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Beauty Through the Ages

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Your skin doesn't magically age overnight or on a certain birthday. Aging is a gradual process that you can partially control with proper lifestyle and diet choices. Even if you have made some mistakes in the past, there is no reason to despair..

Your skin doesn't magically age overnight or on a certain birthday. Aging is a gradual process that you can partially control with proper lifestyle and diet choices. Even if you have made some mistakes in the past, there is no reason to despair. Your body and skin is very forgiving. So, no matter what the date on your birth certificate, see if you can pick up a few new tricks.

20s and Up...

Your 20s are all about establishing good skin habits because a lifetime of bad choices can accelerate skin aging and lead to disease that can spoil more than your looks.

Clear, healthy skin begins with good nutrition. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially those with vitamins C and E for antioxidant protection. Make sure to drink plenty of water to keep skin hydrated. Exercise will help circulate those beneficial nutrients to the skin.

Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum and follow each cocktail with an H2O chaser to counteract the dehydrating quality of the drink. Make sure skin cleansing products are alcohol-free: opt instead for a witch hazel toner or a cider vinegar splash. In fact, take time to learn about all ingredients in skin care and makeup.

Since as much as 90 percent of the signs of aging are actually proof of sun overexposure, limit your sun worshipping. You may think that a tan looks quite attractive on you today, but the effects of skin damage are cumulative and may not be obvious for years. Think of your sunscreen (SPF 15 or more) as the ultimate in delayed gratification!

If you smoke cigarettes, quit! Studies prove that cigarette smoking causes aging, possibly because it reduces the blood supply to the skin and inhibits the body's ability to heal itself.

Be sure to moisturize your face every night before bed. Make sure you get adequate rest. Cell growth and repair are enhanced by sleep.

30s and Up...

Hmmm. Not many wrinkles yet, but at this age, your skin may seem to have lost its youthful glow. This is because the dead skin cells aren't shedding quickly enough anymore, and the result is a dull, almost gray appearance.

Although your skin renews itself every 28 days by shedding dead cells, this process becomes less efficient with age as a result of sun damage, inadequate exercise and a poor diet. Exfoliation is the process of literally removing the dead cells to uncover fresh new skin underneath. You can exfoliate once a week for dry, sensitive skin, up to three times per week for oilier skin.

Still smoking? The action of pursing your lips perhaps hundreds of times per day leads to deep lines in your lips and sunken cheeks that emphasize aging.

Find a way to relax! When you are stressed, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol, which causes levels of the healing hormone DHEA to fall. Also known as the anti-aging hormone, DHEA promotes healthy cardiovascular activity, proper insulin metabolism, the repair of tissues and proper immune function. In short, stress will make you older before your time.

To soften and nourish your skin, mash half of an avocado, spread it on your face and allow it to dry. Rinse. Avocado contains essential fatty acids that help to prevent premature aging. In fact, eat the other half. It's great for helping to eliminate unhealthy fats and the free radicals responsible for so much body aging.

40s and Up...

Menopause can also play a role in skin aging: women who have recently experienced menopause lose the equivalent of a small pea's worth of collagen each month. As a result, the skin starts to look loose and lax, and appears thinner. Gravity is also at work, causing the skin to sag.

Wrinkles tend to make themselves known in your forties, particularly around the eyes. If you haven't done it yet, invest in a good moisturizing eye cream. Watch for a reaction to any cream that you put on your face, as irritation may worsen the appearance of wrinkles by drying out the skin.

Eat foods that promote high antioxidant power in the blood, including prunes, raisins, berries, kale and spinach.

Along with insulin, free radicals and cortisol, sugar is one of the four pillars of aging. Try to reduce or eliminate sugar from your diet.

Daily use of a topical vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid will minimize the appearance of wrinkles by neutralizing the free radicals that damage skin tissue. Note that drugstore and cosmetic counter varieties often contain an ineffective derivative. If unsure of a product, contact the manufacturer.

50s and Up...

Older skin is itchier skin. Changes in oil production, hormonal imbalances and thinning of the epidermis cause the skin to feel dry and itchy. Aging skin also becomes more sensitive to fabric, preservatives and detergents.

For dry skin, make sure you're getting enough essential fatty acids by incorporating unrefined, cold-pressed flax seed oil into the diet. Add it to salads or take it as a supplement. Flax seed oil contains omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and omega-6 linoleic acid; these are converted in the body into hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which support skin health.

If you've got the itch, bathe less often and use a gentler cleanser. Try soaking in a warm bath (not hot) without soap. Add five drops of lavender oil or oat extract to bath water, but be careful. Adding oils can make the tub slippery. After your bath, apply an aloe vera cream.

If you can't tame the itch with moisture cream and it's keeping you up at night, see your health-care provider. Too much scratching can lead to increased inflammation and infection. Severe, flaky, cracked skin could be a sign of a more serious problem.

60s and Up...

As collagen and elastin deplete, the skin becomes thinner and the blood vessel walls become less sturdy. Loss of fat and connective tissue weakens the support around blood vessels, making them more susceptible to injury and bruising.

Applying pressure to the injured area immediately after a bump sometimes will prevent a bruise from appearing. Bruising is also sometimes caused by disease or by medications that interfere with blood clotting. Pay attention to recurrent bruising, or bruising in areas always covered by clothing.

Age spots have nothing to do with aging at all, but they become more apparent as we age and are often a direct result of sun damage. They occur when an elevated number of melanin-containing cells from the bottom layer of the skin rise to the surface and darken the skin. Also known as liver spots, these spots can signify a deeper problem.

There are fading creams on the market that might help to diminish the appearance of the spot, but your best bet, now as always, is to avoid excessive sun exposure. Be sure to maintain a diet high in vegetable protein, raw fruits and vegetables and avoid sugar, caffeine and processed foods.

Most importantly, remember that aging and wrinkles are inevitable. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to make sure that they are laugh lines!

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