How to have the best skin at any age

I am asked this question a lot by my patients.  The answer unfortunately isn’t as simple as suggesting a beautifully packaged anti aging night cream to apply and that’s it. However, there are some important things you can do to help.

Protect your skin from the sun – this is the most important.

If you haven’t done previously now is the time to start. Skin cancer is a reality for sun-exposed individuals with lighter skin types – people who burn easily and tan poorly.  In fact, around 2 out of every 3 Australians will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.  Fortunately the majority of skin cancer cases isn’t the most dangerous form called melanoma, but are relatively lower grade cancers called basal cell and squamous cell cancers and can be effectively treated.

The point is that sunlight is damaging for your skin. It contains four main types of rays: UVA rays (that damage and don’t burn as much) and UVB (highly burning and damaging), high-energy visible light (non-burning but still damaging) and infrared (heat). All produce ‘free radicals’ (cell-damaging reactive compounds) that damage dermal collagen – the structural support of the skin.   Although some collagen loss and destruction is inevitable as a consequence of natural ageing UVA, UVB and high-energy visible light break down the vital network of support for your skin and accelerate wrinkling.  

I recommend an SPF 30 or greater containing the ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide AND iron oxides (a brownish-orange pigment).  Iron oxide containing creams are usually tinted – often providing good cosmetic coverage like foundation, but don’t suit everyone.  Sunscreen is best applied first thing in the morning before sun exposure, as early and late sun still contains significant amounts of damaging but non-burning UVA and visible light.  It is important to use the correct amount – SPF ratings are produced using 1 teaspoon (5 mls of sunscreen) for the face and neck!!!!  This is around five times the amount most people apply. 

Moisturizers with an SPF rating are not a substitute for a good sunscreen.  They are usually inferior blocks, are not used in large enough quantities to produce an effective SPF or they don’t have any protection against UVA (not assessed with SPF – there is a different scale for this).    

Smoking also significantly accelerates this ageing process. So butt out those cigarettes to look younger.

Blotchy pigmentation is often caused by sunlight exposure.  So it is doubly important for anyone with uneven skin tone – for example melasma or other medical pigmentary conditions – protect from the sun using the principles above.  In many cases, even 5 mins unprotected in the in the sun is enough to leave lasting skin pigmentation in susceptible people.  Sun protection prevents age spots and sunspots.  

The number one thing you can do to look younger:  Sun protect – wear a hat, make use of shade and apply sunscreen – in sufficient quantities and every day, before you go in the sun.  Ideally one that contains minerals in the ingredient list, (titanioum dioxide, zinc oxide and iron/ferric oxides).

Dr Rhonda Meys Jansen