(BlackDoctor.org) — When the schedule’s packed and a latte feels like a splurge, a facial probably falls off the to-do list. But it’s a crucial anti-aging tool, dermatologists say. Read on to find the right one for your skin needs. Plus, are you skin-care savvy? Take our quiz and find out…
Even if you don’t usually treat yourself to a spa facial, now’s the time. Regular treatments – if you can afford it, with follow-up care at home – can yield long-term benefits, like warding off wrinkles and keeping skin hydrated.
Besides removing blackheads and exfoliating dry, flaky skin, facials help fade dark spots from long-term damage and bad habits.
“Almost 90% of premature aging is attributed to sun damage and smoking,” says Susan Evans, M.D., a dermatologist with Skincare Physicians of Beverly Hills, Calif.
But skin needs change as we get older, so it’s important to get the best facial for your age. A glycolic peel that’s perfect for a 40-year-old could irritate a 20-something.
Here’s what experts say you should look for in a spa facial and how to follow up at home:
In your 20s: Start good skin-care habits
At this age, you’re probably not worrying about your skin or beauty routine. You’re too busy working, staying out late with friends and having fun in the sun.
In your 20s, however, you should lay the groundwork for maintaining that youthful glow later in life.
“Prevention and maintenance, with an effective skin-care regimen, [are] keys to long-term healthy skin,” Evans says.
Neglect is cumulative, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Not exfoliating dead skin cells, for example, prevents healthy, new cells from coming to the surface, leaving skin dull and lifeless.
Ignoring skin at this age may also lead to “premature wrinkling, dehydration of skin cells and the potential for an increased incidence of skin cancer from [sun] damage,” Evans says.
At the spa: Deep-cleansing facials with masks of clay or kaolin (also known as china or white clay) draw out impurities – including dirt and excess oils – from skin.
Fine clay particles also exfoliate, unclog pores and stimulate circulation, which nourishes cells with nutrients.
If skin is dry or sensitive, a mask with botanical extracts of chamomile or aloe will soothe it.
At home: Good skin care should be as mindless as brushing your teeth.
Make a habit of a four-step daily regimen: cleanser, exfoliant, moisturizer and sunscreen with a protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more. Look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients that physically block the sun’s rays.
Also, keep your face clean – and never sleep with makeup on.
In your 30s: Bust blemishes
Hormones rule in this decade. And that can mean breakouts – from your period, pregnancy or stress. All can push oil glands into overdrive. In fact, adult acne affects 1 in 5 women between 25 and 40 years old.
The thick lotions that kept younger skin moisturized can now clog pores – trapping oil and dead cells that mix with bacteria to create blackheads and blemishes. Even if you never had breakouts as a teen, you may get them now.
Cycling hormones and stress can also trigger eczema (a chronic condition causing red, cracked patches), as well as blotchy, itchy skin and other types of inflammation.
You may also see signs of aging, such as crow’s feet, smile lines and irregular pigmentation.
“In their 30s, people usually notice fine lines, especially around the eyes,” Jaliman says. “This area is extremely thin and sensitive.”
To ward off these signs of aging, Jaliman recommends daily use of sunscreen and antioxidant supplements, such as vitamins E, C and A, as well as beta-carotene and quercetin.
“It’s also important to eat well and exercise regularly,” she says.
At the spa: “Acne-prone skin will only worsen if not treated,” Jaliman says. If you’re prone to breakouts, facials can help prevent them.
An esthetician can do extractions to remove sebum (oily, fatty secretions associated with acne) from clogged pores. Don’t do this on your own; it can cause scarring if done incorrectly.
Look for facials described as “clarifying” or “purifying.” They have active ingredients made from exfoliating fruit acids like papaya, cranberry, pumpkin, cherries and berries. These can help clear up congested skin and remove excess oil and dry, flaky skin.
At home: Avoid petroleum-based products and compounds with synthetic fragrances, says Evans. These can clog pores and irritate skin.
Instead, use light gels, which are nonocclusive (meaning they won’t clog pores).
And “stick with natural compounds that are fruit and vitamin derivatives … and that will exfoliate and rebuild healthy skin cells,” Evans says.
Look for exfoliating ingredients like willowbark extract (a natural source of salicylic acid), beta-hydroxy acid and citrus extracts, as well as fruit enzyme peels, which help oily, blemished skin.
Apply a mask or peel once a week to keep skin clear.
In your 40s: Stop lines, wrinkles and spots
In our 20s, skin cells replenish every 28 days. But by the 40s, the effects of sun damage and environmental stress slows the process to 45-50 days, a delay that causes cells to build up, leaving skin dull and exaggerating fine lines and wrinkles.
Were you careless about sun protection in your youth? That damage may show up now as deeper lines and wrinkles.
“People [also] notice broken capillaries, irregular pigmentation and sun spots,” Jaliman says.
Skin also may become more sensitive or blotchy at this age from sun exposure and perimenopause, the years before your periods stop.
At the spa: A peel – glycolic, beta-hydroxy or enzyme – will remove the top layers of dead cells.
If skin is sensitive, skip the peel and get a facial that includes antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory ingredients like pomegranate, grapeseed or rose-hip extract, green tea or vitamin C, Jaliman advises.
Facials with skin-lightening ingredients like licorice extract (glycyrrhizinate), soy proteins or Indian gooseberry can reduce hyperpigmentation. And hydrating masks will help soften lines and wrinkles.
At home: Exfoliate at least three times per week – less often if skin is sensitive – to get a glow back. Not only does this slough off dead cells, moisturizers also penetrate better.
If skin is dry, add a weekly moisturizing mask and daily serum to your regimen. Serums contain highly concentrated antioxidant ingredients like retinol (vitamin A) to reverse sun damage, or rosehip oil (vitamin C) to moisturize.
Also, look for skin-care products with active ingredients such as peptides, retinol, vitamin C and antioxidants like green tea and resveratrol, says Jaliman. These increase blood flow to cells and collagen production, and protect against free-radical molecules that damage cells.
In your 50s: Maintain elasticity and tone
Because of estrogen loss in menopause, middle-age skin produces less collagen, which can leave it thinner and drier, with a lot less elasticity than in your youth.
“People find deep frown and smile lines, crow’s feet, thinning lips and hollowness under the eyes,” Jaliman says.
At the spa: Look for a “hydrating” or “firming” facial, with masks and botanical oils that deeply moisturize. Treatments with sea plants – like seaweed and algae – are rich in vitamins and trace minerals that firm and hydrate skin.
At home: Look for intensive moisturizing ingredients and nourishing oils (evening primrose, sea buckthorn, carrot seed, borage and geranium) to plump up and deliver antioxidant vitamins A and C to thin, dry skin. These kick-start the skin-renewal process and collagen and elastin production.
Firming creams with seaweed or algae-based ingredients also deliver nourishing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and help prevent the breakdown of elastin fibers.
If your skin is papery-dry, apply serum first, then layer a moisturizing cream on top.