The earliest signs that your face is aging

In my latest book, Pause and Reverse, I describe how your face begins to show signs of aging, and what you can do to prevent this.  The following is a condensed version of the “What to do at the first signs of aging” chapter.

If you could pick an age when you looked your best and freeze the clock right then, when would it be? At twenty when your skin was smooth and supple? At thirty when you had some slight expression lines that added some character? At some point in your life, you will probably feel there is discordance between the way you want to look and the way you actually look.

What are the first signs of facial aging?

  • Horizontal forehead lines

  • Under-eye shadows

  • Loss of cheek fullness

  • Faint brown spots

  • Fine blood vessels on your nose and cheeks

  • Slight heaviness of your upper eyelid skin

What to do about early facial aging

Your apparent age—as opposed to your actual age—is partially determined by the actions you take once you identify some of these early aging signs. If early wrinkles and the effects of sun damage bother you when you look in the mirror, this is the time to act if you have not already done so. Where do you start?

1. Sun protection

A 2013 Australian study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine followed nine hundred people from ages twenty to fifty-five to test the effects of sunscreen on facial aging. Half of them were asked to wear sunscreen every day, and the other half were asked to just follow their usual routine. After four and a half years, the sunscreen users were shown to have halted the appearance of skin aging. UV protection can actually stop your face from aging.

2. Avoid smoke

There is a link between cigarette smoke and wrinkles. Smokers also develop sagging upper eyelids and lower-eyelid bags earlier in life. A 2013 Ohio-based medical study of twins in which only one of the pair was a smoker showed more pronounced eye bags and wrinkles around the mouths of the smokers as compared to their healthier counterparts. It was clear to observers which of the twins smoked based on the appearance of their faces alone.

3. Skin vitamins

If you only use two skin products—in addition to daily sunscreen—in your antiaging regimen, for most people a topical vitamin C in the morning and a vitamin A at night will give you the most bang for your buck. There are other products that are appropriate for specific skin conditions, but this is an effective combination to reduce and prevent wrinkles and skin damage.

There are different forms of vitamin C found in skin products, and not all are equal. L-ascorbic acid is a potent form of vitamin C derived from fruit. It is in the majority of topical vitamin-C-based skin-care products due to its effectiveness and potency.

Topical vitamin A is a clinically proven method of wrinkle reduction. Effective forms of this vitamin in skin products are called retinoids (retinol or tretinoin). Vitamin A works by increasing glycosaminoglycan production in the skin, which acts to retain water and promote hydration and suppleness. Glycosaminoglycans are long chains of sugars that bind water molecules. Vitamin A also increases skin collagen, which reduces wrinkles and improves the overall thickness of the skin.

4. Microdermabrasion and Microneedling

The idea behind microdermabrasion is that some form of mechanical scrubbing removes the outermost layer of skin called the stratum corneum, which mainly consists of dead cells. The result is a smoother surface. This treatment accelerates the natural process of exfoliation. It’s not a dramatic, long-term skin smoother, but, with repeated treatments, there can be some reduction in wrinkles and irregularities.

A slightly more invasive version of microdermabrasion is micro-needling. This treatment involves multiple tiny needles that create tiny punctures in your skin. These needle holes stimulate collagen growth in the skin, and they create channels that let topically applied creams and serums more easily enter the part of the skin where they can be most effective.

5. Targeted muscle relaxation

At the earliest signs of aging around the eyes, preventive maintenance can go a long way. The movement lines, however, may require more than preventive maintenance if they are starting to become visible when your face isn’t making expressions. This is especially true when it comes to the vertical lines between your eyebrows, the horizontal lines across the forehead, and the crow’s feet. These lines are caused by frowning, smiling, and raising your eyebrows: the normal expressions you make during conversations. Deep lines in these areas can convey a harsh, tired, or angry look. The best way to reduce these lines and prevent them from getting deeper is with a purified protein called botulinum toxin, most commonly known as Botox (also Dysport or Xeomin). A few injections in the proper locations will relax the frowning muscles around the eyes and forehead, soften the unwanted creases, and prevent their progression.

There is a perception that Botox creates a frozen facial expression, but, when it is expertly administered, the result is a natural, softer look instead of a frozen look. The benefits of Botox generally last about three to six months, and, while it reduces harsh creases, it can also give you a flattering lift to your eyebrows. Many people who have a tendency to get frequent headaches find significant relief after undergoing this treatment, especially if muscle tension is their headache trigger.

Why prevent facial aging now?

You are never too young to start thinking about wrinkle prevention. Why wouldn’t you want to take care of your skin? Here in my NY cosmetic practice, I have a lot of patients in their seventies, and I have never heard one say that they took too much care of their skin. I have heard many of them say that they wished they had protected themselves better from the sun so that maybe they wouldn’t have so many wrinkles or occurrences of skin cancer.

It is possible that if you start a good skin-care regimen now, you may avoid or postpone a surgery or laser procedure many years from now.