After a tumultuous pandemic year, you may feel a dozen years older. After staying indoors, social distancing, and eating all your snacks, you may look a tad older, too. But just as Dr. Anthony Fauci says there's a "light at the end of the tunnel" with the vaccines here, there's hope for you to feel your best again—maybe even better than ever. "You can't change what you were dealt with genetically but you can take control of other factors which will help to stay looking younger," says Dr. Eugene D. Elliott of MemorialCare. Read on for this essential advice, on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.
Avoid Chronic Sun Exposure
"Chronic sun exposure is the most common extrinsic factor that affects skin aging," says Dr. Rashmi Byakodi, editor of Best For Nutrition. "The loss of collagen is considered the characteristic finding of aged skin. Wrinkling and pigmentary changes are directly associated with photo-aging."
The Rx: "The only strategy that can prevent photo-aging is sun avoidance. Use sunscreens to block or reduce skin exposure to UV radiation," says Dr. Byakodi. "My favorite sunblocks are mechanical, contain zinc and/ or titanium dioxide, and block the UVA damaging rays very effectively with frequent application," says Dr. Elliott.
Find Ways to Destress
"Stress is also associated with potentially harmful stimuli, making you look older," says Dr. Byakodi. "Relaxation methods like deep breathing and meditation can help to relieve stress."
The Rx: "The interplay between mind, emotion and body have long been recognized," says Dr. Deborah Lee. "There are now many relaxation techniques that can be taught, which have been shown to help relieve stress, reduce blood pressure and reduce numerous physical complaints. These include breathing exercises, as well as yoga, meditation, aromatherapy and hydrotherapy to name a few."
Getting a Good Night's Sleep
"Healthy young adults were photographed after 8 hours of sleep and again after sleep deprivation. Other observers were asked to rate their attractiveness. When the participants were sleep deprived, they were rated as less attractive, more tired, and less healthy compared to when they were rested," says Janet Hilbert, MD. "Getting a good night's sleep is not only good for the body and mind, but also improves attractiveness and other people's inclination to socialize with us."
The Rx: "A good night's sleep can do wonders for your youthful appearance and since your face relaxes while you sleep that can also help soften fine lines on the face," says Andrea Paul, MD. It is recommended that you get eight hours of sleep per night.
Have a Regulated Sleep Schedule as Well
"You can regulate sleep patterns — prepare for bed with a 15 min pre-sleep routine," says Dr. Griffiths. "Close the day by removing electronics from the bedroom."
The Rx: Consider starting a sleeping ritual. "Whether it's curling up with a book, listening to calming music or taking a warm bath, doing the same, relaxing thing every night will signal to your body that it's time to settle down. However, avoid watching TV or looking at any laptop, tablet or smart phone screens before hitting the hay, since those activities can trigger your brain to stay awake," suggests the experts at Sleep.org.
"Eating healthy especially diets high in fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants found in these foods can decrease damage to the skin by free radicals and pollutants," says Dr. Poston.
"Try to moderate red meat. A Mediterranean diet appears to be more healthful," says Dr. Elliott.
The Rx: Follow the nutrition advice on Eat This, Not That! to make the right food choice every time.
Don't Forget to Moisturize
"Moisturize your skin. Dry skin looks flaky and grayer. Use a moisturizer every day, especially in the winter," says Dr. Poston.
The Rx: "I keep skin care simple for my patients, usually a retinoid moisturizing product combined with a cleanser keeps the skin looking fresh," says Dr. Elliott. "My favorite skin care product that's appropriate for most patients contains peptides that stimulate stem cells, in cream and serum form that help defy aging."
You Can Invest in Some Minimally Invasive Techniques
"There are some minimally invasive techniques to reverse skin aging: botox to decrease muscle hyper function creating wrinkles or fillers to replace fat atrophy in the face, a normal process of aging," says Chester F. Griffiths, MD.
The Rx: Consider these factors from Henry Ford Hospital before committing to any kind of cosmetic alterations:
Have realistic expectations.
Check surgeons' qualifications.
Evaluate the facility.
Consider the timing.
Save for the expense.
Don't minimize risk.
Be patient with recovery.
Consider nonsurgical options.
Smoking is known to prematurely age your skin. It is best to avoid all tobacco and other smoking products.
"Exercise daily for 15-20 minutes," says Dr. Griffiths.
The Rx: Some examples of equipment free workouts are chair poses, planks, and pushups. You can also go for a socially distanced walk or jog.
Don't Forget to Smile
"I think the single most important thing you can do to look younger is smile. It decreases the number of wrinkles that appear over time on your face," says Dr. Leann Poston. "Smiling makes you happier and gives you more energy. A positive attitude encourages better eating habits and more exercise!" And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.