YES—as long as we incorporate this four-step strategy religiously into our daily skin-care routine.
Step 1: Wear a natural, broad-spectrum sunscreen every day—and make sure it contains zinc oxide. An ideal sunscreen is a mix of minerals and plant-based protective agents.
Free radicals are unpaired electrons that damage cells and accelerate the aging process of the body. Unlike the rest of the body’s tissues where 85% of free radical damage comes from the cell’s own metabolism, skin receives 80% of its free radical damage from exposure to the sun’s rays.
Chemical sunscreens can be a trap—if not frequently applied and reapplied, they can begin to generate free radicals of their own upon exposure to UV. In some cases, they generate more free radicals than if you used no sunscreen at all. The good news is that a variety of sunscreens containing a mix of zinc oxide and plant–based sunscreen agents are now available.
Step 2: Boost your sunscreen with vitamins E and C, and plant antioxidants like ferulic acid.
A layer of antioxidant serum with vitamins E and C applied before your sunscreen greatly intensifies protection by quenching the free radicals that cause photodamage. Adding ferulic acid, a plant antioxidant, to vitamins E and C appears to double antioxidant protection, as this study from the Journal of Investigative Dermatology reports.
"Ferulic acid is a potent ubiquitous plant antioxidant. Its incorporation into a topical solution of 15% l-ascorbic acid and 1% α-tocopherol improved chemical stability of the vitamins (C+E) and doubled photoprotection to solar-simulated irradiation of skin from 4-fold to approximately 8-fold as measured by both erythema and sunburn cell formation. Inhibition of apoptosis was associated with reduced induction of caspase-3 and caspase-7. This antioxidant formulation efficiently reduced thymine dimer formation. This combination of pure natural low molecular weight antioxidants provides meaningful synergistic protection against oxidative stress in skin and should be useful for protection against photoaging and skin cancer."
Step 3: Use retinol at night to repair past damage and prevent future photo damage.
All dermatologists agree that retinoids correct photoaging damage, and numerous studies attest to its effectiveness.
Retinol is a natural form of vitamin A that's formed in the body by the hydrolysis of retinyl esters and converted by enzymes into retinoic acid when needed by the skin. Retin-A (and prescription products like it) is a synthetic derivative of vitamin A derived from retinoic acid. Both improve signs of skin aging, but because retinol converts to retinoic acid, the results are slower to manifest than with Retin-A. On the other hand, Retin-A’s strong effect on cell differentiation often produces side effects such as redness, peeling, dryness and flaking. Retinol has a much milder effect on the skin, so adverse reactions are rare. Bottom line: You'll achieve the same results with both, but retinol takes a bit longer. If you have had problems with prescription products in the past, try a retinol product. The benefits of retinol are too valuable to omit making it a part of your routine.
Step 4: Don’t forget fats—but be sure they’re the right fats.
A Johns Hopkins study concluded that among the outstanding characteristics of aging included omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acid (EFA) imbalances and/or deficiencies. Our bodies don’t make essential fatty acids, so we need to get them from our diet, and since our diets tend to be high in omega-6s and low in omega-3s, developing EFA imbalances has become commonplace.
Skin also needs a daily supply of EFAs, which can be supplied topically by applying oil blends. Again, the difficulty is to achieve a good balance, especially of the hard-to-get omega-3 fatty acids, essential for maintaining healthy skin. Among other duties, omega-3 EFAs help reduce the body’s production of inflammatory compounds and act as antioxidants, protecting the skin from free radical damage.
Getting exactly what you need from your diet is no easy task, and the same goes for finding an oil blend that meets the omega-3/6 balance requirement. Look for oils rich in omega-3 like chia seed and kiwi seed. But the best nutrition for healthy skin is eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) found in algae oil and fish oil. EPA is a powerful antioxidant that also regulates oil production in your skin. Having it in abundance prevents drying and flaking.
For healthy, youthful-looking skin, follow this age-delay routine faithfully:
Exceptions: If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or nursing, apply the antioxidant serum day and night. Do not use the retinol serum.