As women, we are rarely happy about the aging process. One of the places we see aging the most, and hate it the most, is our skin. Shortly after I turned forty, I started noticing little lines around my eyes and on my forehead. I know I am lucky – genetically I was blessed with my dad’s hair and skin – oily, so not wrinkly. He still doesn’t have a lot of wrinkles and he is in his early seventies. I know it could be worse, but we all want to feel young and sexy and there is nothing sexy about grey hair and sagging skin.
I’ll have to admit, I don’t know a lot about the options we have to reverse or diminish the effects of aging. I grew up in a family of women who believe in aging gracefully and my mom still only uses Oil of Olay on her face – so I didn’t learn a lot growing up about the options currently available to women who want to aggressively fight against aging. So, I was (and still am) a little intimidated by seeking out anti-aging treatment.
Probably just as real is the fact that I am afraid. I live in Los Angeles – and I have seen MANY women who’ve “had work done” walking around with their swollen lips and puffy faces. Rather than looking younger, they either look like older women who have had a botched procedure or someone who’s simply been punched in the face. I don’t ever want to look like that!
For the sake of my Girlfriends (that’s you) I decided to talk to a kick-ass woman I know who is the top of her game in the anti-aging business.
Over sushi and wine, I spoke to Zara Villanueva, a great friend and an experienced esthetician at the prestigious Skin Savvy Medical Spa in Hermosa Beach. The spa provides Botox and dermal fillers but also offers less invasive solutions, like facials and chemical peels, which also fight the aging process. The spa was founded by a registered nurse who administers many of the more invasive medical procedures at the spa. Zara has been a Licensed Medical Esthetician for nearly ten years. She has experience in and administers facials, extractions, chemical peels and microdermabrasion.
Zara explained that as we age, our skin produces less collagen. Collagen is a protein that naturally occurs in the body. It is responsible for the skin’s strength and elasticity, and its degradation leads to wrinkles. As we get older, our body’s collagen production begins to decline rapidly – most dramatically after the age of forty (lucky us). It’s during that timeframe when we start to really notice the change. We start looking tired more easily and begin noticing wrinkles.
According to Zara, there are many non-invasive options that women can use to slow down and even reverse some of the damage caused to our skin by aging. “Many women are intimidated by the idea of an anti-aging treatment,” she said “but I think it’s primarily because they don’t realize how many options they have other than injectable fillers…and how affordable many of those options are.” Here’s what Zara recommends, categorized from least invasive:
- Try some Professional Grade Products for Daily Maintenance
Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate.
To slow or repair the effects of aging – you need to aggressively exfoliate your skin on a consistent basis. Exfoliate means to remove dead dry skin cells from the top layer of your skin. You need to exfoliate every day. You cannot exfoliate by simply scrubbing your skin. Doing so would harm your skin by creating tiny scratches on the surface, perfect places for bacteria to hide. Rather, you can make a change in your skin with a couple professional grade beauty products – and you can create change in your skin for less than a pair of designer jeans.
Cleanser is critical to the skin care process. You should use a cleanser that has exfoliating properties. Zara recommends Epicuren Apricot Facial Scrub.
Epicuren Apricot Facial Scrub is an emollient, hydrating scrub designed specifically for mature skin types (yep – after 40 we qualify as mature). It has finely ground and polished apricot seed and walnut shells to slough away surface dryness and debris. It costs about $35.00.
Or try, Beautycounter’s Nourishing Cream Exfoliator. It’s a gentile but super-effective exfoliating cleanser that uses non-abrasive jojoba beads to exfoliate rather than plastic, so our rivers and oceans stay clean. It also has organic coconut oil and aloe to soothe and hydrate. It costs $25.50.
If you are unfamiliar with Beautycounter, it is a women-owned and operated company based in Santa Monica, California whose mission is to Get Safer Products into The Hands of Everyone. Beautycounter (countering the beauty industry) has banned more than 1,500 ingredients from ALL of their products – mostly ingredients that are suspected carcinogens or have hormone or estrogen altering characteristics – they call it their never list, a list of products they will never use, no matter what. So, you can feel good about the anti-aging benefits your skin is getting from these products, but also about the fact that they are safe and free from hormone disruptors and carcinogens.
Revitalize and Moisturize your Skin!
Just as important as exfoliating is revitalizing and moisturizing. A few years ago, the British Journal of Dermatology published the results of an eight-year study of women’s skin and aging. The findings showed that for a typical 28-year-old woman with dry skin, the amount of visible wrinkles will have increased by 52% by the time she reaches 36. But her wrinkles would increase by just 22% by the same age if she had well-hydrated skin.
According to the study, the plumpness of the skin cells is the key to preventing expression lines deepening into permanent fixtures, all skincare experts point out that wearing moisturizer is just the start. If skin is not protected from the aging effects of ultraviolet light, it will lose its elasticity more quickly, and anything that affects skin elasticity will make you wrinkle quicker, too.
So, sunscreens are as important, if not more so, than hydration to protect skin. Exfoliation (as we discussed) is also vital to promote cell turnover.
An amazing way to moisturize and protect your skin that I’ve recently discovered is Beautycounter’s Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer. It contains SPF 20 and also provides a lightweight hydration and evens the skin tone all at the same time. It has vitamin C to reduce the appearance of age spots and hyaluronic acid to promote firmer skin. It uses zinc oxide as its sun-blocker, therefore avoiding chemical sunscreens – which are often linked to hormone disruption. It cost $45.00 and is worth every penny.
Using a serum or is also important – think of it as nutrition for the skin – like giving your skin a vitamin. I’ve been using Radiance Firming Complex. It’s thicker that a typical serum but it’s fantastic. It helps even your skin tone, improve hydration and reduces wrinkles. It costs $63.00.
Other great products Zara recommends include:
Image Total Repair Cream is an anti-aging repair crème that diminishes wrinkles and firms skin. It has anti-oxidants that nourish and hydrate to promote healthy, more youthful skin. As one of Zara’s clients, I’ve used this product for a couple of years. I used it every other night and alternated with Image Total Anti-Aging Serum. The Serum has a blend of alpha-hydroxy acids in combination with apple stem cell technology. It protects skin cells against stress and combats aging effects on the skin.
Protect Your Skin!
Sun exposure is the number one cause of aging skin. The sun breaks down your skin cells and eventually causes skin to lose its shape. “You should think of applying sunscreen like brushing your teeth in the morning – put have to do it every day.” Zara said. If you don’t think you’re getting sun exposure every day – you’re wrong. Look in the mirror and compare the left side of your face to your right side. If you’re like me, you have more age spots and discoloration on your left side – the side that gets sun through the window as you drive your car.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released its 10th annual guide for its best and worst sunscreens. The list of the top ten best sunscreens included Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Sunscreen Stick, All Good Sport Sunscreen and Beautycounter Protect All Over Sunscreen, among others. For more information on the EWG’s list click here.
- Further Exfoliate By Having a Chemical Peel
I know when I first heard the words “chemical peel” I immediately thought of the Sex and the City episode when Samatha couldn’t go out of her apartment because her face looked like someone had doused it with acid. But, as I’ve learned, a good peel is much more sensitive.
“The key is to get a recommendation. You want to go to someone you know is good. Otherwise, you may not be satisfied with your treatment – it could be too strong, or not strong enough to make a difference.” Zara cautioned.
There is a large range of strengths for chemical peels, but generally the idea is for the peel to remove the top layer of old, mostly dead, skin cells in order to encourage skin to regenerate. Once that old, no-glow skin is removed, the remaining skin goes into panic mode to repair itself – rebuilding new skin. We need acids, enzymes and exfoliants to regenerate skin. This process brings live, active, glorious skin to the surface.
At Skin Savvy, a chemical peel ranges from $140 – $400. Zara has about nine different peels available in that range. She, or the esthetician you choose in your area, should discuss your concerns and expectations to determine which peel is best for you. There are no products available over the counter strong enough exfoliate in this way. The chemical peel will need to be repeated every 4-6 weeks.
Maintenance treatments can be extended if you’re doing some exfoliation at home with some of the products discussed above.
If the peel is done right, you may be a little red afterword or even the next day, but ultimately you will come away with beautiful, glowing, more youthful looking skin.
Microdermabrasian is a treatment where an esthetician or dermatologist uses a special instrument that employs high-quality medical-grade rounded crystals to “sand” the skin. The procedure makes way for a new, smoother layer of skin to replace the skin that’s been treated. Microdermabrasion works best on problems such as dull skin, brown spots, age spots or enlarged pores. While it works on all skin types, it is not recommended for people with dark skin as it can cause scarring or discoloration. Some spas use diamonds instead of rounded crystals. Zara recommends crystals because they are less likely to scratch the skin. Again – go to someone who comes recommended – don’t just go to anyone who has a Groupon.
Microdermabrasian can costs anywhere between $120-$200 per treatment, and usually comes as part of a facial that includes treatment to soothe the skin and help the rebuilding process begin after the treatment. The treatment should be repeated every 6-8 weeks, but less often if you are also exfoliating at home or doing chemical peels in between treatments.
“Skincare takes teamwork. Your professional can only do so much. Skin can’t maintain the progress made by your esthetician it if you don’t use professional products at home that are capable of changing your skin. Persistency pays off. If you slack off one night because you’re tired – it’s ok. It’s easy to fall of track – but it’s like your diet – you can get back on easily, too.” Zara advises.
Just remember – most things are reversible. At 40 – people who aren’t taking care of their skin are likely starting to show the signs of aging – but it’s not too late! “I have patients come in all the time who come in and think they can’t change their skin. They’ve given up. They’re stuck in a rut and feel helpless. They come in a couple of times and we get their skin back on track – and they feel great. It’s never too late.”
“Stop worrying about what other people think – the only person that matters is you!” says Zara. “If you feel good about yourself it will change your relationship with people, especially your mate. The more confident you feel the better you project – don’t give up – you can look good at any age without breaking the bank.”
If you live in the South Bay of Los Angeles and want to make an appointment with Zara, you can reach her at Skin Savvy Medical Spa in Hermosa Beach. Or call 310-374-4181 for an appointment.
For more information on Beautycounter, click here.