By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
When it comes to fighting off the signs of premature aging, most dermatologists will simply read the standard riot act about following a twice-daily cleansing routine, packing on the moisturizers, eating a healthy diet, steering clear of tobacco and heavy alcohol consumption and – most importantly – applying plenty of sunscreen every day.
But not Isela Méndez, an internationally acclaimed Mexican dermatologist and derma-surgeon at the esteemed Clínica Dermatólogia Isela Méndez in Mexico City’s Colonia Polanco.
“It is important to follow all of those steps, of course,” Méndez explained at a skincare conference organized by the Barcelona-based beauty company Endocare that first pioneered the use of snail emulsions to nourish skin cells and slow the aging process.
“But there are so many other things you can do to keep you skin healthy and youthful that a lot of people don’t even consider.”
Aging, Méndez said, is an inevitable fact of life for everyone, but people who take good care of their skin throughout their lives can look years younger than their chronological age, and those who do not can appear much older than they really are.
“What we are talking about is premature aging,” she said.
“And the secret to antiaging is prevention.”
The good news is that about 80 percent of premature aging can be prevented, and 70 percent of that aging can be reversed, either through changes in lifestyle and skincare treatments or medical intervention.
Méndez said that the best way to keep looking younger longer is to consider your face as a reflection of your overall health and to use a holistic approach to skincare and beauty.
Top among her recommendations is maintaining a constant weight throughout your adult life.
“Of course, we all tend to put on a few extra pounds as we age and around the Christmas holiday season,” Méndez said.
“But it is really unhealthy to have an extreme fluctuation in your weight – something that often occurs in people who follow yo-yo diets – because this can lead to your skin stretching when you put on pounds and then becoming loose and flaccid when you are thinner.”
Flaccid skin, which can give your face a sagging appearance and accentuate the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, is one of the most obvious signs of aging, Méndez said.
By maintaining a constant weight, she said, you can significantly avoid the problem of sagging skin and keep your youthful good looks longer.
Antioxidants – both topical and oral – are also key in preventing the appearance of early aging, Méndez said.
“Antioxidants can delay skin aging and protect it from further damage,” she said.
“Antioxidants protect the skin by limiting free radical production, which can damage skin cells at the molecular level.”
Daily topical applications and the consumption of vitamins A, C and E, for example, can help reduce the appearance of sun spots, calm inflammations and hydrate to revitalize dull-looking skin.
Méndez likewise said that you should never underestimate the potential benefits of retinols, which, when used under a physician’s supervision, can treat acne, reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, stimulate collagen production and give your face a healthy radiant glow.
Daily cleansing routines are important, she said, but there are no one-size-fits-everyone products.
“Make sure that the products you use are suited to your particular skin type and needs,” she said.
“If you are not sure what type of products you should be using, consult a licensed dermatologist who has years of study and expertise in the field, not a salesgirl at a beauty counter in a department store who has no medical training and is just out to get a commission on a sales.”
Commercial products sold in self-service and department stores usually have less active ingredients than those produced by derma-pharmaceutical companies such as Endocare, she said, and are therefore not as effective.
Méndez said that, as a general rule of thumb, everyone should use a mild, non-soap-based cleanser (soap has lye in it, which can irritate and inflame sensitive skin), a facial toner, a moisturizer and an eye cream.
“Be sure to not leave out the facial toner, which is important in helping to restore your skin’s natural pH balance after cleansing,” she said.
“And remember to always use a good eye cream day and night to protect the delicate contours around your eyes.”
The skin around the eyes is particularly fragile because it is only a 10th of the thickness of the rest of your facial skin, so it is one of the first places where fine lines and tiny wrinkles begin to appear.
Finally, Méndez said, be generous when lathering on sunscreen
“About 90 percent of premature aging is the result of exposure to UVA and UVB rays,” she said.
“Make sure the sunscreen you use is a broad-spectrum cream or spray that will protect you against premature aging and possible skin cancers. And don’t forget to reapply every few hours.”
Everyone ages, Méndez said, but not everyone has to show the signs of aging.
“Remember, your skin is your body’s largest and most exposed organ,” she said.
“Take good care of it and you can avoid those unpleasant signs of premature aging.”