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Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Life - February 2010

The Never-ending Quest for the Fountain of Youth
Six Lifestyle Pitfalls May Cause You to Look Older than You Should

Even though you may feel as good as ever, it is a hard reality that putting your best face forward can become more difficult as you get older. Time and gravity eventually take their toll and your skin shows the results - wrinkles, sagging and dryness. Ageless celebrities seem to demonstrate that anyone with access to a big enough bank account and plenty of leisure time can look decades younger than they are. But what about us "regular" people? Can the fountain of youth be put in a bottle and sold at a reasonable price?

There currently is no marketed intervention that has been proven to slow, stop or reverse aging or its effectsThe market for anti-aging creams and cosmetic surgery is skyrocketing. Anti-aging skin care products comprise an estimated $1.6 billion market worldwide. Cosmetic procedures, such as Botox injections and laser therapy to improve the skin's appearance, rose to 4.9 million in 2005 in the United States, a 20 percent increase from just two years prior.

Yet, there currently is no marketed intervention that has been proven to slow, stop or reverse aging or its effects. While most of the ingredients in skin care products aren't harmful, there are no government standards for the use of marketing phrases on cosmetic labels like "dermatologist-tested," "allergy-tested," "hypoallergenic," "non-irritating," "herbal" or "natural." Even if the ingredients aren't harmful, at often exorbitant prices, they could remove more cash from your wallet than wrinkles from your skin.

Products may have a pleasant fragrance or texture, or produce temporary results, but think twice about investing too much hope or cash in them. Expensive lotions, peels, vitamins, cosmetic procedures, spa treatments and high-end potions may help treat the visible signs of aging at first, but their effects may fade with continued use and may disappear completely if you stop using them.

Many of the external causes of aging skin are determined by the health and lifestyle decisions you make every day. Making unhealthy choices can cause prematurely aging skin, and this makes you look older, faster.

Here are six key lifestyle factors that contribute to aging skin, and simple things you can do to keep them from making you look older than your years:

  1. The elements - Sun exposure and the cold of winter can damage skin. In fact, damage from the sun is the biggest contributor to skin aging. Wear protective clothing and use sunscreen with adequate UV protection whenever you are in the sun for extended periods of time. Nourish dry skin from dry, cold winter air with moisturizing lotions and soaps.
  2. Poor diet - Diets high in fats, sodium and chemicals show up on your skin in wrinkles, dark circles and spots. Studies show that people who eat balanced diets not only look younger, but also have better skin health overall. Foods rich in anti-oxidants, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains, fish and poultry not only help the body heal and boost the immune system, but also help the skin's cells remain healthy.
  3. Lack of sleep - When you sleep, your body is hard at work feeding and rejuvenating your skin. Poor sleep interferes with this process, and one of the first places it shows up is on the face, in the form of dark circles, bags under the eyes and sagging skin. Avoid late-night snacks, keep your bedroom cool and invest in a comfortable mattress to get better, more restful sleep.
  4. Inactivity - Simply doing nothing can damage your skin. Regular exercise increases circulation which delivers nutrients to all your body organs, including the skin. Exercise also contributes to better, more restful sleep.
  5. Cigarette smoke - Whether you smoke or just spend time with a smoker, cigarette smoke can damage and age your skin. Some researchers believe that exposure to cigarette smoke may be as damaging to skin as exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays. Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke enhances skin health.
  6. Alcohol - Drinking alcohol causes the small blood vessels in your skin to dilate, which increases blood flow near the skin's surface. Over time, these blood vessels can become permanently damaged, creating a flushed appearance and broken vessels on the skin's surface. Drinking in moderation can help reduce these effects.

While some signs of aging are inevitable, there's a lot you can do to look your best at any age, but there isn't yet a simple potion that will do it for you. Taking good care of yourself is the most important thing you can do to feel and look younger.