How to Reduce Wrinkles and Get Clear Skin Without Botox
The expectation is out there that we're all supposed to look great. Wrinkles, sunspots and sagging skin just aren't socially acceptable anymore.
It's hard to say whether it's due to the explosion of media outlets or our cultural worship of celebrity, but sometimes it feels like we're all supposed to have flawless skin and fabulous abs (and a fairy tale wedding to someone you just met). Luckily the easiest part, clear skin, is actually obtainable for us regular folks.
The pressure doesn't just come from glossy magazines covers at the checkout stand, there are personal makeover shows on cable in which people practically insist their frumpy friends get a style makeover. Then there are shows like the Biggest Loser which promote healthy living but add to the pressure to look good on the outside.
Male Stars Aren't Helping
And it's not just women. Sure we're used to seeing female models with perfectly clear skin when we peruse the faces on newsstands but we can't forget about the explosion of men's health magazines not to mention certain television personalities shamelessly debuting their Botoxed faces on national TV. What's a boy to do?
"Age Spots" at 30?
It seems age spots aren't for grandmothers anymore. These days it's not uncommon for women (and men) in their early 30s to start showing blemishes on the cheeks, hands and upper lip. The upper lip can be the worst because from a distance a series of small freckles concentrated there can look like a mustache. In light-skinned people big brown spots or heavy groups of freckles are very noticeable against otherwise pale complexions.
And in darker skinned people excessive pigment can highlight old acne scars or expose underlying areas of uneven skin coloration (melasma). Let's “face" it (pun intended), uneven or blemished skin is very un-celebrity like!
Sometimes skin issues show up as patches or light and dark skin instead of spots or freckles. When larger areas of skin are affected it's known as melasma. Sometimes the causes are genetic and affect people with Hispanic, Mediterranean and African backgrounds. And another cause is hormonal which can often be tied to pregnancy or use of birth control pills. With hormone-caused melasma the good news is that it often fades with after the baby is born or if you stop taking the pill.
Wrinkles at Frown Lines and Brows, Oh My!
Wrinkles develop as skin cells age and the collagen in the cell doesn't grow as strong and hold as tight as it used to. Sunlight exposure can help weaken collagen and skin bonds as well. Squinting in bright sunlight can also help makes those temporary furrows into permanent wrinkles and “crow's feet".
So What's the Problem?
The problem is the sun. It's not your friend. It's more like your “friend enemy". On the one hand it makes you look golden and helps the body process vitamin D. But under the surface it is drying out your skin which causes wrinkles; and it's making you squint giving you crow’s feet. And the melanin in your skin is soaking up the rays like it's supposed to, but when it doesn't do it evenly you get those brown spots that used to be called “Age Spots" (hyper pigmentation).
How A Healthy Lifestyle Can Harm Your Looks
A major plus of all this focus on health is that people are learning to watch their Body Mass Index (BMI) and cities and towns are making it easier to get exercise by building and promoting bike lanes, river walks and green space to get people outdoors exercising. And have you seen the strollers kids have these days? Moms are pushing (or running with) baby buggies with tires like 4x4s.
Clear Skin Secrets for the Rest of Us
There are a couple obtainable solutions for those of us who don't have easy access to Botox shots and professional make up artists.
Avoid the Sun
The first step is good old prevention. As the saying goes, “an ounce or prevention is worth a pound of cure". In the case of freckles, spots and uneven skin colors this means getting out o f the sun or using sunscreen. The Center for Disease Control (cdc. gov) recommends a sunscreen that blocks UV-A and UV-B rays and is SPF 15 at least.
The Truth Behind SPF Ratings
Interestingly, the SPF in sunscreen refers to the blockage of UV-B rays, which are the rays that cause sunburn. However, it's the UV-A rays that get under the skin and are responsible for wrinkles and skin cancer. The best way to block UV-B rays is to look for a sunscreen with avobenzone or Mexoyl which block these rays.
It's All About the UV-B
The absolute best skin protection is to cover up and avoid the sun as much as possible by wearing a hat and something to cover exposed areas and staying in the shade when outdoors or on the beach. Now you know why spray tans are so popular with the Hollywood set!
The OTC Way
OTC is “over the counter" for those of you not ITK ("in-the-know"). There are readily available skin lightening creams that contain 2% to 3% hydroquinone, a medicine that reduces the amount of pigment in skin cells.
Sometimes these creams are called skin “bleaching" products. They do “bleach" as in the verb because they remove color by causing the cells to produce less melanin (the part of the cell that soaks up sunlight and makes brown pigment) but they don't contain chlorine bleach as the term might imply.
Over the counter hydroquinone creams can take many weeks or months of twice-daily applications to have an effect and sun should definitely be avoided during this time. There are also prescription-strength products that contain up to 4% hydroquinone to speed up the process (more on that below).
Diet and Natural Applications
There are many diet related theories and natural homeopathic remedies for altering skin problems. Solutions we've seen include applying castor oil, boiled, peeled and ground almonds or lemon juice or egg whites to the face. Eating Bilberry herb is supposed to help too. And these are just a few of the natural solutions out there.
Light, medium or deep chemical peels will help with wrinkles and brown spots too by getting rid of saggy or overly-pigmented skin. Lighter peels like glycolic peels may take a few applications but are fast and easy to recover from.
Medium peels like TCA peels work a little harder on wrinkle and dark skin spots by removing more skin, but these peels can leave you red-faced and peeling for several weeks.
Deep peels and laser treatments are very effective by almost obliterating cells, therefore be ready for some pain and up to a week out of downtime. Recovery will be more than redness and peeling. In fact, it might include scabs and bandages as deep peels involve serious skin removal.
More Powerful Skin Care Options
If you don't have time to boil and peel almonds to apply to your face, or lack days and weeks to recover from scabby skin peels or slow-acting OTC products applied night and day, a trip to the doctor may be the way to go.
A visit to a dermatologist can yield good information on exactly what's going on with a less-than-perfect complexion and will usually lead to a discussion of effective treatment options.
After a doctor's examination and diagnosis prescription options might include the above-mentioned 4% hydroquinone, a vitamin A-based product called trentinoin that treats wrinkles, acne scars and blemishes, or a powerful vitamin C-based solution that works to counter wrinkles and spots.
For more information on tretinoin and 4% hydroquinone products like Obagi Clear , including user reviews and before and after photos, visit clearskinblemishes.com.
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