Skin and the Art of Aging Gracefully

Guest blogger: Board-certified dermatologist Deborah S. Sarnoff, M.D.


As a physician in private practice, I want to empower my patients to know their skin and recognize what it’s telling them before a problem arises. As we age, our skin needs special care, and we now have the tools to understand the role skin plays in overall health and how to keep this health as the years go by.

The truth of the matter is healthy skin is beautiful skin at any age. Although the collagen and connective tissue in the dermis diminishes when we grow older, you can still take precautions to help minimize the sagging and wrinkles that can occur.

Eating right is crucial because your diet affects your skin’s ability to bounce back from environmental insults such as ultraviolet light. These environmental insults can trigger the production of free radicals and create oxidative damage, similar to a piece of metal rusting when it’s left exposed to the elements. By limiting your consumption of low-fiber, high-sugar carbohydrates and sticking to a diet of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, high-fiber grains and poly- and monounsaturated fats, you can ingest all the vital antioxidants you need for healthy skin. These antioxidants will help neutralize free radicals, giving your skin a greater ability to soak up or release water for firmness and flexibility.

Exercise also takes on a manifold importance. It keeps your heart healthy and helps you maintain weight and bone density, and it gives your skin a rosy glow inherent in healthy skin.

Of course, the most important factor is avoiding damaging elements such as the sun, ultraviolet rays and smoking. You can’t reverse the damage from sun and smoking you may have incurred in your youth, but the sooner you adapt your life to limit exposure to both of these elements, the better you will look—and feel—in the long run. Regularly applying sunscreen, even if you only plan to walk from your car to your home or office, will help prevent brown spots, sunburn and skin cancer.

Clean skin is healthy skin and, in addition to sunscreen, choosing a nonabrasive cleanser and more intensive moisturizer will keep even the most delicate skin moist, clear and glowing. Look for products that are less alkaline and full of lipid-replenishing ingredients such as vegetables or fruit oils. When moisturizing, you may need to choose a night, eye or facial cream with effective ingredients such as urea or glycerin. These can fill in the spaces between the skin cells, smoothing the skin like a coat of plaster smoothes a wall before paint is applied.

Although there is no magic solution to turn back the years, our skin can remain as healthy as it was in our youth and continue to be a strong defense for our immune system, no matter what our age.

Board-certified dermatologist Deborah S. Sarnoff, M.D. is one of the country’s preeminent specialists in cosmetic dermatology, laser surgery and Mohs surgery for the treatment of skin cancer. A Clinical Professor of Dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center, she is also Senior Vice President of the Skin Cancer Foundation and in private practice in Manhattan and Long Island. Dr. Sarnoff is also a valued member of the Eucerin Skin First Council.

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