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How to Age Gracefully: Start Early and From the Inside Out

It's been said that with age comes wisdom, and that includes knowing what we need to do to age gracefully. After all, there’s no amount of makeup that can make up for consistently poor food choices or—gasp!—a lifetime of sun exposure minus sun protection.  

But even if you haven’t heeded all of the anti-aging advice for the past few, um, decades, the good news is that it really is never too late to start.

Taking care of yourself on the inside improves your skin so that your makeup can be a sheer, lightweight tool in your beauty arsenal—something you use to enhance your look instead of masking the signs of aging.

Here’s how to protect yourself—and your skin—from premature aging.

How to Age Gracefully: Start Early and From the Inside Out | Perricone MD

Go to sleep already!

When researchers at Cleveland’s University Hospitals Case Medical Center studied the skin of women who slept more than seven hours a night for at least a month, versus those who slept fewer than five, they found that the sleep-deprived group had more uneven pigmentation, fine lines, and saggy skin.

Their aging skin recovered slower from sunburns and had impaired skin barrier function (so their skin lost more moisture). All in all, they were perceived to look 4 years older than their real age by professional dermatologists.

On the other end of the spectrum, the good sleepers looked 8 years younger. That’s a pretty good indication that being a sleeping beauty helps you age gracefully!

Broad-spectrum sun protection is the best anti-aging product you can use.  

Nothing else—and we mean nothing-- blocks the free radicals that are responsible for most of the wrinkles, sagging and sun spots we see! No other skin treatment can compare. But beware: an SPF number—no matter how high--isn't enough to keep sun damage and cancer at bay, because it refers only to protection against UVB rays (the ones responsible for burning skin).

Choose a sunscreen that also blocks UVA rays (which don't burn but can break down collagen and make you look older much faster). And don’t trust that your moisturizer will get the job done. The Archives of Dermatology reports that of 29 popular moisturizers that claim broad-spectrum protection, only six offered adequate UVA protection.  

We love our Vitamin C Ester Photo-Brightening Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30. It’s weightless, oil-free, and takes away the need for any other moisturizer (so you can skip a step in the morning). Plus it’s loaded with vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid, both antioxidants work alongside the protective powers of sunscreen.

How to Age Gracefully: Start Early and From the Inside Out | Brightening Moisturizer | Perricone MD

Add a morning antioxidant to slow lines and wrinkles.

UV and other environmental troublemakers trigger the production of reactive molecules—aka free radicals—that wreak havoc on the skin by chomping away at healthy molecules (think of it as an evil Pacman effect—but the more healthy molecules they steal, the worse your skin looks).

Antioxidants like Vitamin C fight free radicals before they can lead to wrinkles, spots, and cancer. While they’re great at night, they’re even more powerful applied to clean skin before you swipe on the sunscreen.

For the highest level of protection, apply an antioxidant serum to skin after cleansing (serums are super-thin and designed to penetrate deeply into skin’s surface).

Try Vitamin C Ester Brightening Serum, which contains squalane for an extra boost of hydration, and is less irritating than traditional vitamin C because of the vitamin C Ester.

How to Age Gracefully: Start Early and From the Inside Out | Brightening Serum | Perricone MD

Eat an antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory diet.

"Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects," says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. An Australian study found that a diet high in meat was associated with a doubling of incidence of squamous cell carcinoma, one of the major forms of skin cancer.

Instead, opt for salmon, which has been shown to lower the occurrence of scaly patches.  Keep fruit & veggie platters ready to go in your fridge (think strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli).

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that people who eat vitamin C-rich foods have fewer wrinkles and less dryness than those who don’t. If you’re indulging in pasta, load it up with marinara sauce.

According to a study published in the Journal of British Dermatology, people who ate a quarter cup of tomato paste in olive oil every day for three months were more protected against sunburn than those who consumed olive oil alone.  The tomato’s cancer-thwarting key is lycopene, which has been proven to provide long-term protection against UV damage.

How to Age Gracefully: Start Early and From the Inside Out | Perricone MD

Step away from the cookie tray.  

As much as we’d love to be the ones to tell you that sugar is not, in fact, the devil, we (sadly) can’t. There is seriously nothing good about it except the way it tastes. Nothing. Sugar feeds harmful gut organisms (especially yeast) while crowding out the good bacteria.

Not only does it make us more susceptible to inflammation and infection, but can even alter proteins in our cells that cause a loss of elasticity (causing sagging and wrinkling).

How to Age Gracefully: Start Early and From the Inside Out | Perricone MD

Limit most of your drinking to water (and maybe a little wine).

It goes without saying that water is the great hydrator. And hydrating from the inside out really does make a difference in how plump and youthful our skin looks, especially the older we get. If you think you’re getting the same hydration benefits regardless of what you’re drinking, we have bad news for you.  

A can of soda typically contains 44 to 62 mg of phosphoric acid, which puts us in acid overload (and has been shown to leach minerals and mineral stores, including calcium, leading to osteoporosis). If you can’t stomach another sip of plain old water, try sparkling water or club soda with a spritz of lemon and some Stevia instead.

Now, for alcohol. We’ll be blunt: it’s a dehydrator, and the sugars it contains create inflammation in the skin that breaks down collagen, the building blocks of our skin. To counteract the moisture-sapping effects, drink one glass of water for every glass of alcohol. Stick to clear alcohols like vodka and gin, which are lower in sugar, and skip sweet cocktail mixes. Best yet, sip on red wine, which is loaded with resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that’s been shown to decrease the signs of aging.