By Marcia Caster
Black may not crack as easily, but it does sag, jiggle and darken as time creeps on. Not to worry. Technology and Mother Nature are on our side. Read on for organic, natural and other treatments that promise to turn back time. Don’t let the condition of your skin give away your age. Maintain a youthful glow no matter how many birthday candles you’re blowing out this year!
ISSUE: Droopy Skin?
THE DOWNSIDE — “I find African Americans age initially by losing volume from soft tissue loss in the skin,” explains Windell Boutte, M.D., a dermatologist and owner of the Premiere Aesthetic Center (premderm.com) in Lilburn, Ga.
What does that mean for you?
Skin that sags in all the wrong places — hollowing around the eyes, deep nasal folds and jowls, Dr. Boutte says. Over time, collagen and elastin, the power duo that keeps our skin taught and supple, breaks down. Why? In part due to the natural aging process and largely due to environmental factors and sun damage.
“Everyone loses about a teaspoon of collagen every year starting at age 30,” explains Jeanine Downie, M.D., a dermatologist based in Montclair, N.J., “It’s not until we are in our 40s or 50s that we see the effects.”
THE UPSIDE — At the Pro’s Office: Say hello to fillers such as Juvederm and Restylane. We have been slower to jump on this bandwagon. (Visions of puffed-up celebrity faces hasn’t helped.) But if performed by a skilled dermatologist, you can achieve a natural-looking lift and refreshed appearance that can last up to six months. Nervous about the needle? We get it. Lisa Ginn, M.D., a dermatologist based in Chevy Chase, Md., (skinatlrg.com) loves Ultherapy, a noninvasive ultrasound device used to tighten and smooth skin. “It’s color-blind so it’s very safe to use on our skin with no risk of burning or scarring,” she says. No downtime required!
At Home: Turn to products with peptides, which are proteins that stimulate collagen production in the skin and boost elasticity. Consider Olay Regenerist Microsculpting Cream ($22, olay.com). Coffee bean extract has been shown to strengthen and tighten skin too. Try Priori Tightening Serum with CoffeeBerry ($81, priorimedspa.com) or Naturopathica Plant Cell Serum ($48, naturopathica.com) with Echinacea stem cells.
ISSUE: Wrinkly Hands?
THE DOWNSIDE — Lack of attention and lack of sunscreen are the culprits behind our aging hands. Add to that the absence of sebum glands in that area, and it’s no wonder our hands betray us. The skin on our hands is very thin to start with and, unfortunately over time skin, only gets thinner, which makes veins and bones more apparent.
Another downer: Thinner skin is more easily penetrated by harmful ultraviolet rays and other harsh elements. All of this can wear down the lipid barrier of the skin.
“The lipid barrier is what keeps moisture in and skin cells functioning properly, while harmful things are left out,” explains beauty chemist Ni’kita Wilson. “Once the lipid barrier is compromised then skin becomes dry, sensitive and prone to damage.”
THE UPSIDE — At a Pro’s Office: “Women forget that everything that is commonly performed on the face and body can be done on the hands, too,” says internist and dermatologist Vaughan Graves, M.D. Laser treatments, microdermabrasion and creams with skin-renewing retinoids can all improve the appearance. Some women even try fillers to plump up the back of the hands.
At Home: Show your hands some love. Small moves like wearing gloves when doing the dishes or using harsh detergents can go a long way. During the day, apply sunscreen to your hands. At night, give yourself a treatment with a mild scrub with alpha hydroxy acids to boost skin turnover. We like the Julep Facial for Hands Glycolic Scrub ($12.99, julep.com). To fight free radical damage and awaken weary skin, try Grape Stem Cell Solutions Serum ($118, thewickedhair.com).
ISSUE: Neck Jiggle and Dark Creases?
THE DOWNSIDE — Women of all skin colors suffer from unsightly crepey neck waddle caused by sun exposure and overall loss of elasticity in the skin. It’s a challenge to treat because the skin on the neck and chest is thin. Surprisingly, those strange dark rings we often see around our neck may be caused by two health issues that plague our aging community: obesity and diabetes.
“The technical term is acanthosis nigricans,” explains Miami-based dermatologist Heather Woolery-Lloyd, M.D.
Dr. Woolery-Lloyd says the velvety dark rings can be found not only on the neck but under the arms, too, (basically anywhere skin folds due to weight gain). The change in skin is also believed to be a sign of diabetes.
THE UPSIDE — At the Pro’s Office: For the loose skin, derms turn to lasers, ultrasound and light to tighten the skin. They work by heating up the deep layers of the skin and trick it into thinking a burn has occurred. This triggers collagen production, our body’s natural wound healing response. These treatments are safe for all skin tones because the devices used keep the top layer of the skin, which houses the melanin, cool.
At Home: Prevention is the key to having a neck worthy of showing off. A rule of thumb: anything that you are using on your face, extend down your neck and onto your chest. Try Revisions Skincare Nectifim (approximately $60, revisionskincare.com for retail locations). The only way to truly nix the dark rings is to address the underlying issue. Losing weight helps, and controlling diabetes usually results in an overall improvement. In some patients, the rings disappear.
ISSUE: Under-eye Discoloration and Bags?
THE DOWNSIDE — Genetics, stress and friction all play a role in tired-looking eyes. Our eyes sit in a pad of yellow fat. As we get older, it’s the one place that fat shrinks, which causes our eyes to sink in and form shadows or the fat bulges out, which creates bags. Allergies and constant rubbing also lead to pigmentation around the entire eye.
Is your under-eye area bluish? The skin around the eyes is delicate. As skin thins, veins and broken capillaries show through.
THE UPSIDE — At the Pro’s Office: Don’t be surprised if your derm refers you to a plastic surgeon for a potentially pricey technique called blepharoplasty (aka eyelid surgery) to eliminate the fatty bags under your eyes. For any hollowness. it’s all about pumping up the volume with fillers. “Restylane is the preferred filler for that area,” says Dr. Downie (imagedermatology.com). “Patients are excited that the effects last about 10 months.”
At Home: Besides getting plenty of sleep, turn to eye creams that firm the skin and contain optics that brighten the area. Clinique’s Even Better Eyes Dark Circle Corrector ($39.50, clinique.com) addresses several causes of under-eye circles while adding luminosity. Other favorites: SkinMedica TNS Eye Repair ($95, skinmedica.com), StriVectin-EV Get Even Dark Circle Corrector ($59, strivectin.com) and iderma Calm After the Storm Eye Cream ($75, iderma.com).
ISSUE: Uneven Skin Tone?
THE DOWNSIDE — Even if you didn’t spend your teen years laying out in the sun to get tan, you still have been exposed to damaging ultraviolet rays. “Melanin protects us a lot,” says Dr. Woolery-Llyod, creator of Specific Beauty skin care (specificbeauty.com). “But we are not exempt from the DNA damage caused by the chronic exposure to radiation.”
Need more proof?
Studies have shown that we have more damage on the left side of the face due to exposure while driving. Damage is cumulative. Add to that hormonal changes that occur as we approach menopause and you have the groundwork for patchy pigmentation.
We are also prone to melasma, which is set off by an imbalance of hormones like a dip in estrogen, on the cheeks, forehead and the top of the lips.
THE UPSIDE — At the Pro’s Office: Exfoliation is critical to evening out the color of your skin successfully. However, with skin of color, we must proceed with caution when it comes to solutions such as peels and lasers. So do your homework. Visit a pro who has extensive experience treating brown skin. Chemical peels with salicylic acid or glycolic acid are simple and safe for our skin type. But don’t expect instant results. Our derms agree that we have to go with a lower-strength peel than fairer-skinned women can tolerate to prevent irritation and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Expect a series of three to six peels at a couple of hundred of dollars each before you see long-lasting results.
At Home: Exfoliation should continue at home. Start with over-the-counter chemical peels with ingredients like glycolic acid or kojic acid. Scrubs may be too grainy and actually tear the skin and cause more discoloration. Try Dermatologist Strength Specific Beauty Dark Spot Corrector Pads ($59, hsn.com). We also like Odacité’s “A Summer in Hossegor” serum ($149, odacite.com) for fading spots. And always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day to keep the areas you are treating from getting darker. We like Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30 ($9.49, neutrogena.com).
ISSUE: Thinning Hair?
THE DOWNSIDE — Unfortunately, thinning strands are a natural side effect of aging. But we often make matters worse with poor styling practices and improper use of weaves and other hair extensions. Circulation to the scalp diminishes over time; plus the hair shaft gets thinner with age. Remember, scalp is skin and it needs to be nurtured.
THE UPSIDE — At the Pro’s Office: A derm will have to rule out any underlying medical issues such as alopecia or a vitamin deficiency. Hormonal shifts also play a key role in age-related hair loss. Dr. Graves, founder of the Ultimate Vitality Center in Philadelphia (ultimatevitalitycenters.com), prefers to do hormonal testing as early as possible to reveal any deficiencies so he can address them beforehand.
At Home: Hair-thickening products can work, but just remember it’s temporary. “Hair strands are either thickened by adding a film around the outside of the hair or by drawing ingredients inside of the strand,” explains Wilson, founder of skinects.com. “Each increases the diameter of the hair making it thicker thus the entire head of hair appears to have more volume.” Try Pantene Expert Collection AgeDefy Advanced Thickening Treatment ($18.99, pantene.com for retail locations) and Philip Kingsley Scalp Toner ($29, philipkingsley.com).
ISSUE: Rough Skin Texture
THE DOWNSIDE — Estrogen plays a huge role in skin function. Plumpness, moisture levels and firmness are all affected by this power hormone. So it’s no wonder that when women hit menopause, the skin changes. When estrogen plummets, skin gets dry and paves the way for fine lines (yes, we get them) and a less than desirable texture.
THE UPSIDE — At the Pro’s Office: Retinoic acid to the rescue. This prescription-strength derivative of vitamin A has been proven to improve the texture of the skin as well as actually repair elastic tissue and inhibit the breakdown of collagen. That’s a big deal! Plus it helps to exfoliate the skin and unplug pores. But this is not when you want to feel the burn. There are varying strengths of retinoic acid so find one that works best for you.
At Home: Moisture is key. “Even though our skin tends to be oily we still can suffer water loss like other skin types,” explains aesthetician Germaine Williams, owner of Red Bloom Wellness Spa in Bethesda, Md. “For mature skin, focus on products that contain hyaluronic acid, aloe vera and other water-binding humectants.” On our radar is Phyt’s Serum Multi-vita ampoules ($72, euroganicsbeauty.com), which are packed with vitamins and minerals. Also try retinols, a less potent version of prescription retinoic acid. Both penetrate the cellular level of the skin and stimulate collagen production. The difference is in how quickly it works. Use it a couple of nights a week, and gradually work up to daily use. Be patient. Our docs say it will take at least a few months before you see noticeable results. Try Philosophy Help Me Retinol Night Treatment ($47, philosophy.com) or Olay Professional ProX Deep Wrinkle Treatment ($29.99, olay.com).
Marcia Caster is a leading beauty editor who is beautiful inside and out.