1. Slather on the sunscreen
We know, we know—you’ve heard it a million times, but wearing sunscreen is the single easiest way to look younger for life. “Ninety percent of wrinkles are from sun exposure,” says Day. “It’s so much easier to prevent the damage than it is to fix it afterwards.” That means no slacking during winter months either, when rays are just as strong and can reflect off of buildings and sidewalks. Look for a formula that offers broad-spectrum protection to guard against UVA rays (the ones that cause premature aging) and UVB rays (one of the main causes of skin cancer). Try Philosophy Shelter Broad Spectrum Sunscreen in SPF30 (£22.50, Selfridges).
2. Clean your makeup brushes
A British study found that 72% of women never wash their brushes or sponges, even though they collect dirt and bacteria which can cause breakouts. “You should wash loose powder brushes every two to three weeks, and those used to apply foundation once a week,” says Jessica Wu, an LA-based dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. Mix a couple of drops of gentle facial cleanser or shampoo and lukewarm water in a cup, swish your brushes around, rinse with lukewarm water, pat dry, and lay flat to air dry.
3. Munch on mixed nuts
Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which increases skin elasticity and may decrease skin cancer, according to recent studies. Throw in walnuts—which are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids—to lower inflammation and put the brakes on breakouts, says Molly Morgan, Board Certified Sports Specialist Dietitian and author of The Skinny Rules. Finally, add some macadamias. “They’re full of high quality oils and fatty acids that aid in skin repair and rejuvenation” says integrative practitioner Isaac Eliaz. Aim for a handful of each daily to reap their pore-perfecting benefits.
4. Start using serum
“It’s much more concentrated than cream or lotion, so you tend to only need a small amount daily to see results,” says Fran Cook-Bolden, Director of New York’s Skin Specialty Dermatology. Look for one with antioxidants, the skin’s major defense against free radicals and stress, and pentapeptides, which are a must-have when it comes to boosting collagen, the support structure that gives skin a firm, youthful appearance. Don’t worry about spending a fortune on the ingredients; one of Cook-Bolden’s favorites is Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum (£24.45, Cosmetics Now), a sheer formula whose small molecules can dive deep into pores. For best results, apply to freshly washed skin; follow with sunscreen or moisturiser to lock in hydration.
5. Sanitize your Smartphone
According to a Stanford University study, that iPhone you can’t keep your hands off of can get more germ-infested than a toilet in a public toilet. In fact, the glass touchscreens on mobile devices are so good at spreading viruses that sharing them may be almost as bad as sneezing in someone’s face. Here’s a scary thought: All those germs land right on your cheek and jawline every time you chat away, causing spots and irritation. To keep your phone (and face) bacteria-free, wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes a few times a day.
6. Put your skin stash in proper order
The sequence in which you apply your products could be even more important than the products themselves. Reach for those with the most active ingredients as soon as you wash and pat skin dry. “These are the most powerful, so you want them to come into direct contact with your skin,” says Syed Amiry, a dermatologist practicing in Reston, Virginia. If you’re using more than one active product (like an antioxidant serum and Retin-A), start with the thinner one. “Anything that’s water soluble should go first, followed by the product that’s thicker and creamier. If you do it in reverse, the heavier cream will block the ingredients of the lighter one from penetrating the skin, so they won’t have any impact.” If you need moisturiser, it’s next up in line, followed up by—what else?—sunscreen each morning.
7. Drop dairy from your diet (even that little bit in your latte)
“Dairy products—even those that are organic—contain cow hormones that stimulate your oil glands and your pores, leading to acne,” explains Wu. Beware of hidden dairy in foods like salad dressing, protein bars, and shakes. And if you have to go there, stick to skimmed milk. “The hormones are concentrated in the fat, so it’s your best option.”
8. Start using retinol
“Everyone should use retinol,” says New York dermatologist Doris Day. “It has decades of clinical data to support its efficacy, helps skin cell turnover, and boosts collagen production to keep skin firm and youthful.” Most dermatologists agree that if you’re only going to use one anti-aging product, prescription Retin-A (and even highstreet versions like No Wrinkles Extreme Moisturiser, £41.40, This Works) is the magic bullet, and can even reverse abnormal and cancerous growth, among other forms of sun damage. “It has great anti-inflammatory effects, which is why it’s as effective at treating acne as it is at treating wrinkles and other signs of aging,” adds Amiry.
9. Hit the sack early
We know, you’ve heard it all before, but it’s called beauty sleep for a reason. “Sleep deprivation lowers circulation, which is why you look pale and washed out if you only get a few hours,” says Amy Wechsler, one of only two U.S. physicians board-certified in both dermatology and psychiatry. It’s also the best time to rejuvenate your skin. “Your body’s cellular renewal team has the night shift, so this is when you want to equip your skin with as many nutrients and hydrating ingredients it needs to do a fine job,” she says.
To make the most of your beauty sleep, check out these 7 beauty buys that work while you sleep
10. Exfoliate for smaller-looking pores
It’s amazing how something so tiny can feel so huge, but enlarged pores are one of the most common beauty complaints. “Pores appear larger when they’re filled with dirt, oil, dead skin cells, and keratin, a protein that lives on the surface of skin,” explains Amiry. “Remove those plugs, and they seem to shrink.” To clear out the gunk, start exfoliating regularly with daily applications of salicylic and glycolic acid, like those in Murad Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel (£51, Murad). Then add a cleansing system (like Clarisonic Mia 2, £125, Clarisonic) to soften and smooth skin, and clear the dead surface cells. To keep pores from getting even bigger as you age, practice safe sun. “Sun damage breaks down collagen, which can affect pore size as well.”
11. Give your skin a sip of merlot
Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant and polyphenol found in red grape skins, has been found to prevent the lines, wrinkles, and sagging caused by environmental skin saboteurs like smog and second-hand smoke. “In many preparations, it’s an even more powerful antioxidant than vitamin C, and studies show it creates mild-to-moderate skin tightening for a firmer look,” says board certified dermatologist and research scientist Erin Gilbert. Apply a small pump of Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum (£70, Dermacare Direct) each night to plump up lines and smooth skin texture.
12. Don’t neglect your neck and chest
Most of us are guilty of stopping our skincare routine as soon as we hit our chin. And our neglected neck and chest take vengeance by wrinkling, sagging, and displaying dark spots that beg to be hidden by a turtleneck. “The skin on these areas is thinner, and doesn’t have a strong blood supply, so it doesn’t heal well,” explains Amiry. “Plus it’s an area that we often forget to protect with sunscreen.” Use the same products as you would on your face, but start lightly (every other day) when applying active ingredients like retinols or acids since they may cause some initial irritation.
13. Strip off your makeup before bed
Leaving makeup and dirt on skin doesn’t just clog pores; it can cause excessive dryness and even skin dandruff. “Most makeup contains a sugar-type molecule that can grow yeast overnight,” says Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. Don’t forget to thoroughly remove eye makeup too. “It can lead to bumpy rashes around the eyes or small white bumps called milia cysts,” says Wu. Try Rinse-Off Eye Makeup Solvent, (£18, Clinique) a gentle, oil-free cleanser that quickly melts away everything from waterproof liner to mascara.
14. Running low on sleep?
Pick up some soy milk. Wu keeps a carton in her fridge at all times to “fake a good night’s sleep.” The natural anti-inflammatory reduces swelling while soy proteins hydrate skin to soften the look of crow’s feet. The cold temperature helps shrink swelling and constricts veins to make eyes look less bloodshot. To make soothing, redness-busting compresses, pour a small amount of soy milk in a bowl, dunk two cotton balls, and squeeze out the excess. Then hold the cotton balls over your eyes (or any other area where you have red or irritated skin) for five minutes.
15. Roll away your puffy eyes this morning
“Fluid fills up under our eyes each night because we’re lying down,” says dermatological surgeon Anne Chapas. Start by sleeping on two pillows to elevate the face. In the morning, massage away the excess fluid with the Garnier Caffeine Eye Roll-On (£6.49, Boots), which manually pushes out fluid. To reduce dark shadows, use your ring finger to lightly tap GinZing Eye Cream (£23, Origins), which contains caffeine, onto the delicate area. “Caffeine constricts vessels to minimize leaking, which causes the darkening, while titanium dioxide, mica, and iron oxides reflect light away to brighten.”
16. Stay out of hot water
A steamy shower may feel great, but it’s one of the worst things you can do for your skin. Not only does the heat strip essential oils, but it creates a mild burn. Blood vessels respond by dilating in an effort to cool the skin, causing flushing and ruddiness. “When you’re in your twenties, you can take a hot shower, be red & swollen and recover in an hour, but in your thirties, it may take 2 hours,” says Alexiades-Armenakas. “By your forties, your skin just doesn’t have the ability to shrink back to its original state so you stay ruddy all the time.”
17. Don’t wait to moisturize
Most creams and lotions have key ingredients that create a protective barrier on the surface of the skin to lock in moisture, but because skin cools itself by evaporating water, you only have a few minutes before that hydration is gone forever. Slather on a moisturiser with natural silicone, while your face is still damp. Alexiades-Armenakas’ research shows that it locks in moisture for up to 24 hours, plumping and improving the appearance of fine lines as skin drinks up the moisture (like the difference between a raisin and a grape). Try Three Kings Deeply Moisturising Face Cream (£19.50, Aranais).
18. Be extra gentle when defuzzing your face
Waxing and tweezing can cause scarring or spots, especially for women with darker skin. Prep your skin before hair removal by washing the area with an antibacterial wash, suggests Cook-Bolden. And to avoid discoloration, make sure to have an aftercare plan that includes anti-inflammatory ingredients to quickly calm skin and help it heal. Cook-Bolden recommends a dab of Avène Cicalfate Restorative Cream (£19.45, Cosmetics Now) immediately after hair removal, and for a few days afterwards. “Investing in this type of product will save you money in the long run since preventing discoloration costs a lot less than trying to get rid of it.”
19. Snack on watermelon
Adding a lycopene-rich food, such as this juicy pink treat, “helps reduce damage and redness caused from sun exposure, prevents future wrinkling and possibly even lowers skin cancer risk,” says Elizabeth Somer, nutritionist and author of Eat Your Way to Sexy. Aim for one cup each day by tossing it in salads, salsas, and smoothies. Or try her recipe for refreshing ice cubes: Purée watermelon, sweeten with concentrated apple juice, pour into an ice tray, and freeze. Then add cubes to water (fizzy or still) for a refreshing, skin-saving mocktail.
20. Exfoliate… without scrubbing
“Over time, the natural enzymes in your skin work less effectively at removing dead skin cells, so they hang on and prevent your skin from reflecting light,” says Wechsler. The result? You look ashy and gray. Speed up your skin’s cellular turnover and smooth its surface with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) like glycolic or lactic acid. But beware: Although lots of products include AHAs, the concentration is often too low to do much. “Look at the label to see how much it contains and pick one that’s around 8%. Anything more is too much.” Expect some initial stinging at first; it should subside as your skin gets used to it.