Some birthdays pass with no changes, while others seem to announce themselves, ushering in a whole new way of thinking about things as they do. When Ryan turned 30, people kept asking him if he felt any different, and he always responded that overnight he had become interested in investment portfolios.
This year, when I turned 25, I felt the same kind of overnight shift that Ryan had described. Except it wasn't investment portfolios that suddenly grabbed my interest; it was skincare. There are similarities to be found: skin is an investment, and, just like saving for retirement, it's always a good idea to start early.
25 is the first birthday that I've really felt since I turned 18. There's the whole being alive for a quarter of a century thing, and then there's the fact that I can no longer claim to be in my "early 20s." Since turning 25, it's hit me that my youth is slipping away faster than I realized. Although, right now, being young feels like a significant part of my identity, it won't be a part of my identity forever or even for much longer. I will get older, I will learn how to be older, and I will look older.
I don't think looking my age is going to bother me much when the time comes. I fully expect to have fine lines in my 30s and small wrinkles in my 40s. I don't expect to be a wrinkle-free 50 or 60 year old and I don't want to be one. But I do want to look good for my age.
I think older women with fabulous skin are so beautiful. See: Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Cate Blanchett, etc. Sure, their faces are lined and their skin isn't as firm as it once was, but it is still smooth and glowing and their gorgeous features are shining through. They are a totally different kind of beautiful than they were in their youth, but no less beautiful.
Now that I'm actually starting to think about the approaching reality of myself as an older women, I want to do everything in my power to be one of the really beautiful and classy ones with great skin and hair, good posture, and effortlessly timeless style.
The fact is that having great skin in your 60s starts in your 20s. You can't just wake up at 65 or even at 45, decide that you're going to start taking care of your skin, and expect to be able to improve it significantly. I don't mean to imply that it's ever to late to make skincare a priority, but, when it come to great skin, prevention is key.
That's why I've decided to get serious about my skin since my birthday. I bought some fancy moisturizer and night cream (just Oil of Olay for now, but I'm open to buying more expensive ones if I become convinced that there's a big difference), and I haven't skipped a day or night since buying them. I even paid $25 each way to check my carry-on-size bag when I flew to Austin so that I could take my moisturizer and sunscreen with me. Man, will I be happy if and when the TSA ever lets us carry on more than a few ounces of liquid again.
I'm excited about my new skincare regime, but fancy products aren't the only preventative measure smart 20-somethings should take. Here are six major things you can do now that will have a big impact on how your skin looks later (as well as your overall health).
01. Don't smoke. Don't use drugs. Consume alcohol in moderation.
It's hard to overstate the damage these poisons do to your skin and your overall health. If you have a problem with smoking, drugs, or alcohol, you don't need me to tell you how important it is to quit or how difficult it can be, and I almost feel silly bringing up the damage these substances can do to your skin, since it's really the least of their consequences. Still, I can't see giving out preventative skincare advice without starting at the beginning. First, do no harm.
02. Stay hydrated.
You probably know all about the obvious connection between hydration and great skin. In fact, dehydration is the main negative affect that alcohol has on your skin. So, if you are going to enjoy a night of heavy drinking, make sure to end the night with a few tall glasses of water. Not only will your head thank you in the morning, your skin will too.
It goes without saying that you should also make hydration a priority during exercise and in very hot weather. As for the advice about drinking 8-ounces of water a day. That number is pretty random; the truth is that everyone needs a different amount and that circumstances change the amount you need from day to day. Listen to your body, and drink water when she tells you that she needs it (and when you drink alcohol).
03. Moisturize, moisturize, and then moisturize some more.
Washing your faces strips your skin of moisturizing oils, and dry weather can be really hard on the skin too. You should moisturize at least twice a day. Use a moisturizer with SPF (tinted if you like) in the morning and a night cream at night. I use a night cream with retinol in it because retinol has been shown to increase the skin's collagen production, keeping it firmer for longer. Remember, twice is the minimum number of times you should be moisturizing each day. It's also important to moisturize after washing your face, after swimming, and anytime your skin feels dry or itchy. And don't forget your neck!
04. Get plenty of sleep.
Sleep is so important for every element of your health from maintaining a healthy weight to decreasing stress, and your skin's lusciousness is no exception. I have hereditary dark circles that show up no matter how much sleep I get, but they definitely look worse when I get less sleep. I've been trying out an eye treatment at night to reduce puffiness, though it hasn't done much for my circles.
Your eyes aren't the only things that suffers from lack of sleep. When I don't sleep enough, my skin looks duller and more sallow. I know that prioritizing sleep can be really hard, and it's definitely not something I've mastered yet, but it's on my list of things to focus on to support my skin and my overall health.
05. Just say no to sun damage.
Preventing sun damage goes beyond simply wearing sunscreen, seeking shade, and (for God's sake) saying no to tanning beds and "laying out." In addition to these core habits, you need to wear moisturizer and/or makeup with SPF every single day. Yes, even in winter. Yes, even on cloudy days. Just make it a habit, and never leave home unprotected again.
And don't forget about sunglasses! I once heard from an older Parisian that the French have an edge on Americans because French women know the importance of sunglasses. Not only do sunglasses keep the sun from damaging your eyes, they also keep it from damaging the skin around your eyes! It seems obvious when you think about it, but I don't think most women do think about it, or, at least, I never did. Sunglasses are the best way to prevent crow's feet while simultaneously looking glamorous. Sunglasses, pass it on! A little Parisian secret from her to me to you.
06. Keep makeup minimal.
This is another thing the French are doing right. Because they prioritize skincare (most French women get regular facials), the French like to let their skin show, rather than covering it with tons of makeup. Makeup clogs pores and hides your gorgeous skin. Plus removing a thick coat of makeup every night is really hard on the skin. Personally, I just wear a bit of concealer set with Bare Minerals powder. In the past, I've worn tinted moisturizer as well. I also wear a bit of blush most days (gel in the winter, powder in the summer). If you can muster the courage to give up thick foundation, I really recommend it. It might be hard for a while, while your skin is still clearing up. But soon, your skin will look better overall and you'll be proud to show it off.