Created on 03rd August 2008
The world's leading independent cosmetic beauty consultant, Wendy Lewis, reveals the truth about how we age and what we can do to fix the ravages of time.
One day you look in the mirror and think to yourself, "How did that happen?" But in fact you have been in a state of decline from the day you were born. Here's an outline of what you can expect in each decade of your life, and what you can do about it.
The Twenties: The Age of Establishing Good Habits
You probably haven't seen any real signs of skin damage yet, unless you are a hard-core party girl. The epidermis renews itself every 28 to 30 days. What lies beneath, however, are changes that will reveal themselves when you least expect them. The stratum corneum, or the top layer of dead skin cells, becomes slightly thicker.
Smokers may see the beginning of fine lines near the eyes and mouth. If you are a squinter, you may see crow's-feet and even small furrows in the brow.
What should I do?
The twenties are about setting up a sturdy foundation for a lifetime of smart skincare. Women of a certain age often look back fondly on their twenties as a time when they could stay out all night and get up for work in the morning looking fresh and rested. But that does not last forever.
Although more women in their twenties are looking after their skin than in my generation, the real challenge is convincing twenty year olds that the more they abuse their skin now, the more they will pay for it later. This is the time to focus on prevention, and keeping skin clear.
The number one anti-ageing treatment for twenty-somethings is a daily dose of SPF 15. Since you haven't seen much evidence of sun damage, it may be tempting to skip it, but the earlier you start, the more damage you prevent. Even the darkest skin tones need SPF to prevent blotches and discolouration. Apart from ageing wrinkles caused by sun, pre-cancers (called actinic keratoses) show in your twenties and thirties, particularly if you are fair and spend a lot of time in the sun. Some of these lesions can turn into skin cancer. Vitamin A-based products and antioxidants should be applied topically and sunscreen should be worn daily.
If acne persists into your twenties, good treatment options include photo rejuvenation, blue light or laser-like treatments using a topical medicine. Once your skin is clear, stubborn acne scars can be treated with various lasers. If your muscles are working overtime, early frown lines, forehead wrinkles and crow's-feet can be stopped short by using Botox.
The Thirties: The Age of Recognition
By the time you reach your thirties, you have survived the awkwardness of the teenage years and the self-discovery of your twenties and are more in sync with your body.
Your thirties are the decade when cell turnover starts to slow down. Skin can look dull and sluggish. Fibroblasts (the forerunners to collagen and elastin) get lazy, collagen and elastin start to diminish, which results in a loss of firmness, and brown spots turn up. The first hints of sun damage begin to escalate into visible changes. The lines between the nose and the mouth (nasolabial folds) deepen. Forehead furrows multiply, and tiny lines begin to sprout all over. Every time you smile, frown, raise your eyebrows, laugh or cry you can see fissures that may still be transient but will soon become permanent. The moment you spy your first wrinkle can be a humbling experience.
What should I do?
Improve on the good habits you established in your twenties. Daily SPF 15+ is a priority to keep your skin radiant and even in colour. Consistent exfoliation with light peels and microdemabrasion works wonders to keep skin clear.
If you are keen to try a more aggressive approach, consider entering the Botox zone. Repetitive motion of muscles is part of what caused the wrinkles, and Botox works by reducing muscle activity, literally stopping your muscles from contracting. Studies have shown that the earlier you start using it, the more you can slow down the formation of deep wrinkles. Photo-rejuvenation treatments are good for skin tone and texture.
The Forties: When it Starts to Hit the Fan
In your forties, everything hits you all at once. Pigmentation problems arise as earlier sun exposure really catches up with you. Broken and dilated capillaries increase. New lines around your eyes, forehead and mouth occupy your thoughts. You notice that the corners of your mouth tend to turn down, which can make you look sad. Wrinkles settle in for that long haul and get comfortable. Lips shrink, hips expand and nipples point to your bunions. Loss of firmness - especially around your jawline - rears its ugly head as you approach your fiftieth. This is the decade when the sinking and sagging begins.
What should I do?
You don't have to take it lying down. Peels and intense pulsed light treatments can even out skin tone and improve texture. Botox is brilliant for lines around the eyes, forehead and mouth. Fillers come into their own for plumping furrows and creases, and shrinking lips. For sagging, you may opt for some minimally invasive lifting and eyelid skin removal.
This is the time to tighten up your skin. Thanks to the latest crop of less-invasive treatments, such as Thermage and ReFirme, you can get a lifting effect without surgery. Light treatments for the hands, neck and décolleté may be indicated, as these areas will show signs of age more than the face if you have neglected them in the past.
The Fifties: It's all Going South
In your fifties, everything that began in your forties gets more intense. Fine lines on the cheeks become deeper-etched lines. Creases from the nose to the mouth or from the corners of the mouth down deepen. Age spots cluster and darken. Your skin sheds dead cells more slowly and in clumps instead of one at a time, so you lose your radiance. Collagen breaks down and production decreases, so skin loses thickness and support structure. Sebaceous glands grow larger but produce less oil, so your skin is dryer. Melanocyte production decreases, which means you tan less evenly and burn more easily.
The oestrogen slump in the first five years post menopause weakens collagen and causes slackening. Your neck begins to get crêpey. Just as your skin loses plumpness, your hair becomes finer, too, because of low oestrogen levels.
What should I do?
You may have a surplus of concerns to be addressed, including lines, wrinkles, laxity, volume loss, blotches, white spots and brown spots. In your fifties, you may need skin tightening and resurfacing treatments on a higher setting and more frequently than you needed in your forties. For fine wrinkles and coarse texture, a laser or light-based procedure can come to your rescue by stimulating the collagen remodelling process. Age spots on the face or hands from holidays in Marbella can become just memories with the help of bleaching agents, peels and lasers.
Sculptra injections can supplement your depleted collagen supply, restore volume and smooth out wrinkles and deeper nasolabial lines. Fillers are very important to a 50-year old face, and deeper fillers work nicely to plump you up where you're sinking. As for the lines, Botox is still the best choice, and resurfacing treatments offer more dramatic results for etched lines. For sagging and slackening, surgery may offer the most benefits.
The Sixties: Coming to Terms with Ageing
Women in their sixties have loose, sagging skin at least somewhere and usually everywhere. It comes with the territory. Skin cells have 30 per cent less natural moisture now than when you were younger, so you are noticeably drier, thinner, tighter and flakier. Lack of moisture also contributes to slow cell turnover and repair, and a lifetime of inconsistent sun protection means that age spots show up regularly. Yellow, tan or brown discolourations are common, as are wrinkles that extend beyond the eye and mouth areas.
What should I do?
At 60, you can still be in the game, but it takes a bigger effort (and budget). I have clients who are working, vital, active women who look great and have more energy that I had at half their age. And they want to look good through their sixties and beyond. Most of the strategies for skin rejuvenation during your fifties will also work as you enter the next decade, but more slowly and to a lesser degree.
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