I am a baby boomer. What this means is I am one of the explosion of births that occurred in the U.S. between 1946 and 1964 after World War II. During these "baby boomer" years, approximately 76 to 82 million Americans were born, which is one of the soon to be largest aging populations in the U.S. This represents 28 to over 30 percent of the American population. Most of us are between the ages of 40-58 and we want to learn how to be healthier, be more beautiful and to never age, in other words, we would like the fountain of youth. If this came in the form of a pill or supplied in a jar, we would like it even better.
Since the demand for this type of information is quite high, manufacturers are competing with each other to come up with the latest products, techniques or gadgets to help us either find the fountain of youth, or at least think we have. They choose the most beautiful Hollywood stars to showcase their products, wanting us to think we too can look like them, by using their brand.
Our skin is one obvious way others can guess our age, so most baby boomers look for ways to make it look more youthful. I've seen 50-year-old people that look 30 years old and I've also seen people 50 that look 70. What could have caused the difference? Some things are common sense. Smoking, not dealing well with stress, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol, and poor diet can tip the balance to early aging.
When I was a teenager, basking in the sun at Sunset Beach near Malibu was the "groovy" thing to do. Most people did not consider SPF lotions as a must and a suntan was a good thing. "Suntan oil" was just that, a very oily product you only wore to the beach and had a strong coconut smell. All tan came either from the sun or you were born with it. We've come a long way and realize a thing or two about environmental toxins, sun damage, stress, trans fats, cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana abuse. Radicals at that time were not preceded by the word "free" and did not mean anything that had to do with damaging cells, but meant you had joined Students of a Democratic Society (SDS) or other similar organization that participated in demonstrations called "sit-ins".
The skin is the largest organ in the body, and it gives a quick peak at how youthful or aged we appear. We have our biological age and our chronological age. Our skin can defy our chronological age and fool the eye of the beholder into thinking we are many years younger or older than we really are. Although there are many types of skin, in general, all skin needs certain nutrients to keep it healthy. Our goal should always be to become biologically younger than our chronological age. This means from a cellular level, we are maintaining health and therefore, preventing disease and aging. In other words, we focus on the inside to become more beautiful on the outside. Some prefer to cheat and do a bit of cut and tuck or get a little help from a syringe, to plump or pull the skin to lift wrinkles.
Water, the Elixir for Youthful Skin
Our body consists of approximately 60 to 70 percent water. Water helps eliminate toxins from of our body and is essential for a healthy, more youthful-looking skin. The maintenance of elasticity and suppleness of our skin is enhanced by the hydration and moisturizing properties of water. When our skin is prevented from drying, wrinkles are less likely to appear. On the other hand, certain foods and beverages such as caffeine in sodas, coffee, tea and chocolate along with alcohol can dry the skin. According to a study published in the October issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, alcohol is the most dehydrating fluid of all.
There are many different recommendations as to how much water we should drink. Most of us have heard variations of drinking 8-10 glasses a day. According to kidney specialists, depending on the person's health, age, and activity level, we should replace the amount of water lost during the day from perspiration, excretion and other bodily functions. We do get water from food, and should consider this in the equation. In general, depending on your activity and other fluid intake, drink when you feel thirsty, and increase it if you are active. Also, spread the intake throughout the day and evening.
Moisturizers: how do you know which one to use?
All skin needs hydration. Moisturizing it keeps the skin moist and healthy, preventing fine lines from occurring more often. Stores are filled with different lines of skin care for different skin types. Some promise anti-aging ingredients, while others claim to bring instant youthfulness. Beautiful jars claim natural, hypoallergenic and to scientifically repair and treat skin concerns. As baby boomers, we are living in times of great scientific advances for skin care and health. I know this to be true even in my field of dentistry. Cosmetic dentistry has truly come a long way. Improving a smile was once considered quackery because we didn't have any techniques for cosmetic dentistry. All treatment was considered problem based. Today of course, that is not the case with cosmetic dentistry being the focus of most dental offices.
Having been involved in formulations of dental products as well as skin care products, I am convinced skin is skin and there are certain ingredients essential to keeping it healthy and youthful. The skin is an organ like any other organ. For example, under normal conditions our heart requires exercise. We're also told to keep certain fatty foods, excessive salt and other unhealthy foods out of our diet. A healthy mouth prefers low or no sugar diet to maintain an alkaline environment. Similarly, a healthy skin needs specific requirements for its needs.
Skin needs protection from the environment. This can be sun in the summer, the cold dry air or the harsh wind of winter. Environmental toxins should be considered as well, since pollution can clog pores and cause breakouts. Therefore, the ideal skin care product would protect from the environment, while preventing the skin from drying out.
Certain ingredients do this very nicely, such as:
Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide: Sunscreen should be part of an anti-aging strategy. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide a safer alternative to chemical SPF factors. Look for products that use these two ingredients as part of their base. There has been a lot of controversy over potential harm from these, especially titanium dioxide. The European Union and the Environmental Working Group have concluded that it's the nano-sized or micronized form that has not been reviewed for safety by the FDA. Otherwise, they are safe.
Antioxidants: Vitamin C prevents wrinkles by helping to form collagen, and keeping the skin firm and healthy. Vitamin E fights against free radicals, which can destroy skin tissue. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant and essential for healthy skin.
Shea butter hydrates the skin and is a natural sunscreen.
Stay away from skin care products that have the following:
- Parabens are shown in some studies to be related to breast cancer.
- Propylene glycols can produce allergies, as do salicylates found naturally in many plants or may be listed in the chemical form as salicylic acid.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) dries the skin and is an allergen.
Other "natural" ingredients make claims for improved skin. However, I want to add a strong caution here, because plants do have side effects as well. A good Web site to check for herbal properties is Medline Plus at the following Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginformation.html. Frankly, whether you have dry skin, oily skin, combination skin or any other kind of skin is irrelevant. Below are more suggestions on preventing further chronological aging, and keeping a youthful biological age longer.
- Instead of soap, use a mild cleanser without SLS or alcohol.
- Use a toner without alcohol. A good toner will do the final cleansing for you. Even though you just cleaned your face and neck with a cleanser, you might still see dirt as you use the toner.
- Always apply your moisturizer after cleansing and before putting on your makeup.
- Instead of sun protection with a high SPF, find a replacement product that has the ingredients listed above such as zinc oxide and shea butter.
- Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and balanced nutritious meals.
- Adequate exercise.
- Fresh air and deep breathing.
- We need the sun for vitamin D. The best time to enjoy the sun is before 9 A.M., before the rays become harmful.
- Learn how to play. This will balance long hours of work and stress.
- Remember to drink plenty of water, as needed. Stay away from sodas or drinks with high fructose corn syrup sweeteners. It almost sounds natural, but it's nothing of the sort.
- Minimize coffee intake, and of course alcohol and tobacco.
The easy steps to the fountain of youth and to have a younger biological age versus a chronological one, with younger looking healthy, vibrant skin, is to pay attention to how you nourish your body from the inside out.
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