Dermatologist Jessica Wu answers your top beauty questions on minimizing the effects of aging so you can achieve a smoother, more youthful complexion.
Don’t panic if you’ve started to notice fine lines and tiny brown spots on your face. Jessica Wu, MD, a Los Angeles dermatologist and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at USC medical school, is here to share her secrets on the dos and don’ts involved in fighting the signs of aging. Just don’t blame us when the bartender asks for your ID at your next happy hour!
Everyday Health: At what age should you start to use anti-aging products?
Dr. Jessica Wu: If you want to prevent or at least delay the signs of aging, it’s never too early to start — even babies and children should wear sunscreen! In your twenties, especially if you’ve spent your childhood and teens in the sun, you can simply use sunscreen every day (even on cloudy days and in winter), or a moisturizer with SPF. By the thirties, most of us have started to see fine lines and wrinkles, so that’s a good time to start using products with anti-aging ingredients.
EH: What are the most effective anti-aging ingredients that you should look for in skin care products?
JW: Retinoids and retinols. They help stimulate cell turnover and collagen production to make skin thicker and healthier. Over-the-counter products that contain ingredients such as retinol and retinyl palmitate are a good first step. Or ask your doctor whether prescription-strength retinoids might be right for you — tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A) or tazarotene (Tazorac).
Antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, superoxide dismutase, coffeeberry, and coenzyme Q10, also help protect collagen and elastic tissue in your skin.
Finally, look for botanical skin-brightening ingredients — because uneven pigmentation makes your skin look older. Soy, green tea extracts, and vitamin C (which is also an antioxidant) are all good choices.
EH: Why does your skin get thinner and sag as you age?
JW: There are a few reasons: heredity; the environment, including sun and pollution, which break down collagen; hormones, because as estrogen levels drop, the skin becomes thinner; and gravity, which, over time, causes skin to droop.
EH: Can any signs of aging be reversed?
JW: You can minimize the appearance of brown spots and patches and fine lines, and you can smooth out rough texture.
EH: Is there one ingredient that can address both wrinkles and pigmentation?
JW: There are a few: retinoids, vitamin C, soy, and coffeeberry.
EH: What’s the best way to fight acne and wrinkles at the same time?
JW: Use an exfoliating product that contains salicylic acid (if you have oily skin) or glycolic acid (if you have dry skin). The acids help unclog pores and lift off the top layers of dead, sun-damaged skin at the same time. Also, avoid dairy and sugar, which are both inflammatory, meaning that they’ll aggravate acne breakouts and break down collagen.
EH: What makeup tricks can minimize fine lines and wrinkles?
JW: The best approach is to use moisturizing makeup and apply it with a light hand. These additional tips may help:
- Apply a foundation primer to fill in fine lines and help makeup go on more smoothly.
- Use liquids rather than powders, which can settle into lines.
- Outline lips with a pencil to help prevent lipstick from “bleeding” into the lines around your mouth.
EH: What are some common mistakes women make with regard to makeup that can actually age them?
JW: Often women apply makeup that’s too drying or heavy, especially under the eyes; heavy concealers and foundation can settle into wrinkles. Women should avoid using makeup that’s too dark; instead lighten up, especially under the eyes. The worst mistake, though, is to not use sunscreen — if you’re going to be outside during the day, always put it on.
EH: Should you change your makeup products as you age?
JW: Only if your skin changes — from oily to dry, for instance. Many people find that their skin gets drier as they age, so they need a richer, creamier foundation rather than mattifying makeup. You should also change the products you use if you develop new signs of aging, like brown spots where you didn’t have any before.