There are so many reasons we start to look old, many of them physiological changes that are completely out of our control and wholly unstoppable, however there are also a whole host of things that we do every day that contribute to the visible signs of aging that make us feel haggard. Here are a few of them and how to minimize them.
- THE SUN: Yes, I know we need Vitamin D, but do you really think you’re at risk of Rickets? Living in South Africa you are getting more UV exposure on the 22nd of June (mid-winter) than the Europeans are getting on that same day (mid-summer for them). What that means is that when you walk from your house to your car or from the train to your office even in winter you are getting blasted with UV rays in all your sun exposed areas that will have worse effects than what the bikini-clad party girls are getting in St Tropez on the hottest day of the year. Think about that. If you’ve ever been to the UK you will surely have noticed that if you look beyond their awful teeth, most people have better skin quality than South Africans of the same age, and the sun is the number 1 culprit. I could do an entire post just about the sun so I’ll stop now, but the sun is the devil, use SPF. (Last point: a t-shirt has an SPF of about 5. That’s not enough to prevent cancer. Use SPF.)
- SMOKING: And by smoking I really mean all pollution, but smoking is pollution right in your very own face so obviously that’s worse. Not only do smokers pull faces that encourage wrinkling (lips pursed around the cigarette, sucking in their cheeks and frowning with pleasure at the deep drag of pollution they are inhaling) but they also have smoke in and around their faces much more than non-smokers do. I don’t think I know of any smoker who doesn’t live by the old “If I get cancer I’ll deal with it then” motto, or who doesn’t have a “my grandpa smoked from when he was 6 to when he was 106 and nothing ever happened to him” story, but do you know how OLD your grandpa looked? Much older than his 106 years I’m sure. Telling smokers to stop is really a futile exercise, but just watch how much quicker your smoker friends age than you do and be thankful you have sheltered your beautiful little face from that.
- SLEEP: Firstly you need to be getting enough of it (and there is no real prescribed number of hours, you know when you’ve had enough sleep or not so I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself). Secondly, and this is the hard part: you really should be sleeping on your back. As we age we develop wrinkles solely from sleeping on a preferred side. If you look at any person over a certain age you will notice that on their forehead or cheeks they will have some vertical lines that are not mirrored on the other side of their face, and this is because the wrinkled side is the side the prefer to sleep on. It makes sense – we spend roughly one third of our lives sleeping and if you spend one third of your life squashing one side of your face it’s bound to have an effect. This is where silk (unfortunately satin doesn’t have as great an effect, but it’s probably better than nothing) pillowcases come in as they exert less traction on your face, as well as not soaking up all the anti-aging products you’ve painstakingly applied before bedtime (yes, your pillow basically gobbles all that stuff right up) keeping them on your face instead of beautifying your linen. We don’t really have any tips on how to train yourself into becoming a back-sleeper at this stage (if you have any let us know!) but it is of utmost importance to your face so give it a try!
- HYDRATION: Hydration in your body works the same way it does in anything else – water pressure plumps tissue. If you’ve ever seen a plant wilting on a hot day and then given it water and seen how it perks up you can imagine how your skin reacts to not getting enough H2O. And “water” in the form of energy drinks, juice, tea or coffee is unfortunately not as good as the real deal. Many of these drinks have a diuretic effect meaning that they make you wee more, negating the benefits of having ingested them, and they also contain additives like sugar or salt or a host of other goodies that mean that your body NEEDS more water so even though you’ve replenished some moisture you’re not getting in as much as the same number of ml’s of pure water. Hydration from the inside out is the only way to make sure you’re giving your skin all the water pressure it needs to stay firm. (Hydration from the outside in the form of moisturiser is also an absolute must.)
- GENETICS: It is an unfortunate fact that certain genes play a role in aging, and that the diets and skin tones of certain ethnicities or people will allow them to enjoy more youthful physical characteristics for longer than others. Some of us will develop the same marionette lines that our granny had, some of us will suffer from sunken temples like our moms and some of us will collect skin by the metre under our eyebrows. That’s life. No matter how many tubs of La Mer you’ve bathed in, or how many facials you went for, or how well you stayed away from points 1 & 2, unfortunately we will all show signs of aging. Many of these are beautiful and graceful and are a rite of passage for someone who has really lived, but many of them also make us look tired, angry and older than we feel or are. The good news is that between your plastic surgeon and your aesthetics practitioner there is certainly a solution for all of your genetic misfortune.
- NATURE: And this is the one you really cannot compete with. The cold hard truth is that all species are designed to go through a life cycle that involves birth, aging and death. You will notice that even your dog starts to look a bit greyer and jowlier as it ages, even though it never smoked and remained well hydrated throughout its life. As we age we experience bony changes that are more evident in the face than in the rest of your bodies, with shrinking of the zygoma and mandible (which eventually causes loosening of the teeth) and enlarging of the eye sockets causing a sunken look to the eyes. More than that, the fat pads that lie over these bones also shrink and reshape, causing the once chubby cheeks we had as babies that turned into beautiful apple cheeks in our 20s to disappear almost completely, leaving our faces looking drawn and causing the overlying skin to wrinkle due to it no longer being stretched over underlying fat. The same thing happens in our temples and hands, exposing tortuous blue veins and ropey tendons that are only appropriate on a Disney evil step-mother. The gold standard in combating this fatty volume loss is to replace fat into the face (or hands, never forget the hands) via surgery that removes fat from elsewhere in your body (a little bit of liposuction to that tiny boep you have) and inserts it into your face in the areas that need it most. This procedure can be done under conscious sedation by an experienced plastic surgeon. For a quicker and easier fix you can consider Hyaluronic Acid fillers to replace lost volume. These typically last 9 – 12 months and are made of a substance found in almost all tissues of your body so they are considered to be safe as well as being affordable and offering a relatively long-lasting result without the fuss or down time of surgery.
This post has already gone on way longer than I had anticipated and obviously in no way covers all the reasons why you may be looking haggard before your time! The main points to focus on are that many of these things are within our control: sleep properly, drink water, and wear SPF every day, and for the things that aren’t in our control there is almost certainly a non-surgical solution! (pop us a message and we will try our best to help!)