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What should a 20-something do about aging?

Jessica’s asking about aging: It seems to me that the best way to keep my skin looking great and wrinkle-free would be to prevent as much aging as possible, as opposed to trying to reverse the process when I’m older. Other than sunscreen, what kinds of products should I be using at this point (I’m 25) to keep my skin looking young?

The Left Brain’s rejuvenating reply:

This is a great beauty question and one that we see asked more and more. The proliferation of anti-aging products has gotten so extensive, you’d think cosmetic marketers want us all to revert to 3-year olds. And with some of the claims made, they certainly treat us like that is the age of our intelligence.

The Anti-Aging Secrets for your Skin

You want to know what’s been proven to work? Here it is…

Sun Protection

First, protect your skin from the sun. This is the number one environmental cause of skin aging. Do this by minimizing your sun exposure and using sunscreen.

Eat Well

Next, eat a balanced diet. While everyone is different, this meta-review study on skin health and diet concluded that people who had higher intake of Vitamin C and linoleic acid and lower intakes of fats and carbohydrates had younger looking skin. You get linoleic acid by eating vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and seeds.

Exercise

Finally, exercise. Nothing keeps you looking and feeling young like regular exercise. Thousands of studies have shown that physical exercise is a highly effective way to treat all all signs of aging.

Anti-aging Treatments

Most scientists are skeptical of anti-aging treatments. This is because there is little published evidence from controlled clinical trials to show most anti-aging products have any benefit. You could say this is because private companies don’t want to make their research public, but if they did have meaningful, positive results you can be sure the PR arm of the company would crow about this where ever they could.

We’ve seen previously that price is not indicative of the effectiveness of an anti-aging skin treatment. The conclusion was that none of the products were as effective as claimed.

Does any treatment work?

The only thing that scientists and reputable dermatologists agree on is that application of topical retinoids can repair sun damaged skin and prevent future collagen damage. Oh yeah, and they all say using sunscreen is a good thing.

Beyond that, forget about it. Yes, that includes the $95 Perricone Restorative Cream. Vitamin C works when you eat it, not when you slather it on your skin.

Lasers for your skin?

Recently, lasers and LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) have been shown to effectively rejuvenate photoaged skin. Cosmetic surgeons have been making lots of money from these treatments and the big cosmetic manufacturers like P&G and L’Oreal are trying to bring you this same treatment at home. But the technology isn’t quite ready. Products you can buy right now like the Beurer Softlaser will likely disappoint.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Scientists in the anti-aging field (who are not trying to sell you products) agree, anti-aging products are over-priced and under-deliver. For a 20-something, the best thing you can do is eat right, exercise and avoid long sun exposure. If you’re a bit older, start using skin products that contain vitamin A derivatives. They’re the only thing that has yet been proven to be effective.

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