Youthful, radiant skin is something we all want, right? But how do you achieve it? Healthy skin comes from within, and what is good for healthy internal organs such as the heart and brain is also good for your skin.

To preserve your natural beauty, it’s essential that you practice sensible daily maintenance, including proper skin care, a healthy diet, regular exercise and sun protection. To help you understand skin changes, let’s first review the anatomy of the skin.

The skin’s outmost layer is called the epidermis, and it’s made of skin cells that are at the end of their life cycle. Over time, changes in the epidermis lead to loss of smoothness and variability in skin pigmentation, such as brown or white spots.The layer of skin underneath the epidermis is called the dermis, and its key components are collagen, elastin and healthy ground substance. The skin’s structural fiber, collagen is responsible for the skin’s firmness and elasticity.

Finally, the subcutaneous tissue beneath the dermis is where volume loss or gain takes place. As we age, collagen production slows down along with the skin’s natural self-repair functions. This breakdown of collagen is what leads to visible signs of aging such as wrinkles, fine lines and folds in the skin.

The skin surrounding the eyes and mouth is especially delicate, and thus more likely to show signs of aging first. Collagen reduction can also be accelerated by long-term sun exposure and smoking.

Fortunately, maintaining youthful skin isn’t as hard as you think or something you have to have “the right genes” to do. There are a variety of effective skin care products that are vitamin-enriched and contain collagen-building proteins, among other beneficial active ingredients. There are also several medical procedures that can help rejuvenate the skin.

Keeping your skin clean and hydrated is the first step to warding off the signs of aging.

Cleansing
Use a gentle facial cleanser to keep the skin clean and clear. Avoid soaps, especially bar soaps, as they may cause dryness and damage the skin barrier. Instead, opt for mild soap-free cleansers, preferably in liquid form. These cleansers will gently remove dirt, excess oil, bacteria and cosmetics without harming the skin. In addition to dirt and other impurities, dead skin cells can also build up on the surface of the skin, causing it to look dull and rough.
Exfoliators can help slough off these excess dead skin cells, revealing the healthy skin underneath. For oily areas of the skin, consider using a toner to remove any excess oil after cleansing. Toners and astringents are useful for cleansing the skin and shrinking the pores. If you have acne-prone skin, look for acne-fighting cleansers. These products contain antibacterial agents and other active ingredients that are helpful in preventing breakouts. They come in a variety of forms, such as liquid cleansers, foaming cleansers and medicated pads. For extra help, acne spot treatments can be applied to pimples and blemishes. Helpful tip: When washing your skin, remember to use cool-to-warm water, as hot water can actually dry out the skin.

Moisturizing
To keep your skin hydrated, make sure to incorporate moisturizing into your daily skin care routine. Moisturizers perform several important functions. They replenish both lost water and water-binding ingredients (such as glycerin), which helps to restore and maintain the skin’s natural moisture levels. This helps to plump up the skin, which can greatly reduce the appearance of fine lines. Moisturizers can also protect your skin from harsh, dry weather that can irritate and dry out the skin.
Frequent application of moisturizing creams or lotions can help keep the skin soft, smooth and evenly textured. As an added bonus, many moisturizing products now offer protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays, which can cause sunburn (UVB rays) and premature aging (UVA rays).
Look for SPF 15 or higher. If you have acne or oily skin, select moisturizers that are non-comedogenic, which means they will not clog your pores. If you have sensitive skin, choose a moisturizer that is hypoallergenic or fragrance-free. This will help prevent allergic or adverse reactions.

Simple Sun Protection
Sunlight plays a major role in skin aging. Overexposure to UV rays accelerates the breakdown of collagen and causes damage to the epidermis, so it’s important to take preventive measures before spending time outdoors. Reducing your time in the sun is perhaps the easiest way to avoid damage to your skin caused by UV rays. When outdoors, set a time limit and seek shade when possible. Also keep in mind that UV radiation is the strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sunscreens are an essential part of protection against the sun. Look for sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum,” as they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Make sure to apply generously and frequently during prolonged exposure and to use SPF 15 or higher. You can also avoid direct sun exposure by covering up. Wraparound sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and clothing that covers your arms and legs can offer extra protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Serums and other skin care products containing retinol (a form of vitamin A) can help increase collagen production, which helps retain the skin’s firmness. (Retin-A is a prescription treatment, but retinols are OTC.)

Anti-wrinkle creams that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), copper peptides vitamin C and other antioxidants can make your skin look visibly younger. Moisturizers containing silicone can help to fill in and seal fine lines. Silicone creates a more even surface for makeup application, and the effect is often long-lasting.

Regular use of multi-purpose products containing emollients, exfoliants and skin-lightening agents can improve the skin’s texture, even out skin tone and reduce the appearance of blemishes and wrinkles. Chemical peels, such as alpha-hydroxy and trichloroacetic peels, are commonly used to rejuvenate the surface of the skin. They are effective for improving the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and mild scars. Liquid nitrogen cryotherapy is useful for brown keratosis and other brown lesions such as lentigos (age and sun spots.) Dermal fillers are commonly used to treat signs of aging.

Collagen injections help correct minor imperfections in facial skin – including laugh lines, wrinkles, creases, crow’s feet and acne scars – and to restore volume to areas such as the cheeks and lips.

Hyaluronic acid injections are probably the most commonly used fillers for smoothing out crow’s feet and forehead lines. Laser treatments such as C02, Diode and Nd:YAG lasers are used to resurface the skin, which can help to reduce wrinkling. Ruby lasers for removal of brown lesions. Irregular pigment can have a significant aging effect. Botox, another injection-based treatment option, has been found effective in smoothing out wrinkles in the skin.

Eat for Health…and Beauty
It all starts on the inside. In addition to good skin care practices, eating right is essential to aging right. Eating a balanced diet that includes green leafy vegetables and eating fewer refined carbohydrates can actually make a marked improvement in the appearance of your skin. Foods such as broccoli, carrots and berries contain high amounts of powerful antioxidants, which are helpful in fighting free radicals and repairing damaged cells. Antioxidants also help the skin produce more collagen and elastin, which help maintain skin firmness. Sleep On It Have dark circles and bags under your eyes? Well, your sleeping habits may be to blame. Sleep deprivation can not only cause you to feel tired, it can also cause you to look tired. When you deprive yourself of sleep, your skin cells are not given the opportunity to repair themselves, which will cause your skin to age more quickly. Ultimately, you will appear older than you actually are, and nobody wants that. So be kind to your skin and allow yourself at least seven to eight hours of peaceful slumber every night.

Avoid Dehydrating Drinks
If you regularly indulge in caffeinated drinks such as soda or coffee, you may be unknowingly doing damage to your skin. Caffeine acts as a diuretic, which forces your body to get rid of water and can lead to skin dryness and dehydration. Instead, cut back on caffeinated beverages, and get your recommended eight glasses of water a day.

Don’t Light Up
In addition to sun exposure, smoking is a main culprit of premature aging. Smoking causes the small blood vessels under the skin to constrict, which in turn decreases blood flow and, over time, causes wrinkles and other signs of premature aging. Smoking also puts you at risk for a number of serious and life-threatening health issues, including cancer and heart disease.