Skin

Mostly it is women who are interested in the texture and coloring of their skin. For young women, glowing, clear skin of any color is beautiful. As we grow older we notice that life is not fair. Women develop wrinkles faster than men do. Women’s skin is thinner than men’s skin. Since we can’t do anything about that… we play the hand we’re dealt.

I am one of the whitest white people you are going to find. My ancestry is German, French and Irish. I take after my father who was the French and Irish component, with reddish brown hair and the tendency to freckles. Ha.  I remember his arms were giant freckles with a bit of pink skin in between. Which is to say I sunburn immediately and it fades into freckles. From my early years this did not seem like a good idea to me.  Having what I thought was a fairly decent face, I decided I would do whatever I could to keep it looking as nice as possible.  Which lead me to these discoveries over the years:

Retinol: A zillion years ago both Avon and Elizabeth Arden offered a skin cream containing Retin A. I read an independent laboratory study saying that these were the only two OTC products that had a lasting impact on skin quality, so I began to use Avon’s $20/oz. version rather than EA’s $50/oz. version. Made sense to me. Retin A, which is related to Vitamin A, continues to be one of the best and most thoroughly documented products to maintain skin tone. Unfortunately finding out which products have the most of it is next to impossible. And, of course, many other products claim they are capable of doing the same job or better. But before putting your faith (and cash) in a product, I suggest searching out independent scientific studies. Not that those are easy to find in this category of product. Consequently I recommend using products that contain Retin A or retinol as early as possible in the ingredient list. Start by age 30, never stop, and you’ll be glad you did it when you turn 40 and 50 and see the difference between your skin and women of the same age who do not use it.  These days retinol is so readily available, you can expect to see many women keep an “age 30” face for an indefinite number of years beyond that.  Assume it will take 10 years off your face and keep it off over time.

Sunshine: Avoid it. It helps me that I stay out of the sun to avoid sunburn. It is well documented that you will have skin like tanned leather if you spend a lifetime with a “beautiful tan.” Your choice. I don’t know about these spray on things. They strike me as gross, but a natural tan is not going to be something you will treasure as you look backward from age, say, 40 or so. By then the deep damage is done. And if that seems like many years down the pike, trust me, you will be amazed at how fast time flows. There is no turning back the clock or the wrinkles.  (Well, there’s always surgery…. see below.)

Smoking: You must be kidding. You know those vertical wrinkles some women have around their mouth? Not a desirable look. The combination of how you use your facial muscles and the chemical damage from smoke itself is bad news. No fancy creams can undo that damage. Besides, smoke stinks. Smoking is expensive. It burns holes in your clothes, furniture, carpeting, and I could go on, but you get the idea. It may look sophisticated, but that is only because it was marketed that way by people with a financial stake in consumption of their product. Do you really want to buy into a marketed view of sophistication that will cost you your face as you age? Smoking is so 1950’s.

Sleep: You need a certain amount of sleep, yes, and I’m sure you are smart enough to attend to that, but how you sleep matters also. Ever notice that some women in their 20’s already have deep wrinkles along their necks? They sleep with a pillow that creates those creases while they sleep. If you can avoid a pillow, or use a neck pillow, you can keep your neck relatively free of those deep wrinkles for as long as possible. And if you sleep on your side, two things will happen: (1) you will mash wrinkles into your face as you sleep… puppet mouth wrinkles, and (2) you stress your hip joints. Take a mirror and look at what happens to your face when you sleep on your side. Enough said. Now then, as far as hip joints go, women and men are built very differently. Men with their broad shoulders and skinny hips seem to be able to sleep on their sides with no apparent long term bodily damage. Women, on the other hand, with broad hips, stress their hip joints by lying on their sides. Regular exercise can keep your muscles, tendons, and overall joints in good condition. I’m just saying… do you want to regularly stress that part of your body for hours at a time? If you can train yourself to sleep on your back without a pillow under your head, preferably with a couple pillows under your knees to maintain your spinal alignment, you will be much better off long term. Some women manage to sleep on their sides with a pillow between their knees, and that helps, but they’re still at risk for puppet mouth. And that’s a combination of skin and joint advice.

Surgery:  Plastic surgery can do a lot of good things for you.  And it can leave you a mess.  If some feature bugs you, research the surgery, talk to people who have had it done, and research any doctors you are considering.  Go to the best you can find and afford.  This surgery will not be covered by your health insurance and it is not likely to be deductible on your taxes, although you may want to talk to your tax person about that.  My personal feeling is that I would not have any non-essential surgery.  Elective surgery is no place to learn you react badly to anesthesia, for example, and things can go wrong.  But I would not discourage a friend or relative.  I would just caution that you go to the best surgeon you can find.

That is what life has taught me about skin so far. Your face is your brand.  In the real world, it is what people remember most about you.

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