That Youthful Glow
November 14, 2016
What to do daily, monthly and even annually to keep your skin healthy and happy
There's a certain "mountain man" look that develops slowly, as each eye crease sketches its way deeper into corners, after decades of squinting into high-elevation horizons. It's almost as if you can read the miles the tan man's face have ridden, from mountain biking and skiing to horseback riding and fishing. For men, that weathered look can be appealing — a sign of an outdoor life well lived. Unfortunately, the same standard doesn't hold true for women. Media outlets consistently remind us how our faces should remain forever young, as though we've been baking apple pies (but not eating them) indoors our entire lives. But our reality may have included slathering baby oil on our skin and lying on reflective, silver mats as teenagers, or simply skimping on sunscreen, or forgetting to put it on altogether before a day on the trails or river. Fortunately, there's help for all kinds of skin, spanning the spectrum from simple sun-damage prevention to aggressive medical treatments.
But you don't have to choose between being a deeply wrinkled, prematurely aged mountain woman and intervening so much you end up looking like a plastic Hollywood has-been. With proper prevention techniques, ongoing daily regimens, interventions, and, quite honestly, a level of acceptance and mind/body care, you can achieve the most authentic and youthful you.
Skin care for health
While most women initially think of using sunscreen to prevent wrinkles, the reality is: Exposing "unprotected skin to sun leads to skin cancer," says Dr. Karen Nern, a board certified dermatologist.
Ultraviolet radiation is four times stronger at Vail's elevation than at sea level, which makes us more prone to sun damage.
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As a result, women with a family history of skin cancer should get screened in their early 20s, while women with fair skin should visit a dermatologist for a baseline exam in their early 30s, she says. If any suspicious moles or other skin changes appear, it's wise to see a physician as soon as possible.
"Living at high altitude brings many rewards and some added risks, most notable are the higher rates of skin cancer," says Katie Horsman, licensed esthetician and owner of Quench Custom Skin Care.
Even if sun exposure doesn't result in cancer, it does cause changes in DNA, which leads to visible aging.
"(People) think if they don't see sun damage it isn't happening," says Sharon Palm, medical esthetician and owner of
A Wrinkle in Time.
Most skincare professionals recommend a physical-barrier sunscreen, such as zinc or titanium, rather than a chemical-based one.
"Zinc is by far the greatest broad-spectrum protection," Nern says, adding that titanium is also a strong protectant, "and now they have micronized it, so it doesn't turn your skin white."
While these minerals do eventually wear off, they don't "wear out" like chemical sunscreens that rely on molecular changes while on your skin, which limits lifespan more than mineral blocks. In addition, chemical sunscreens can cause allergies or toxic reactions.
For proper protection, Nern recommends applying medical grade zinc- or titanium-based sunscreen every couple hours, even on cloudy days or while driving.
Home skin care can go a long way in keeping skin well hydrated and healthy looking in our dry climate.
Gentle, soap-free cleansers remove daytime makeup and sunscreen and any oil produced overnight. Palm recommends salicylic cleansers for acne and alpha-hydroxy acid cleansers for other skin types.
While some women prefer using a toner after cleansing, Nern says the skin returns to its normal pH level in a short period of time, so toners are optional.
Using topical antioxidants such as lipophilic vitamin C in the morning supports collagen synthesis, Horsman says, adding that a fat-soluble version penetrates more effectively than a water-soluble one. Vitamin E is also a good antioxidant. Research shows that topical antioxidants are necessary, even if women take Vitamin C and E orally, because the oral forms don't reach the skin to trigger collagen production.
Next comes moisturizing. Women can amplify the effects of any moisturizer by adding a hyaluronic gel to bind moisture to skin. Hyaluronic acid serum is a natural skin moisturizer, which helps the skin produce its own hyaluronic acid, Nern says.
"It holds onto water," she says. "We lose half of (our own) hyaluronic acid as we age."
Drinking water throughout the day is also essential for healthy skin.
Horsman likes plant oils, used for centuries to soothe dry skin, psoriasis, cracked lips and frizzy hair. She recommends your favorite blend of argan, carrot or chia seed, extra virgin rosehip, tamanu, evening primrose, jojoba or olive oil.
For added hydration, find moisturizers with ceramide, which repairs skin by helping cells stay "glued" together, thus creating a barrier, Nern says. She also likes shower moisturizers with ceramides and alpha-hydroxy acids, which, when applied while wet, retain the ceramides better.
For eyes, "invest in an eye cream containing peptides," Horsman says. "The bottom line is that they work."
On a weekly basis, women should exfoliate with an alpha hydroxy cleanser
to clean pores and renew skin. Clarisonic devices use sound waves to break up and remove dirt and oil from pores. A weekly retinol is best used at night.
"I see great results when used in conjunction with a time-released glycolic serum, which delivers gradual doses for up to 24 hours without shocking the skin," Horsman says.
And finally — sunscreen.
"Eighty percent of skin aging is caused by the sun … you can burn in the mountains in as little as 6 minutes," Nern says. "Sunscreen is the No. 1 (defense)."
Outside the home
"Whether you hike, bike, ski, boat, golf, paddleboard, fish, or all of the above, your skin needs extra care," Horsman says.
That extra care ranges from the low end of the treatment spectrum, such as facials, which are the least impactful to skin, to microderm abrasion and chemical peels, which are mild interventions, to more extreme CO2 lasers, which require up to two weeks of "social downtime," due to extreme reddening.
Microderm abrasion and gentle chemical peels stimulate new cell growth over time, Palm says.
Intense pulse light employs bursts of light to target brown and red spots in the skin. Fractional resurfacing "injures skin, like aerating a lawn," Nern says, explaining how the anti-aging treatment causes the skin to "heal," thus helping with brown spots, wrinkles and precancerous skin changes. Each modality requires downtime and skin protection while healing.
Then there's the world of injectables: fillers and Botox.
"As we age, we lose volume in the face, which can result in a hollow or sunken look," Horsman says. "This can be resolved by adding a filler."
Fillers are biocompatible products, which also address deeper lines and wrinkles and last anywhere from six months to two years. As they dissolve, they can "wake up cells that (create) collagen," Nern says. "Injecting fillers stretches cells that stopped (stretching due to aging), and when they're stretched again, they start producing collagen again."
They tend to be a bit more expensive than Botox, which prevents wrinkles when used at an early age. When lines in foreheads or between eyebrows, eyes or lips develop, Botox softens them. It also helps sagging necklines and bands around the neck. It tends to last about three months. Because it has been used for medical conditions, from migraines to stroke and spastic bladder, it has been thoroughly researched and deemed safe in cosmetic and medical doses.
Choose your own way
We can control some things, but not others; still, we always have choices.
"Genetics are a really big factor in how we age," Palm says. "That's where all these tools come into play, to help those of us who weren't so blessed genetically."
That said, not everyone needs — or wants — to see a specialist or go the lengths with Botox, fillers or laser treatments.
"If you do nothing else, make sure you have a good home regimen," Palm says.
And, as Horsman points out, simply taking time to smile, take a walk, read, meditate, or connect spiritually will make you look and feel better.
"Love and accept your beautiful self," she says. "Practice gratitude; it is a beautiful thing.”
The all-natural route
Plant oils for healthy skin
"Eighty percent of skin aging is caused by the sun … you can burn in the mountains in as little as 6 minutes. Sunscreen is the No. 1 (defense)." Dr. Karen Nern
"If you do nothing else, make sure you have a good home regimen." Sharon Palm
By Kimberly Nicoletti