How to Get (and Keep) Healthy Skin

Healthy skin is an aspiration that unites generations, but how can you get and keep it?

Picture / Supplied

The selfie culture has plenty to answer for, but a positive spin-off of 21st-century image obsession is enhanced consumer expectation of skincare and cosmetic performance. This benefits everyone, not just those self-reflecting on social media.

People want to stay active and attractive for longer. They want to enhance and correct how they look, with varying degrees of intervention.

Whether you’re Gen Next, Now, X, a Baby Boomer or beyond, the knowledge and technology of today promises a brighter looking tomorrow.

To this end, Viva asked some leading dispensers of skincare for their advice.

A client’s skin type, condition and concerns, as much as their age group, determine the best initial care, says Prescription Skincare clinic’s nurse skincare specialist and clinical co-ordinator Angela Frazer. “Someone in their 20s may have significant sun damage due to an outdoor lifestyle and lack of early protection, or someone may still be struggling with acne in their 40s,” she says.

Beyond individual approaches, certain age-specific advice applies.

Those in their early 30s or younger are often blessed with great skin, so the goal should be to maintain this, Angela says. Avoid stripping the skin’s acid mantle. “Harsh cleansers and soap weaken the skin’s barrier and cause irritation, as do many wipes,” she warns.

Make wearing sunscreen year-round a habit, because ageing UVA rays can penetrate cloud and glass. Caci clinic founder Jackie Smith says it takes only five to seven minutes of sun exposure to stimulate collagenase; an enzyme that destroys collagen.

Extended exposure damages DNA.

“During the party years, beware of skipping sleep, smoking and too much alcohol,” advises appearance medicine doctor Dr Sarah Hart from the Skin Institute.

READ: Millenial Skincare to Try

Eat colourful fruit and vegetables to increase levels of carotenoid (an orange-red pigment) in the skin, she recommends. This gives a healthy-looking golden glow, detectable after six weeks of improved diet.

If acne is an issue, a prescription for vitamin A-based retinoids can help, says Dr Sarah. Oily, reactive skin can be calmed with barrier-enhancing Vitamin B serums.

Even oily younger skin can suffer from dehydration. Scrubbing could be to blame, but so too climate and lifestyle skin-sappers.

“Breakdown of the moisture barrier is not just from free-radical damage, but also stress,” says Clinique’s national training and education manager, Tracey Pedersen. Pollution is another known skin-irritant. To combat this, cleansing has become more thorough.

Charcoal, fruit and lactic acids, and sonic brushes are all popular aids to remove grime and unclog pores.

Dermalogica’s national training manager, Caroline Parker, says dehydration in all ages can be aided by the humectant, hyaluronic acid [HA]. In its newer cross-linked forms it better binds to skin. HA won’t weigh young skin down, as some moisturisers needlessly can, and, says Caroline, it could be applied in the form of a once or twice weekly mask, like a “drink for the skin.”

The founder of About Face skin clinics, Marianna Glucina, says as women hit their 30s, signs of collagen loss typically begin to show. So too, earlier sun damage surfaces

“Make sure you increase anti-oxidants in your diet and skincare routine,” she recommends, as do our other experts. Look also to add vitamin A, to products to hinder the ageing process. Vitamin C, which has a brightening effect and in stable form is a good delivery mechanism for other ingredients, is another favourite.

Applying antioxidants topically, early on, has immense benefits, says Angela. “Trust me, now is the time damage is being done.”

To blame are the free radicals that scourge our systems. These highly unstable molecules damage and destroy healthy cells, including eroding skin’s collagen and elastin support system, leading to slackness and ultimately lines and wrinkles. “They also contribute to acne, sensitivities, pigmentation and skin cancers and there is no one who escapes free radical damage, as triggers include, UV rays, alcohol, pollution, stress and sleep deprivation.”

So the millennial mantra should be to cleanse, hydrate and protect, but is there more to look out for?

Multi-tasking products are particularly worthwhile, says Tracey. Combined cleansers and exfoliators, primers and moisturisers and moisturisers with sunscreens (as found in Clinique’s Pep Start range), speed up routines without compromising on care. “Blur” ingredients immediately optically diffuse imperfections while treating skin.

Trusty mineral foundation helps cover and is kind to skin, says Marianna. (She rates Jane Iredale.) “It helps prevent breakouts and other skin conditions that traditional makeup can cause.”

Treatments: Superficial peels are popular, says Angela. “Skin texture and colour and refined pores are very important in this age group, as they are striving for the perfect blank, even, smooth canvas for makeup.” Millenials are also after “baby botox” — the injection of very small amounts to prevent line formation.

“We are seeing frown lines developing at a much younger age as phones and other devices get smaller, meaning people are having to squint and focus more,” she says. Younger clients like light treatments, says Marianna.

Omnilux helps with texture and stimulates skin health, so “you can start banking that collagen!”

Hormonal brown pigmentation (melasma, the so-called mask of pregnancy also caused by oral contraception/hormones), can be treated with a combination of peels and concentrated skincare, says Sarah. This avoids using IPL or harsh lasers which, she warns, can worsen its appearance.

From your 30s to 50s, a lot changes. Sandwiched between youthful and mature years, women often gain self-confidence in their choices — and undoubtedly lose collagen. Skin starts to thin and may slacken and discolour as the repair mechanisms slow.

“If you haven’t been serious about skin care, now is the time to start,” says Angela. “The lack of sleep though these years, with small children and juggling a professional life and a family, can really start to take its toll,” says Marianna. “You can lose that youthful glow and fine lines will start to show.”

All our experts are agreed that cleansing, sun protection and antioxidants remain vital, however they say now is the time to turbo-charge skincare.

Sarah recommends a retinoid derived from vitamin A to combat dropping oestrogen and collagen levels and thinning skin. It also helps shed rough outer cells and surface pigmentation, revealing dewy skin beneath. Add vitamin C to support collagen production and reduce free-radical damage.

READ: Sarah Moon and Francois Nars on on Their New Collaboration

Retinols can be usefully supplemented, says Angela, with collagen-stimulating ingredients, such as growth factors and peptides.

Target environmental skin damage with souped-up night-time serums, says Caroline.

With age, oil production slows and dehydration increases, so strengthening the moisture barrier is more vital than ever, says Tracey. If it is compromised, redness, rashes, irritation, and adult acne can result.

Dietwise, Sarah recommends cutting sugar to prevent the wrinkle-causing glycation of collagen and elastin. Include omega-3 rich foods like salmon to reduce the inflammation that is thought to underlie ageing.

READ: New Zealand's Anti-wrinkle breakthrough

Treatments: This is the peak age at which women consult clinics. They seek everything from regular facials to relax and revive skin, to more active or invasive treatments.

IPL is useful to target signs of sun damage, such as brown age spots and red veins, says Sarah. Botox reduces frown and forehead lines and crow’s feet. Facial sagging due to fat and bone loss can be corrected with gradual, step-by-step treatment with dermal filler.

Medical dermal needling is great for those wanting to reduce lines and wrinkles, without Botox or fillers, or in tandem with them, Angela says. It tricks skin into thinking it has been wounded to get a cascade of healing growth factors and to stimulate collagen.

Gentle lasers and dermal rolling are recommended by About Face. Caci says photo rejuvenation and micro-dermabrasion are valuable as well, along with sonophoresis infusions, whereby sound waves are used to aid product absorption.

Care and attention paid in previous decades will see your skin face its 50s in its best possible condition. But hormonal changes pre and during menopause, mean this is inevitably a time of transition. Skin may become as troublesome as a teenager’s for a few years, with unexpected breakouts. Pores can become visible.

As the years advance and oestrogen reduces, dryness will likely become the biggest problem. Redness and flaking can occur and brown spots become more obvious.

“We can start to lose the ‘sit and fit’ of the skin,” Marianna says, of this time of accelerated collagen depletion.

A few lucky women retain beautiful complexions, but all will benefit from boosting hydration. Plant oils are a useful option for cleansing and in moisturisers and serums. They boost resilience and revitalise dull skin and sit well with those who favour a more natural approach.

Caroline recommends an oil cleanser, followed by a resurfacing product, to help regulate the build-up of skin debris.

READ: The Over 80-year-old Style Stars

Neglected older skin, would likely call for an intensive regime, says Angela. Hyaluranon serums, such those by Skin Medica, could combat increasing sensitivity and dryness. Sarah notes that boosting doses of retinol could do double duty, by helping prevent pre-cancerous changes in the skin.

Keeping up exercise was also advised, with research indicating that beyond its obvious benefits, it could increase skin thickness.

Firming ingredients should be massaged into troublesome jowly areas, said Tracey. These could provide a “webbing” through the neck area, where a specialist cream was recommended.

Older women often lap up rich creams, but if these feel too heavy on thinning skin, experiment with newer gel formulas, oils and lotions by day. These may provide a better base for makeup. Be open to switching your cosmetics to newer formulas, trying illuminating products and primers, cream-based cosmetic colour, and tinted lip balms to add lightweight luminosity to your complexion.

Treatments: Surgical solutions may be sought, on top of other options already outlined. Powerful lasers could help firm skin and treat pigmentation, but before signing up ensure a thorough consultation and an experienced operator.

Retirement years mean many women face a steep drop in income, limiting choices in self-care. This underlines that some acceptance and sound self-management of ageing is sensible.

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