The Right Time to Begin a Skin Care Regimen

Angie Scott, Medical Aesthetician and Owner; FACES Corrective Skin Care and Permanent Cosmetics, Lambertville, Mich.

We hear so much about prevention when it comes to skin care, and for good reason: By taking care of our skin early on, we can help to preserve its youthful appearance for years to come.

Most skin aging starts at a young age. The sun can begin to degrade collagen in the early childhood years when sun exposure first begins. In fact, a smattering of freckles is often a child’s first visible sign of sun exposure.

The commitment to sun protection should start early. Patients with certain skin types, like fair skin, are prone to showing signs of aging earlier than patients with darker skins—African-American, Mediterranean—that can better tolerate the sun. Though genetics play a significant role in how our skin ages, good genes certainly aren’t a free ride to take a lax approach to skin care. Regardless of ethnicity, UV exposure will eventually age the skin, period.

When exposed to UV radiation, the skin’s protective mechanism kicks in and begins producing pigment to protect itself against sun damage, which leads to the formation of hyperpigmentation and sunspots. In addition to discoloration, the first signs of aging often surface as frown lines between the brows, fine lines and crow’s-feet. The thin skin around the eye area tends to age faster, since it lacks oil glands and is more susceptible to collagen breakdown.

Teaching proper skin care at an early age helps to create good skin care habits. Children should learn a daily regimen of gentle cleansing and sun protection before lotions and potions become necessary. It’s much easier to encourage a conscientious approach to sun protection early on than to argue the dangers of indoor tanning with a teenager.

The mid to late 20s is the time to explore a comprehensive anti-aging regimen. A preventative approach to skin care is easier and more cost effective than correcting problems later down the road, and can help postpone the need for cosmetic procedures as you age.

To maintain the long-term health and integrity of the skin, I suggest using a regimen that incorporates topical antioxidants, retinol and growth factors, in addition to sunscreen. I consider these ingredients to be “non-negotiable” in an anti-aging routine: They are tried-and-true, efficacious and boast solid research to back up their claims.

First and foremost, a broad-spectrum SPF is the number one anti-aging product available to us today. It protects against the damaging effects of UV rays like fine lines, wrinkles, sagging and sunspots. Topical antioxidants compliment sunscreen by preventing the oxidative damage that causes collagen breakdown. I suggest products with vitamin C, as there is extensive research to support its role in collagen formation.

In addition, topical retinoids help to generate new cell turnover and assist in the production of collagen, as do growth factors, which can have a profound effect on aging skin. These regenerative ingredients also aid in the repair of existing sun damage.

I am a huge advocate of preventative Botox injections as early as the 20s. Botox is a neurotoxin, meaning it temporarily freezes the dynamic facial muscle contractions that cause wrinkles to develop. It is the only way to actually prevent wrinkles from forming.

Though good preventative skin care practices are paramount to slow the signs of aging, it’s never too late to commit to a healthy skin care routine. Enlist a professional to navigate skin care ingredients and develop a regimen that’s best for your skin type—they are trained to understand the science of the skin and know how products act on the skin.