This is an exclusive extract from Rescu Me: The makeover guide for a life more fabulous by Bahar Etminan.
What’s happening to skin at your age and what it needs
Anti-ageing is basically about fuelling your skin to work as it should, before natural rejuvenation starts to slow down, and before the structure of the skin begins to naturally degrade. For the most part, skin-ageing is not chronological – the skin symptoms we recognise as ‘ageing’, from lines and pigmentation to sagging, are signs of damage caused by external factors that surround our lives, like sun exposure, pollution and the environment. The good news is that this means there is a lot you can do about it.
Your timeline – what you need and when
At 20, your skin is still really good at making the fresh collagen that keeps your face dewy, soft and supple. You won’t really show many signs of sun damage unless you’ve been over-exposed to sun. In your early 20s, your skin’s best friends are SPF, to protect your skin from the UV that accelerates free radical damage, a moisturiser that keeps you hydrated in summer and locks in that moisture during winter, and a good cleansing regime to handle all the make up you’re wearing. From your late 20s, collagen production starts to drop off naturally, so I’d start focusing on antioxidants such as vitamin C and peptides that promote healthy collagen and elasticity.
From now until whatever age you get to, you’re on the spectrum collagen-loss – someone in her 30s needs to do a more active treatment with ingredients such as vitamin C, vitamin A, peptides, and a DNA enzyme complex, and someone in her 60s will need to do the same thing, essentially, but with higher doses of active ingredients.
Your 30’s to 40’s
Whenever you start seeing lines and wrinkles (remember, because signs of ageing are caused more by exposure to the elements than by the clock, they can show up any time after your early 20s), it’s time for DNA repair with active ingredients such as DNA enzyme complex and peptides. Focus on skin lotions and creams that give you antioxidants and start a vitamin A treatment at night time for extra skin clarity, more collagen and to get fresh new skin showing up faster.
Your 50’s and over
When women get to 50, the signs of ageing show even more significantly. Now it’s not just because of the skin and our loss of collagen and elastin, it’s because the structures that shape and support our faces have started to deteriorate. Our muscles are not as firm and resilient as they used to be and our hormone levels change. The facial fat pads start to shrink (example cheeks and mid face), some fat pads experience hypertrophy (become larger, e.g. the jowl area) changing the shape of the whole face.
Even deeper beneath the skin, the skull is starting to remodel. The bone under our cheeks resorbs and becomes flatter and the bone of the lower third of the face shrinks. As bones change throughout as well as after menopause, some women’s will start changing when they are in their 40s. Sometimes the changes in bone structure are genetically coded (you suddenly realise you look exactly like your mother did at 50!) or quickened by serious and prolonged illness such as cancer, chronic viral disease, autoimmune disorders or even something as simple as ongoing lack of nutrition and exercise.
At this stage, I never recommend that clients stop with good skin care, however it’s now that fillers become a necessity if they wish to maintain a youthful facial structure and to prevent deterioration of the ageing face. In some patients we begin this step much earlier due to genetic predisposition to premature ageing or to unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking.
Pigmentation, dullness and uneven skin tone are some of the major signs of ageing, but irregularities in melanin (the pigment that gives skin colour) can happen at almost any age. Pigmentation and discolouration are caused by trauma and damage, mostly from UV, or by hormonal inflammation. When under assault, skin makes melanin (the dark colour) to protect itself – but when a skin cell is damaged, it behaves erratically and makes much more pigment than it needs to protect itself and you end up with patches and spots.
When that happens, even when the source of the assault (like the sun) is removed from the equation, cells are not able to rectify of their own accord – you need skincare such as a chemical exfoliant containing alpha (AHA) and beta (BHA) hydroxy acids, serums and moisturisers containing AHAs and BHA and vitamin A to remove the melanin-stained cells from the skin’s surface. Also look for other active ingredients such as vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B3, pro-vitamin B5, oxy-resveratrol and Melissa Officinalis to put the brakes on melanin production deeper within the skin. You can speed up the lightening or brightening results with lasers and peels at a clinic.
Hormonal pigmentation, like chloasma or melasma, can be triggered by the pill or pregnancy, though sun damage certainly makes it worse. It’s one of the hardest skin issues to correct and you will need a professional’s help. It can be successfully treated with laser and targeted topical application of Vitamin A cream, which increases cell turnover, shedding the old cells and it normalises the function of the cells, and which you can use while on the pill, or a botanical ingredients such as Waltheria indica leaf extract (from tropical plants) that you can put on your skin when you are pregnant.
The tendency to develop this kind of discolouration can run in families, so if it’s in your history, I suggest investigating a treatment that you can begin before or when you think your hormones could change. As with any sign of damage or ageing, the pre-emptive strike now is always better than a catch-up cure later.
Founder and Medical Director of All Saints Cosmedical Clinics in Sydney and also The Medical Dean of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery, Dr Hkeik has revolutionised anti-ageing in Australia and his concept of The Three Triangles of Beauty has become a guide for other doctors in the game.