It’s official. I am a senior citizen. I got my Medicare card in the mail last month and metaphorically blew out 65 candles on the cake (we used six to avoid eyebrow singe or an unplanned upper lip wax). I still ate the frosting flowers first and licked my fingers, because you’re never too old to act five on your birthday.
Now that I have made the full transition from hot young chick to lukewarm mature woman, it’s my hope that my inner beauty will shine through, ’cause the outer shell is quickly going south. While I disguise my gray hair with blonde highlights and work out religiously to defy gravity, there is no denying the less-than-taut skin that comes as a side effect of six and a half decades on earth. It’s like living in a fun house, every mirror a shock or surprise. (This is why I avoid cameras; I prefer to live in denial.)
While I can squint or lower the lights and get a glimpse of my younger, firmer self, grocery store clerks are starting to assume I qualify for discounts, which is nice … I guess. It’s only a matter of a few years before I’m certain I will be invisible.
Still, I am told I “look good for my age,” a catchphrase I accept as a compliment. So, would you like to know my secret?
If you are 30 and just seeing the first hint of a fine line, take heed. You are never too young to start preserving yourself, and what you do today will significantly influence the way you age going forth.
For those of you who are past the initial shock of a few facial folds or the seemingly sudden redistribution of your best assets, take heart. It’s never too late to make repairs and take preventative action for the future. Aging is unavoidable, but we do have a smidgen of control over what happens next.
When it comes to appearances, most of us are looking for a magic wand—an instant fix that will handcuff Father Time and lock him in the closet—thus the $44,124 million anti-aging market. I’ll be the first to admit that I own an arsenal of over-priced miracle creams and so-called youth serums that claim to tighten, tone, lift, fill, disguise, or otherwise diminish fine lines and wrinkles. But I’ll spare you the list of products and services that may or may not be making a difference and, instead, focus on strategies that work from the inside out and cost little to no money.
Practical tips for looking younger at any age
- Wear a smile. Trust me. A few eye crinkles and nasal labial folds (smile lines around your mouth) point to happiness and inner joy, which is always more attractive than bitchface, wouldn’t you agree? A genuine smile or hearty laugh will put a twinkle in your eye and give you a more youthful appearance naturally.
- Stand up straight. Hunched over shoulders are a sure sign that you are O.L.D. (Young folks sitting in front of a computer screen all day, take note. The tendency is to slouch, and this will tell on you over time.) Besides making you look taller and trimmer, good posture is linked to self-confidence which also projects a positive, more youthful appearance.
- Eat well. Good nutritional choices make a difference not only in your weight and body composition, but in the appearance of your skin. The magic is in the antioxidants, which are abundant in fruits and vegetables. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (think trout, salmon, and tuna) are also beneficial as they reduce inflammation and help keep your skin glowing.
- Get some shut-eye. Beauty sleep is not a myth. Your body repairs itself during sleep, and good sleep leads to a long list of health benefits that will keep you looking (and feeling) younger than your years.
- Drink up! Hydration is essential to healthy, more youthful-looking skin. This means drinking more water (six to eight glasses a day) and less alcohol. You will look younger, feel better, and probably drop a few pounds without even trying. For best results, in addition to drinking enough water, use hydrating skincare products.
- Break a sweat/save your cells. Grab your gym gear or your walking shoes and get that blood circulating. Consistent exercise can slow the aging process by fending off muscle loss and improving sleep quality. It also helps on the cellular level. Put simply, at the tips of each of our chromosomes are telomeres, which control a cell’s aging process. As we age, these telomeres get shorter. Studies from the University of California San Francisco have found a link between regular exercise and the rate at which telomeres shorten or slow. (wellspring.edu, “Six Proven Ways Exercise Makes You Look Younger …”) The more you exercise on a regular basis, the longer your cells will live, meaning you not only have a shot at a longer life, but you’ll look better living it.
- Limit sun exposure. Most visible signs of aging are directly related to sun exposure. UVA rays not only damage the surface of your skin but also penetrate deeper to break down collagen and elastin, the proteins responsible for keeping skin firm and elastic. With less collagen and elastin, your skin loses its structure and flexibility. Tell-tale signs are wrinkles, sags, and spider veins. Slow down this damage by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Also remember to wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, and seek shade whenever possible.
- Adopt a cheerful attitude about aging. Studies reveal that keeping a positive attitude about aging may help prevent older adults from becoming frail, which in turn appears to keep their minds sharp. (myelder.com, “Getting Older Is Positive, Not Negative.”) And since when does frail or demented look youthful?
The birthday fairy is coming every year whether you invite her or not, so stop and eat the buttercream roses. No matter how hard you work out at the gym or how many lotions you apply to your skin, wrinkles and sags will happen. Why not embrace the changes and be excited to greet another day?