By Aimée Leabon
You know the basics when it comes to younger-looking skin: Wearing broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen and using a soap-free face wash are just two of the essentials. But what about the lesser known causes of ageing? “Women are exposed to a range of lifestyle factors that affect their skin,” explains Prevention adviser Dr Stephen Shumack. “But it’s also important to do your own research into anti-ageing products, rather than succumbing to marketing hype.” Here, we answer the most common questions patients ask their dermatologists.
Do new breakthroughs really make a difference?
While they may sound impressive, be wary of creams claiming to contain ‘stem cells’, ‘collagen’ or ‘antioxidants’. “Many cosmetic companies will find the latest buzzword in anti-ageing and develop products around that,” says Dr Phillip Artemi, spokesperson for the Australasian College of Dermatologists. “Collagen is too big a molecule to penetrate your skin, and while there’s a lot of research surrounding stem cells, they won’t penetrate your skin and stimulate collagen either.” Instead, focus on feeding your body a low-kilojoule diet, as “this can help slow down the signs of ageing,” Artemi advises. Keeping your kilojoule intake low increases a protein called sirtuin, which regulates metabolism and plays a role in the longevity of cells.
What’s the number one skincare advice for someone who’s 40 plus?
“Using a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ and abstaining from smoking,” says Artemi. “And, if you have excessive lines, hollows or wrinkles, you need a prescription retinoid.” Retinoids are a class of drug that are vitamin A related—they break down to retinoic acid, which acts on cell receptors to improve fine lines, sun damage and uneven skin tone. “Over-the-counter cosmetics that contain retinol are usually not concentrated enough,” explains Artemi. “With a prescription retinoid, you know it has an adequate dose of the active ingredient, and they’ve undergone clinical trials like all other prescription medications.”
Can facelifts ever look completely natural?
“You don’t have to look stretched and tight—it comes down to the expertise of the surgeon,” explains Dr Warwick Nettle, a cosmetic plastic surgeon from Silkwood Medical in Sydney. Make sure your surgeon is properly qualified—they should be a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. Ask to see examples of their work and be realistic about the results. “If you go from 50 to looking like you’re 30, it’s going to be obvious,” adds Artemi.
Do anti-ageing supplements work?
There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that swallowing antioxidant supplements will have any benefit for our skin, according to Artemi. Applying them topically won’t reverse the signs of ageing either. “Despite the antioxidant properties, it doesn’t translate into any benefit to your skin. Vitamins A, C and E protect skin from free radicals and can improve texture, but they won’t help you look younger.”
The most over-hyped anti-ageing treatment?
For starters, shelve anything that claims to be Botox-in-a-bottle. “There isn’t a product that can penetrate the outer layer (the armour of the skin), get through to the dermis (which contains collagen, elastin and blood vessels), hit the fatty layer, break through the fibrous tissue, then land onto the muscle and inactivate that muscle the way Botox can,” says Artemi. “These products have ingredients which dehydrate the skin making it feel tighter, and, if you use this every day for a month or two, you’ll create irritation.”
The most surprising cause of skin ageing?
Take the Tim Tams out of the trolley! According to a study from the British Journal of Dermatology, snacking on sugary treats can cause collagen and elastin (fibrous proteins that keep skin firm and elastic) to become dry and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging. The good news? It’s never too late to reverse the effects. Fill your fridge with foods rich in vitamin C, like strawberries and cos lettuce—they increase cell turnover and boost production of collagen fibres to help keep skin smooth, tight and toned.