Preparation H ends eye puffiness. Milk and honey masks will keep wrinkles at bay. Don't make that expression -- your face will freeze that way! We'll try anything, it would seem, to try to keep the passing years from showing on our faces. We dread wrinkles. They're inevitable, thanks to the aging process and gravity, but there are a few at-home tricks to help prevent premature aging and reduce the appearance of fine lines, creases and wrinkles.
First, let's learn a little about our skin, and then the aging process.
There are two types of protein that keep our skin firm and youthful: collagen and elastin. They work together with oil-secreting glands in our skin that keep skin soft, and a layer of fat beneath that adds contour to our bodies. As part of the natural aging process, our bodies produce less collagen and elastin as well as less oil, and the fatty layer begins to thin out -- a combination that produces dry, thin, saggy skin.
Free radicals also contribute to wrinkling. Free radicals are formed during a normal aerobic process -- a chemical reaction that uses oxygen and releases the energy that cells need to function -- and are called unstable atoms (or molecules), because they have either lost or gained an electron during that chemical reaction. Exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) and other environmental factors like tobacco smoke trigger the body to produce free radicals.
While you can't win against Mother Nature, you can put up a good fight against free radicals. Next, we'll talk about antioxidants, our body's weapon against these unstable atoms.
Did you know some vitamins may help you fight gravity? And minerals and enzymes can lend a lifting hand, too. All these substances are antioxidants, and antioxidants prevent free radicals from damaging healthy skin cells. They do this by supplying electrons to the unbalanced free radicals -- antioxidants are actually molecules that help neutralize free radicals. They are vitamins (vitamins A, C and E), minerals (more on that later) and proteins (enzymes) found in darkly-colored fruits and vegetables (the dark fruits and vegetables contain the most beta-carotene and anthocyanins), nuts, and legumes.
Antioxidants may not only help to prevent free radicals from damaging cells -- some recent studies find they may also help reverse damage that's already been done. Retinol, a form of vitamin A, shows promise in stimulating cells that generate collagen. And our cell membranes absorb vitamin E, which can not only repair damage but help prevent future damage from occurring.
We mentioned that wrinkle-fighting antioxidants are found in darkly-colored fruits and vegetables -- let's find out about other foods that fight wrinkles, next.
There are a few ways you can change your diet to give your body an anti-aging boost with the foods you eat every day.
First, let's look at fats. Adding foods that are full of good-for-you dietary fats and oils can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as well as improve the long-term health of your skin. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially good at plumping and tightening skin, because they nourish skin cells. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, herring and sardines are good sources of omega-3s, as are almonds, walnuts, flaxseed and sunflower seeds (and oils).
Tuna, salmon, nuts and legumes are all also good sources of two trace minerals important to wrinkle reduction: selenium and copper. Selenium is an antioxidant, which means it helps prevent cell damage by neutralizing free radicals, and it may also help restore skin's elasticity. Copper plays an important role in how the body builds the skin's two skin tissue proteins, elastin and collagen. Soy-based foods may also help build collagen. Whether or not soy foods are beneficial against wrinkles is still up for debate, but soybeans contain plant compounds called isoflavones, some of which have antioxidant properties.
Applying over-the-counter topical anti-aging treatments can be a good way to plump up your skin, but it's the nutrient-based ingredients rather than the topical cosmeceutical treatments that most effectively reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Look for topical anti-aging products that contain retinol (which is vitamin A), peptides or hydroxyacids. These treatments don't protect you from the sun's damaging rays (which can lead to premature aging), so don't forget to apply sunscreen.
Also consider alternative products and old wives' tales, as some may have real benefits. Let's look at witch hazel, for example. Witch hazel has been used for years, anecdotally thought to be good at tightening the skin when applied topically. And as it turns out, there is some truth in the tale -- the herb witch hazel has anti-inflammatory properties, which means it helps boost your body's defense against cell damage.
Here's an at-home remedy for wrinkles that may seem less attainable than a magic anti-aging pill: Reduce your wrinkles by reducing your amount of stress and increasing your amount of sleep. No problem, right?
Most adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night. When you're asleep, your body produces human growth hormone (HGH), which is the body's own anti-aging tool. HGH helps the body maintain healthy tissues, including your skin. When you don't get enough sleep, the body responds by producing the stress hormone cortisol, and cortisol interferes with how the body is able to maintain itself. Too much cortisol, and your skin may become drier as well as more susceptible to infections, more susceptible to damage from sunlight and therefore more susceptible to wrinkles.
Top that with too much stress, and your skin also becomes thinner and weaker, a combination that is set to lose the battle against gravity.
Protecting your skin from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays is one of the best ways to prevent premature aging. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 25 to 30 for the best protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. For those among us who want a little more from their sunscreen, some sunscreens contain skin-strengthening, collagen-regenerating ingredients such as vitamin E and soy isoflavones. Find the right sunscreen for you, and apply generously throughout the day.
And while sunscreen will help prevent premature wrinkling from the sun's UV rays, moisturizer can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles you may already have. Moisturizers have skin-plumping properties and temporarily fill in wrinkles with moisture (and some with proteins such as collagen or keratin) while improving the overall health of your skin.
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