4 Essentials for Healthier, Younger-Looking Skin

When it comes to finding the Fountain of Youth, we’re likely all in the proverbial same boat. And, if you’re past 40, that boat has likely begun taking on water. But, the Fountain of Youth may be found on your bathroom counter, if you have the right skincare products and are dedicated to using them regularly.

Ileana Perez-Quintairos, M.D., a Board-certified dermatologist and part of Baptist Health Quality Network, says to improve the health and look of your aging skin, you need at least four main products – a gentle cleanser, sunscreen, moisturizer and a topical retinoid.

1. Cleanser

Dr. Quintairos says cleansing your skin daily is one key to healthier skin. For people with normal skin – that is, not sensitive or oily – she recommends using a mild cleanser to remove dirt, oil, makeup and pollutants that accumulate on the skin, especially the face, throughout the day. For people with sensitive skin, she urges looking for cleansers that are formulated specifically for sensitive skin. These typically are labeled “for sensitive skin,” have a creamy texture and don’t create a foam when mixed with water. They are also free of fragrance, acid and other additives. People with oily skin should look for cleansers labeled “for oily skin,” Dr. Quintairos says. “These products usually have surfactant in them, which is a chemical, found in detergents, that breaks down oils,” she said.

Almost as important as what you use to cleanse your face is how you cleanse your face. Dr. Quintairos warns against scrubbing your face, which can cause inflammation, redness and damage the protective layer of the skin. “The purpose of a cleanser is to remove the impurities that accumulate on our skin each day, but you want to do it gently, without irritating your skin,” she said.

2. Sunscreen

Dr. Quintairos recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen on the face daily to ward off the damaging UV rays of the sun that lead to sunburn, premature aging, wrinkles and skin cancer. “Choose a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher for daily use,” she said.

Previously, dermatologists thought that an SPF 15 provided enough protection for the incidental sun exposure that occurs when you drive, walk around outside and sit at your desk near a window throughout the day. But recent research indicates that SPF 15 sunscreens miss some of the UVA rays that are responsible for cell damage. This research led to new recommendations by the American Academy of Dermatology.

For skin protection when you plan on being outdoors for an extended period, such as when at the beach or playing outdoor sports, Dr. Quintairos says an SPF above 30 and closer to 100 is better to protect against harmful UVA and UVB rays, which contribute to skin cancer.

As for the type of sunscreen recommended, she says it’s best to choose a sunscreen that fits your activity and skin type. Lotions and creams are OK for everyday use, she explains, if they are used generously – at least two ounces to cover all exposed areas of the body – and reapplied every two hours. Sprays also can be effective, but she warns they must be rubbed in after applying them, or they may not provide adequate protection. When sweating is expected, sport formulas or wax-based sticks are great options, Dr. Quintairos says, because they stay in place and don’t sting the eyes. For individuals with sensitive skin, she recommends sensitive-skin formulas, as they tend to have fewer chemical sunscreens or added fragrances and oils.

Makeup, such as foundation, powder and lipstick or lip gloss, with an SPF 30 or higher, offer convenience when reapplying sunscreen throughout the day, she says, but starting with a thicker layer of an all-over-the-face sunscreen in the morning under any other skin products or makeup offers the most effective protection.

3. Moisturizer

Dermatologists also recommend a daily moisturizer to keep skin hydrated and able to fend off damaging pollutants. The American Academy of Dermatology says that moisturizers trap water in the skin. That water helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, giving skin a more youthful appearance. Even people with oily or acne-prone skin can use a daily moisturizer, according to dermatologists, to keep oil production to a minimum and to prevent the dryness related to acne treatments.

Dr. Quintairos says it’s important to moisturize the sensitive skin around the eye, preferably with a moisturizing product intended for the eye area. “The eyes are the highlight of the face,” she said. “The area around them doesn’t have as many oil glands as the surrounding skin, so it’s necessary to keep this area moisturized with a gentle eye cream to hide the signs of aging.”

4. Retinoids

To slow down the aging process and improve the look of the skin, including minimizing fine lines and wrinkles, scientific evidence has shown the effectiveness of one prescription product in particular – Tretinoin, which belongs to a class of products known as retinoids – Dr. Quintairos says. When used regularly, as part of a healthy skincare regimen, retinoids can effectively slow down the aging of the skin cells. The best formulations, she says, are prescription strength.

Retinoids come with a warning, however, as they can be irritating to the skin. Dr. Quintairos often has to slowly increase, or “step up,” the frequency of her patients’ retinoid use and the strength of these formulas to allow the skin to build up a tolerance to the inflammation and dryness often associated with their use.

The Fountain of Youth no longer eludes those who are committed to a daily skincare regimen with these four steps included. Each day, women and men can benefit from cleansing, applying sunscreen, moisturizing and using a retinoid.

“Healthy, younger-looking skin is no longer a secret,” Dr. Quintairos said. “The secret is consistency of use and finding the products that work best with your skin and lifestyle.”

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