Softer skin at any age
Whether you’re twenty-five, or sixty-five, the quest to maintain healthy, soft skin can be a daily battle. While there is no guaranteed method to permanently turn back the clock, there are several simple ways to slow it down and retain moist, soft skin. Dr. Benjamin Barankin, a dermatologist at the Toronto Dermatology Centre, says that help is available for even the most serious of skin cases, thanks to advances in skin care and some healthy lifestyle know-how. “We can always help,” he says. “We can soften up anybody’s skin.” From the latest in facial moisturizers and skin-friendly foods, to new medical interventions, here are six tips to help achieve softer, more vibrant skin.
Wash your face properly
With a vast spectrum of lotions and potions on the market, it’s easy to become confused about what to use—especially on your face. “Using a cleanser rather than a soap is always a good idea,” advises Barankin. Soap is often too harsh and drying for delicate facial skin. The key is selecting a cleanser that doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), “a detergent that is deep cleaning but also dehydrates the skin,” he explains. To complete your routine, says Barankin, “use lukewarm water after you finish washing and pat dry– no rubbing.”
Try a new moisturizer
Been using the same moisturizer for years? With scientists discovering new ingredients to fight the war on dry skin, perhaps it’s time to start anew. “Look for creams containing coffee berry extract, matrixly or ceramide to soften skin,” suggests Barankin. Ceramide, the latest innovation, is chemically created, but it’s bio-compatible—meaning it’s found naturally in our skin, too. Barankin also applauds the use of vitamin-infused emollients, “At night, using a vitamin-C-based cream can be helpful. It’s not only anti-aging, but it also peels off some of the upper dead layers of skin that cause dullness and roughness. An over-the-counter retinol or prescription Tretinoin (vitamin A) would also help soften the skin and peel off dead layers.”
Add more fish to your diet
We’re all familiar with the old adage, “You are what you eat,” but when it comes to your skin, this saying couldn’t be more applicable. An unhealthy diet chock-full of fast or processed foods and high in sugar will result in a dull, dry, and sometimes acne-riddled complexion. To keep your skin supple and soft, a healthy eating plan is a must. Barankin suggests a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and especially fish. Salmon, tilapia, and herring are packed with omega-3 fatty acids—key building blocks that stave off inflammation, and help your skin stay smooth and pliable. And don’t forget water! “Make sure you have enough fluids in your body, that you’re getting [enough] water through the day,” says Barankin. “If you’re not getting enough fluids, you’re going to look more crinkly, and the skin is dryer and rougher.”
Avoid the enemies of soft skin
Alcohol, smoking, caffeine and excessive sun exposure are all factors that threaten healthy skin. “Being healthy overall—not smoking or drinking alcohol—helps your body in so many ways, including your skin,” says Barankin. Alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes act as diuretics, dehydrating the skin and causing a sallow colour, while too much sun also encourages skin damage. According to Barankin, sun avoidance or minimization via clothing, hats or sunscreen is a necessity in the quest to maintain soft skin, “[If] you look at older people where they haven’t had sun, the skin is actually soft and supple, so we know pollution and sunlight do play a role,” he says.
Separate fact from fiction
Sleep, exercise, DIY facial masks—are these things a soft-skin help, or hindrance? “Sleep and exercise are both great for the skin,” says Barankin. “When you sleep better, you have less dark circles, [for example].” As for exercise, being physically engaged aids the skin, too. “It increases circulation and gives a nice firmness to the skin,” says Barankin. “Exercise reduces cortisol levels—your stress hormones— and we know [they] age you as well.” He cautions, however, that homemade masks, as well as facial massages, only offer a temporary effect. “They feel nice, very natural and everyone loves ‘natural’ things, but there’s no real data to say they’re beneficial [long term].”
Consider a professional cosmetic treatment
Advances in cosmetic procedures have opened the door to many new soft-skin success stories. “There are now more chemical [facial] peels than ever: glycolic, salicylic acid, retinoic acid, Jessner—each is unique and gives more options, depending on skin type and how much downtime someone can tolerate,” says Barankin. “Microdermabrasion, and some laser-type devices can soften skin as well.” While these cosmetic quick fixes are tempting, they can also pricey and are not appropriate for everyone. Before proceeding with these treatments, a consultation with a dermatologist is recommended.
Your guide to healthy skin
Looking for more advice for healthy skin? From tummy tucks to chemical peels, skin cancer prevention to menopause, the best anti-aging treatments, to finding your perfect moisturizer, find all the answers in the Reader’s Digest Guide to Skin Care—a comprehensive, no-nonsense reference.