Dermatologist explains what you can do to make your skin look younger fast.
Thirty years of examining people’s skin gives me a good vantage point to know what works and doesn’t with adult skin care. Common skin care mistakes can add years to how old you look. The most common age-adding skin care mistakes I see are:
- Not exfoliating;
- Not moisturizing the arms and legs; and
- Not noticing and treating seborrhea.
The words ‘crusty’ and ‘old’ fit together all too well for a reason. It’s because our skin gets crusty, rough and dry as we age unless we intervene. Intervention is easy and won’t consume all that time when you could be flossing, nor will it break the bank. Here’s what to do to take years off how your skin looks:
Mistake #1: Not exfoliating
Exfoliation becomes more and more important with age. Dead skin cells naturally slough off less with age. A built-up dead skin cell layer is dull, chalky and flaky. Have you noticed the ‘snow drift’ when you take off your long pants in the winter? Young skin has a polish and sheen that says ‘youthful vitality.’ It’s soft and never flaky. The flaky, dull skin of age happens from head to toe. Facial skin gets crusty as dead cells build up and are trapped in sebum. Arms and legs are flaky and appear dry. Age barnacles (seborrheic keratosis) become thick, brown and crusty. The soles of the feet become thick, hard and rough, too.
Simply using a physically-exfoliating shower cloth with a gentle soap twice a week in the shower will help. My favorite is the Salux Japanese Shower Cloth. You can throw it over your back to exfoliate and polish age barnacles there. You can fold it for arms, legs and feet – those places that are easier to reach. Physical facial exfoliation can be done with exfoliating scrubs or sponges. My top scrubs are Bamboo and Clay Exfoliation Scrub used twice a week or the Triple Action Exfoliation Scrub used in the morning. Alternatively, you can use a Facial Exfoliation Sponge with your favorite facial cleanser.
Adding an alpha hydroxy acid moisturizer to your skin care routine provides chemical exfoliation to enhance the physical exfoliation for more dramatic results. The best AHA for this is glycolic acid. It loosens the ‘glue’ that prevents the dead cells from sloughing. It also compacts the skin’s dead cell layer to create a youthful sheen to the surface.
In addition, it stimulates skin to produce hyaluronic acid, the natural water-holding compound that keeps skin dewy. This, too, is lost with age. Finally, glycolic acid will reduce age barnacles and age spots. Options include the Glycolic Acid Face Cream and my Ultra-Fast Triple Action Body Smoothing Kit. The combination of physical exfoliation and chemical AHA exfoliation takes years off your skin’s appearance.
I am 88 years old but only recently asked about skin care products and Dr. Bailey recommended a facial scrub (Bamboo and Clay Exfoliation Scrub) and glycolic acid face cream (Glycolic Acid Face Cream 15%). I thought that I noticed an improvement but until friends and my hairdresser began to compliment me on my looks, telling me that my skin looked glowing, did I realize what the difference it made. Thanks Dr. Bailey for taking a few years off my face. Hope you will share this experience with others.Florence B, Bodega Bay CA
Whether you add glycolic acid to your skin care routine or not, be certain to always moisturize freshly exfoliated skin to create a polished and hydrated feel and prevent dryness – another age-related skin challenge.
Mistake #2: Not moisturizing the arms and legs
Moisturizing skin becomes more and more important as we age. Skin structure and physiologic changes lead to skin dryness over the age. By the age of 55, every adult notices this on their own skin. Dry skin looks crepey, flaky and dull. It is also prone to asteatotic and nummular eczema – an itchy red rash that happens only in “the elderly.” Simply applying a rich hydrating moisturizer after the bath or shower, or washing your face or hands, will solve the problem. Skin will appear dewy, soft and more youthful. You’ll lower your risk of age-related dry skin eczema, too. Great head-to-toe moisturizers for both men and women include my Natural Face and Body Lotion and Natural Body Butter Cream.
Mistake #3: Not noticing and treating seborrhea
Seborrhea becomes common with age. On the scalp it's called dandruff, which everyone is familiar with. On the face, it manifests as flaking, ‘dryness,’ redness and even crusting in the brows, along the nose, under the nose piece of your glasses, in the beard or mustache, and along the chin. Ears suffering from seborrhea are flaky, crusty and can itch. Crusty red facial, ear and scalp skin looks less well-groomed and can age your appearance.
Seborrhea is easy to address. There is no cure, but there are tricks to tame it. Using a shampoo or facial cleanser with pyrithione zinc or ketoconazole will help. My patients have had excellent results using high concentration green tea cream. Options include my Facial Redness Relief Kit (Facial pyrithione zinc soap and Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy) and Foaming Zinc Cleanser with a Scalp Scrubber for scalp and ear dandruff. Stubborn seborrhea responds to over the counter anti-yeast creams such as clotrimazole. Your doctor can provide prescription topical medicines to treat seborrhea that won’t clear up with these tips.
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James William D, Berger Timothy G, et. al., Andrews Diseases of the Skin, 12th Edition, Elsevier, Inc, 2016, page 76-77