skin healthy and attractive as I age?
A: Wear sunscreen! I recommend using sunscreen every day, regardless of the weather. You should reapply it every 2 hours while outdoors, more often if swimming or sweating. While there currently is concern in the medical literature about chemical sunscreen safety, there is no denying that chronic sun exposure over time increases your chance of getting wrinkles and skin cancer.
I advise patients to use a physical sunscreen containing zinc oxide with a minimum of SPF 30. A popular choice is Colorescience’s Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield SPF 50, which is moisturizing, antioxidant rich and blends well into all skin complexions. Take other sun-protective precautions as well, like wearing wide-brimmed hats, UV-protective clothing and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Q: What should I seek in a product to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles?
A: Look for topicals that promote synthesis of collagen and elastin, which are both proteins in the deeper layers of your skin. Examples include products containing processed skin proteins (PSP), peptides or growth factors. CSI Bio-Therapy Phyto Restorative Cream fights the signs of aging with peptides plus hyaluronic acid and antioxidants, and is formulated to reduce transdermal moisture loss.
Glycolic acid is another great ingredient for increasing collagen and elastin production. There are many different glycolic cleansers, pads and peels, making this ingredient easy to work into your regimen. For mature skin, a non-drying cleanser is often optimal, like the Glycolic Elite Cleanser, which is also enriched with vitamins and other antioxidants.
Topical retinols and retinoids — both forms of vitamin A — are also chemical exfoliants that help stimulate collagen production for smoother skin. They come in widely varying strengths, so consider talking to your dermatologist to find the product best for you. Some vitamin A products are available over the counter (OTC), like Enriched Retinol Eye Repair Cream, while tretinoin or adapalene require a prescription.
Antioxidants are wonderful ingredients for decreasing free-radical damage, and hyaluronic acid can help plump the skin and reduce redness and wrinkles. CSI carries Triple Antioxidant Powerhouse cream, which contains concentrated levels of antioxidants resveratrol, caffeine and green tea polyphenols (GTP), as well as hyaluronic acid.
And remember: what works for your face is also great for your neck and the backs of your hands!
Q: I had a lot of sunburns when I was younger. Is there anything I should do now to keep affected areas healthy?
A: Areas that have weathered a lot of sun damage over time are at increased risk of developing skin cancer. Make sure to do a self skin-check every month to look for any new lesions or changing moles. Make it a regular ritual, putting it on your calendar for the same day every month. Consistent checks will enable you to notice a new growth or changing mole more easily.
It is also very important to see your board-certified dermatologist for an annual skin check. If you’re consistently getting new precancers (actinic keratoses), ask your dermatologist about available field treatments to help decrease the frequency of new spots. This can make a big difference in helping reduce your risk of a squamous-cell skin cancer.
Q: What can I do about these unwanted sun spots on my face?
A: Sun spots or lentigines can be really frustrating. Besides aggressive sun protection to avoid new or darker spots, there are a bevy of skincare treatments that can help. Serums or creams containing vitamin C not only can brighten skin, but can also bring antioxidant benefits to your daily regimen. Two favorites are Skinceuticals C E Ferulic, which is a serum with 15% L-ascorbic acid, and CSI Vitamin C Brightening Serum. You can also promote lightening with various types of laser procedures, or get chemical peels to lift the pigment.
Want personalized attention to help keep your skin healthy and looking youthful?
Make an appointment to see Dr. Sorrell at California Skin Institute’s San Francisco or San Mateo office.
Or schedule a time to be seen by another board-certified dermatologist at any of our locations throughout California.