Mar 21, 2019
Think you need a $300 cream or the latest and greatest technology? Think again. To really start an effective and science-based anti-aging skincare routine, you need to first understand what causes skin aging. Here, Jude Chao explains the underpinnings of skin aging and what it really takes to get you on an anti-aging skincare regimen.
Anti-aging skincare is big business. Beauty brands at every price point clamor to sell consumers their latest "anti-aging" products, promising or heavily implying that they’ve developed the only real solution to sagging and wrinkles and the involuntary visual disclosure of one’s true age.
I’m here to tell you that when it comes to “anti-aging,” it’s not as hard as many brands’ marketing would have you think. You don’t need some luxury brand’s fancily named proprietary complex™ of obscure plant extracts. There are a few basic steps anyone of any age can take to either maintain the current youthful state of their skin or to return their skin to a more youthful state. If either of those would make you feel happier in your skin, read on.
Your skin is your mansion
Imperfect analogy time!
Imagine that you own a big, beautiful mansion. When you first moved in, the mansion was in excellent condition inside and out. The foundation was solid, the walls were strong, the paint job was fresh and bright.
You have a set but slowly diminishing amount of energy and resources every day to devote to maintaining and improving your mansion. Over time, the internal structure of your house degrades due to the tendency of everything to break down eventually. Think of this as the intrinsic aging process, which is out of your control and determined by genetics and natural processes.
Meanwhile, external factors also contribute to the deterioration of your beautiful mansion. Neighborhood miscreants like to roll up and steal bricks from your walls and copper from your plumbing. Severe weather wears away at your paint. These external factors are the causes of the extrinsic aging process and are more within your control.
In this scenario, the owner is your body’s natural ability to regenerate skin. All through our lives, our bodies are constantly repairing and regenerating our own tissues, including our skin. As we age, this process slows down, but it never stops. So one major question we need to answer as we look at anti-aging is where this process is directed. If we don’t weatherproof our walls and defend them from brick and copper thieves, then our limited resources must go to repairing the external damage caused by those external factors.
On the other hand, if we protect our mansion from external factors, our reparative and regenerative energies can be used to actively improve our mansion — they’re not being expended on damage control. We can maintain the appearance of our mansion and even make it better than before.
This is where a basic anti-aging skincare routine comes in.
Weather can cause significant damage to your beautiful mansion. The elements — the sun in particular — can do the same to your skin. UV damage is the major cause of extrinsic skin aging, with some estimating that sunlight is responsible for “up to 90% of visible skin aging.”
Most of us didn’t get that memo until we’d already allowed ourselves to suffer at least some years of sun damage. I used to think a pea-sized amount of SPF 15 moisturizer was enough to protect my skin through days of walking around in the bright SoCal sun. Whoops.
The good news is that simply protecting your skin from further UV damage may allow your skin to repair and possibly even reverse some previous sun damage! Think of it as weatherproofing your mansion or even erecting an invisible magical dome around it to keep out hail and tornadoes. (Don’t laugh. Magic is a perfectly acceptable way to extend an imperfect analogy.) Now that your mansion isn’t getting chunks gouged out of the walls every time a storm hits, you can fix the damage that’s already been done.
This is why the first step I always recommend to people asking about anti-aging skincare is to find a strong sunscreen that’s cosmetically elegant enough to use every day, and then to actually use that sunscreen every day, rain or shine, in the generous amounts recommended. I use three finger lengths’ worth and pat in with a cushion puff for the smoothest and most even coverage.
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I get a lot of questions about how I use a cushion puff to apply #sunscreen, so here's a demo! Don't mind the shaky camera work. It's hard to keep a steady selfie hand when I'm violently patting away 😁 . Chel @holysnails taught me this trick years ago. I've been doing it every day since then. The cushion puff rapidly creates a perfect even layer of product all over my face. No streaks that show up when I apply makeup; no accidentally neglected spots. The puff also makes it easy to apply a second layer to high spots without disrupting the already applied #SPF underneath. . The cushion puff will suck up a little sunscreen, so I start out with extra. I use three finger lengths of sunscreen for this, as opposed to two and a quarter for when I don't have a puff on hand. Swipe right to see a picture of exactly how much I applied (and which sunscreen I used!). . I clean my cushion puff every other day at minimum but usually every day, while waiting for my actives to absorb in the evening. Clean tools give the best application. . I like Rubycell puffs (the dark blue ones found in many Amorepacific Group brands' cushion compacts). I've found that many other brands' cushion puffs are too soft and absorbent. . Rubycell puffs apply the most evenly and eat up the least amount of product. Usually I get the IOPE branded ones, either on Amazon or at Aritaum stores. Rubycell puffs are also the most durable, standing up to daily washing without falling apart, so I only need to replace the puff about once a month. . Puff washing: I squirt some oil cleanser onto the dry puff and massage it in. Then I dampen the puff and massage again to emulsify. After that, I massage out the product and cleanser under a running tap, then repeat the process with a foaming cleanser. Voila! 🐙 Clean puff! . How do you apply your sunscreen? . . . . #sunprotection #uvprotection #suncream #sunblock #skincaretips #beautyhacks #beautytricks #antiaging #skincancerprevention #sunsafety #suncare #skincare #skincareroutine
Look for a sunscreen with both high UVA and UVB protection. UVB protection is indicated by the SPF rating on the product, and I almost always choose SPF 45 or higher. But UVA is arguably more important. UVB rays cause burning; UVA rays damage skin more deeply, leading to premature skin aging. On U.S. sunscreens, the “broad spectrum” designation indicates that the sunscreen offers some protection against both UVA and UVB radiation.
For me, it’s not enough to know that a sunscreen has some UVA protection, though. That’s one reason I always go for Korean or Japanese sunscreens. The PA designation indicates its level of UVA protection, and I always choose either PA+++ or PA++++ for high levels of defense against damage caused by UVA radiation.
Now let’s look at those neighborhood miscreants rolling up to steal bricks and pipes from your beautiful and unique mansion.
In my increasingly strange analogy, these miscreants are free radicals. There’s something missing in their own lives, and they’re trying to fill that emptiness within themselves by stealing your bricks and copper pipes. Now when your mansion was newer, there were a lot of spare bricks and copper pipes laying around, and this often deterred the miscreants from taking those valuable items from your actual walls. Unfortunately, over the years, the piles of spares have depleted. Now the miscreants have moved on to actually taking from your mansion itself.
Free radicals harm skin by stealing electrons from proteins and lipids, messing up cells and DNA indiscriminately and leaving skin in worse condition than it was before. Antioxidants help prevent this damage by donating electrons to the free radicals. Our bodies naturally produce antioxidants, but our natural production of those, like seemingly everything else that contributes to the firmness and smoothness of youthful skin, diminishes over time.
To defend your mansion against those miscreants, who unfortunately can scale fences and sneak around security guards, leaving out more spare bricks and copper pipes is the best solution. Free radicals, like the thieves in this analogy, can’t be prevented from coming in. The best thing we can do is give them what they want in a way that leaves our main structure intact.
The spare bricks and copper pipes are the antioxidants we add to our skincare routine. Vitamin C (even better when combined with vitamin E and ferulic acid) is a strong defense. Camellia sinensis and astaxanthin also offer great promise in the fight against electron thieves.
Keeping up appearances
A solid sunscreen and antioxidant regimen is the basis for a truly effective long-term anti-aging skincare routine. Even if you stop there, you’ll have done a great deal to slow down the visible aging process. The key, however, is consistency. The beauty industry does its consumers a huge disservice by constantly throwing the “latest and greatest” new skincare “innovations” at us and promising fast results.
Skin takes time to regenerate, and the older we are, the more time and patience it takes to see a difference. Unfortunately, the quest for the latest and greatest new innovations often results in bouncing around from product to product and considering them failures if they don’t magically transform us within two weeks. Home improvements are incremental, and so are skin improvements. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t see change in a short period of time. You’re aiming for the long term here, not instant results. Just know that by protecting your skin from UV radiation and free radical damage, you’re already giving it the safe space it needs to begin repairing itself more effectively from within.
And if you’re ready to be even more active about anti-aging skincare, stay tuned! The second installment of my bad mansion analogy will feature ways to more proactively repair your mansion from within, for increasingly visible results from the outside.
In the meantime, ready to give your anti-aging skincare routine a jumpstart now? We're giving away an AZN Labs Afterglow Ampoule, rich in free-radical fighting astaxanthin, to one lucky winner — a $120 value!
All you have to do is comment below and tell us what products or ingredients you incorporate in your anti-aging routine. If you don't have an anti-aging skincare routine yet, then tell us what you want to incorporate (other than the AZN Labs Afterglow Ampoule, of course). Hurry — this giveaway ends on Monday, March 25, 11:59 pm PST. GOOD LUCK!
Jude writes as Fiddy Snails at the K-beauty and skincare blog Fifty Shades of Snail and can be found on Instagram @fiddysnails. Named the ELLE Malaysia Beauty Blogger of the Month for June/July 2017 and one of ELLE Magazine‘s 10 Cool Beauty Bloggers to Watch in 2018, Jude loves ginseng, snail, honey, propolis, and tuna fish kimbap, though she generally doesn’t put the kimbap on her face.