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Fighting the Signs of Aging

Most people suffer from skin issues like crow’s feet, dark eyes, wrinkles, pigmentation and certain age related skin problems. A better understanding of these issues and causal factors will help in prevention and a more effective treatment.

CROW’S FEET

Causes: Repeated muscle movement due to smiling, laughing, and squinting creases the skin around the eyes. In fact, a 2006 Aveeno study found that 84 percent of women noticed the initial signs of ageing around their eyes. Many people are also afraid of using sunscreen around the eyes for fear of skin irritation. David E. Bank, an associate professor in clinical dermatology at Columbia University/Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, says that the skin around the eyes is the thinnest on the body, with minimal collagen and elastin. This is the reason that the first wrinkles on the face appear here especially due to sun damage.

Treatments: Do not hesitate to smile! There are better ways to keep wrinkles at bay. Use an eye cream that contains retinoids, peptides and antioxidants. These ingredients are recommended by dermatologists to prevent and repair fine lines. Retinoids stimulate cell turnover, increase collagen production, and are available as retinol in over-the-counter products or in higher-dose prescription creams. Peptides are molecules consisting of multiple amino acids that help boost collagen production. Antioxidants neutralise the free radicals that break down skin cells and cause wrinkles and reduces sensitivity to sun.

Some of the most effective ones are green tea, coffee berry, grape-seed extract, and soy. For an immediate but temporary boost, a rich eye cream with humectants such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid will hydrate skin, making crow’s feet harder to spot. Apply an eye cream with sun protection every day, and use UV-blocking shades to shield the sun and prevent squinting.

DARK CIRCLES

Causes: Dark under-eye circles need not be a result of sleeping habits alone. In fact, allergies can be a trigger according to Professor Alster. Allergies result in inflammation around the sinuses and dilate blood vessels under the eyes. Directly underneath the thin under-eye skin are a multitude of tiny veins stacked on top of one another in crisscrossing directions. This confluence of colours right beneath the skin can give it a darker hue. Other causal factors are leakage of iron oxide, called hemosiderin from the capillaries, which gives a brownish or bruise-like colour (doctors are still unsure why this happens, though sinus inflammation has been found to set it off), and increased pigmentation due to sun exposure.

Treatments: Dark circles are extremely common and countless people have them. Although bleaching creams sound logical, those don’t make any memorable difference, according to Amy Wechsler, assistant clinical professor in dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City. However, an eye cream with peptides and retinoids helps build up collagen and thicken the skin over time, making dark circles less apparent. Wechsler also warns against rubbing the eyes as it can lead to more dilated blood vessels.

LINES AROUND THE MOUTH

Causes: A seemingly harmless activity like sipping through a straw can create fine lines on the skin surrounding the mouth over time. Pursing or puckering lips frequently—when sipping, smoking, or talking animatedly—is a major reason behind fine lines around the mouth. The other factor is sun damage. The skin here is exposed and delicate. Alster says that even diligent application of sunscreen might not be very useful as it often gets rubbed off right near the mouth while using a napkin or licking lips.

Treatments: Doctors recommend daily sunscreen, as well as nightly skin creams with collagen-stimulating ingredients, such as peptides and retinoids, to help prevent lines from getting deeper and new ones from forming. Quitting smoking is also useful in ways more than one. Wechsler asks patients to exfoliate around the mouth just as they do the rest of the face. By regularly removing the dead skin it is possible to reduce the appearance of lines. Products containing hyaluronic acid, or glycerin, plumps up skin and makes lines less visible. Ingredients that fill in the lines, such as collagen and silicone can be used but these can also pill on the skin, so be careful to apply just a thin layer.

DULL SKIN

Causes: Cell turnover starts to slow down around the age of 30, leading to a buildup of dead skin. Cell turnover doesn’t always slow at the same pace across face causing patches of dead skin in some areas leading to a dull, uneven, and rough complexion.

Treatments: Exfoliate once a week to remove the top layer of dead cells. Use at-home peels with alpha hydroxy acid (AHAs, which include glycolic acid) or salicylic acid over scrubs. Rubbing harshly in certain areas can cause uneven exfoliation and irritation. A peel provides an even layer of product across the face to chemically loosen dead cells. Don’t leave a peel on for durations longer than the instructions advise, and be sure to moisturise afterward. Always test the product first on a small patch of skin in front of the ear before applying on the face.

To increase the rate of cell turnover, try a mild salicylic acid cleanser or a cream with either AHAs or retinol. Do not use creams within an hour of an AHA or salicylic acid peel, to avoid irritation by doubling up on the acids or negating the effects.

DRYNESS

Causes: The skin gets about 10 percent drier every decade. As oil production decreases, the lipid barrier of skin, which traps and holds in moisture, becomes increasingly defective over time.

Treatments: Select a moisturiser that will sink in quickly but leave the skin feeling supple and without clogging the skin pores. Try a lightweight lotion with ceramides (which help build up the lipid barrier). If the skin still feels dry, use a hydrating serum, before applying a moisturiser. A tight skin after wash indicates that it has been stripped of its natural oils. Switch to a creamy cleanser and exfoliate weekly with a glycolic acid peel (it’s gentler on dry skin than a scrub)—as clearing away dead cells helps the moisturiser penetrate better.

HYPER-PIGMENTATION

Causes: Hyperpigmentation is the clinical term for brown spots, freckles, and dark patches—all caused by overproduction of melanin. Sun damage is typically to blame for small, individual brown spots, while a rise in estrogen levels in body—often brought on by pregnancy or certain types of birth control pills—causes larger, irregular splotches of dark skin known as melasma.

Treatments: The only over-the-counter ingredient strong enough to actually bleach skin is hydroquinone and can get rid of a dark spot or melasma entirely. According to Wechsler, it remains the best treatment for hyperpigmentation. AHAs and retinol help speed up cell turnover and prompt skin to shed the darker cells while also evening out pigmentation.

It takes four to eight weeks for a lightening agent to fade a dark area of skin completely, and brown spots and melasma are notorious for recurring. Fredric Brandt, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City and Miami, emphasises that treatments won’t work unless a broad-spectrum sunscreen is applied every day and prolonged sun exposure is avoided.

WEATHERED NECK AND DÉCOLLETAGE

Causes: The neck and chest should be important focus areas because the skin is thinner and has fewer oil glands than the face. It is particularly susceptible to early signs of ageing such as horizontal neck lines and brown chest spots mainly due to exposure to the sun.

Treatments: The same ingredients used to treat lines and dark spots on face will work on the neck and chest. However to minimise irritation due to sensitivity, apply face cream to the neck and chest just two or three times a week. If the skin is very sensitive, use a neck cream as it typically has a lower concentration of active ingredients, like retinols and lightening agents, than face creams do. Once again broad-spectrum sunscreen applied daily best defense against further damage.

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