Dear Younger Self,
As I reflect back on my life and the changes that have occurred to my skin, I sometimes wish I could have known all the things that I am going to share with you now about preventative ageing.
Despite my mother’s best efforts to keep me out of the sun during the hottest times in the day, this only worked until I was old enough to rebel against her constant warnings of not spending too much time outdoors.
Having a best friend whose mother worshipped the sun didn’t help – my friend and I would spend hours on the beach obliviously unaware of the long term damage being caused beyond an immediate sunburn.
This was the 1960s and there was not much in the way of sun protection available. A quick lick of Coppertone early in the morning as we arrived at the beach had to suffice for the day. The word re-application hadn’t been invented back then let alone the word UV radiation. I was blissfully unaware that swimming in the sea and care-free frolicking on the beach all day would play havoc with my skin in years to come.
“The word re-application hadn’t been invented back then let alone the word UV radiation”
Little did I know that my unprotected skin, exposed to the sun for long periods of time during my teens, would start showing signs of damage in my early thirties. Although I did not have fine lines or pigmentation in my twenties, I definitely had solar lentignes otherwise known as freckles, which is just one of the skin’s ways of trying to protect itself again ultra violet radiation.
I have asked myself many times why did I only wake up to the damaging effects of the sun in my thirties? Why did I take it for granted that my otherwise beautiful skin would not stay that way for the rest of my life? The reason was because I noticed the first signs ageing with fine lines and a few wrinkles around my eyes. This is when I started to take my skin seriously and reached for sunscreen and a low percentage Vitamin A night cream.
It was also when I finally came to my senses and I became Sun-Sensible.
I was only to learn later on what many Dermatologists know to be true: that way before any signs of ageing are apparent on the skin, the damage is already done. Most people get two-thirds of their sun exposure before the age of 20 and the remaining third over the rest of their lives and this was certainly true when it came to my youth.
“Most people get two-thirds of their sun exposure before the age of 20 and the remaining third over the rest of their lives … “
Light years away in the swinging 60s, was a technology that would change the way that skin could be analysed in the 21st century. Visia™ Complexion Analysis, is a unique imaging system that is able to scan the skin and reveal signs of ageing both on and below the surface of the skin and that is not visible to the human eye. This technology is able to detect many signs of skin ageing way before they become apparent and it is sometimes shocking to see what damage lies in wait for the unsuspecting person who spent too much time on the beach or on the sportsfield.
So what exactly would I have told my younger self if given the chance?
- You only get given one skin when you are born and it is up to you to protect it. Nurture it like a newborn baby.
- Your skin never, ever forgets an episode of sun abuse from childhood through to your teens and probably most of your twenties. if you are unlucky the first signs of ageing will start in your late twenties and If you are lucky maybe only in your mid to late thirties.
- That sun damage to the skin is accumulative and from the day you are born there is a metaphorical barometer on your skin adding up all the times your skin was exposed to UV radiation. I would have visualized a kind of skin ‘Fit Bit’ which might have shortened many of those hours I spent in the hot sun during my youth.
- I wish I had known that ultra violet radiation from the sun can cause immense damage to the skin especially skin cancer but that there are also other forms of radiation that cause skin ageing such as infrared, visible light and more recent studies show, pollution.
- I would have told you that an annual appointment for a skin check with your Dermatologist is important and more so if you have moles. It is of vital importance to have regular skin scans so you have a digital record of any changes that may occur.
- I would have suggested that you keep on top of skin changes – have pre-cancerous sunspots (solar keratoses) removed with cryotherapy, have skin tags snipped off and cancers removed, otherwise you will never get off your Dermatologist’s couch once you hit your 40s or 50s! Prevention is the key.
- Always cleanse your face before going to bed at night – not only is it hygienic but you owe it to your skin because it is your only defense against the environmental aggressors it faces every day. It needs a break at night.
- Never skimp on sleep as it shows on the skin. At night your body goes into housekeeping mode as it cleans and repairs with many reparative processes taking place as you sleep. This is the time your skin gets a chance to bounce back.
- Exfoliate your skin regularly as it helps to keep your skin young, healthy and glowing.
- Invest in the best products you can afford at whatever stage of your life … buy products that are backed by clinical science. If your budget is tight, pare down your beauty regimen so that you can include at least one ‘hero’ product that will make a real difference to the way your skin ages.
- Be fanatical about your sunscreen – always apply one not only when outdoors but also indoors. UVA radiation causes ageing and it can penetrate glass so even when driving or sitting near a window at work your skin is at risk. Ask for sunscreen samples when you visit your Dermatologist or skincare clinic so that you always have a ready supply in your handbag. Re-apply sunscreen throughout the day.
- Although I never used a sunbed when I was young, I know they increase the risk of developing malignant melanoma as well as squamous cell carcinoma. Even if you only use them once or twice when you are young they increase your risk.
- What we didn’t have back in the 1960s but that are today considered modern day ‘watchdogs’ are Antioxidants. They have completely changed the way we prevent ageing. They protect our skin against a variety of environmental challenges and they add a double layer of defense and protection when used together with a sunscreen.
- Drink loads of water – fizzy drinks are a no-no unlike my youth when anything with a fizz and a picture of fruit on the tin passed as a healthy drink! Water hydrates the whole body but when it comes to the skin there is little doubt that drinking filtered water throughout the day helps to keep it hydrated and healthy.
- You probably don’t want to read this last point. Moderation in all things … Back in the good old 60s, the word moderation was not a popular one. Peace, Love and Rock ‘n Roll were the most common words in our vocabulary and intelligent lifestyle choices in an age of excess were not even on our radar screens. Fortunately, todays youth seem to have adopted a far more healthy lifestyle but just for the record, I’ll say that smoking, excessive alcohol, lack of sleep, lack of exercise and bad food choices all impact on the skin. You are what you eat and when you make the right choices, your skin will thank you by being healthy and glowing. It will be high on life!
So if I was starting on my Prejuvenation (Preventative Ageing) journey now and I could use only three products to help prevent skin ageing, what would they be?
By using good products that support and protect the skin and by being sun-sensible from a young age, you might never have to think back on what advice you would give your younger self!
My Older Self