Good old-fashioned makeup can mask some facial flaws, but beware: Caking it on can make you look older instead of younger. (What's she trying to hide under that thick mask?) Also, some older women find that their lipstick begins to bleed into the cracks around their lips.

Short of a facelift, and short of going to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon for laser resurfacing or other involved procedure, there are steps a person can take at home to preserve—or recapture—a youthful appearance.

The two best defenses against looking old beyond your years bear repeating: Don't smoke. And secondly, stay out of the sun, wearing sunscreen to protect your skin when you are outside.

Beyond those building blocks for healthier skin, consider these additional skin-care options:

  • Retin-A or Renova. Either one of the two prescription drugs, used daily, can alter the skin's metabolism, while continually exfoliating the top later to uncover the smoother skin underneath. Many people who use these drugs experience redness, dryness, itchiness, peeling or a burning sensation, at least temporarily.
  • Alpha hydroxy acid treatments such as glycolic acids. These prescription creams contain acids found in fruits, milk, and sugar cane. Like Retin-A and Renova, AHAs help shed the skin's outer layer, but the anti-aging effects of AHAs are less pronounced, and the side effects tend to be less bothersome. AHAs can be bought without a prescription, but in much less potent strengths.

In addition, your doctor might recommend skin products containing vitamins A, C, or others, which some people claim can help restore a youthful appearance.

Finally, think you are what you eat? Some skin experts swear by the old adage, saying your skin reflects what you take into your body at mealtimes. Looking for a "quick face fix" before a big night out? Nicholas V. Perricone, M.D., a professor of dermatology at the Yale University School of Medicine and author of "The Wrinkle Cure", has this advice: "Fish, fish, and more fish." His suggested menu for the 48 hours before the special event features freshly broiled salmon, and also includes fresh fruit salad, an egg white omelet, a mixed vegetable medley, a salad of leafy greens, and fresh melon for dessert.