Best foods to eat and skin-care products to use.

It’s a fact of life that our skin becomes more wrinkled as we age. But you may be surprised to learn that our skin starts changing as early as age 30 for both women and men. Of course, you can “refresh” your appearance with Botox and skin fillers, but even “inexpensive” cosmetic procedures cost hundreds of dollars.

A better option: Healthful foods and effective skin-care products. Used properly, natural approaches can take years off your appearance.

STEP 1: TWEAK YOUR DIET

While you might think that skin-care products are the logical choice to smooth wrinkled skin, it’s wise to first work from the “inside out” to give your skin the nutrients it needs to look its best.

Increasing laboratory evidence and positive reports from patients suggest that the following foods promote younger-looking skin…

  • High-sulfur foods. Sulfur is known to be one of the “building blocks” of collagen, a protein that strengthens skin and gives it elasticity. Fortunately, sulfur is found in a number of foods.My advice: At least once a day, eat sulfur-rich foods. Good choices: Eggs, chives, legumes (such as black, white or kidney beans) and fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and sardines).
  • Grape juice or red wine. These contain flavonoids known as proanthocyanidins and proteins called tenascins—both help make the skin smoother and more elastic.My advice: Enjoy a daily glass of grape juice—or red wine if your doctor says daily alcohol consumption is appropriate for you. Both are high in proanthocyanidins.In addition, a grape seed extract supplement (typical dose 200 mg once a day) is beneficial, but check first with your doctor if you take medication, especially a blood thinner—the supplement may interact with certain drugs.
  • Soy foods. Tofu, soy milk and other foods derived from soy can make skin appear significantly younger. This is mainly due to genistein, an antioxidant in soy that slows skin aging and increases collagen. Genistein and other compounds are linked to increased skin elasticity and plumpness. These compounds give the skin a “glow” that makes it appear younger.My advice: Have one or more daily servings of soy foods. Good choices: Edamame (steamed soy beans) and miso (a fermented paste used in cooking). Check first with your doctor if you have breast cancer or kidney disease or take any medication. Soy may be harmful for some breast cancer and kidney disease patients…it may also interact with certain drugs, including blood thinners and some antidepressants.

Also: To help keep skin hydrated, drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water each day.

STEP 2: USE THE RIGHT SKIN-CARE PRODUCTS

Skin-care products can help smooth wrinkles and provide other benefits, but there are so many on the market that most people are confused about which to use. Best choices for younger-looking skin…

  • Topical vitamin C. About 80% of the dermis (the second layer of skin) consists of that all important protein collagen. Because collagen production declines with age, it’s a good idea to promote collagen production any way you can.That’s where vitamin C enters the picture. The body uses vitamin C to produce collagen, but whatever is consumed orally doesn’t reach adequate concentrations in the skin to boost collagen. That’s why you need to apply it topically.My advice: Use skin-care products (such as lotions and sunscreens) that have ascorbic acid (vitamin C)—-the best form of the vitamin for absorption as well as collagen production and sun protection. Studies show that topical vitamin C can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in as little as three months.

    To save money: Buy powdered vitamin C at a health-food store, and mix in a small pinch each time you use a moisturizer/sunscreen that does not contain the vitamin.

  • Retinoic acid. This is a form of vitamin A that is added to hundreds of over-the-counter (OTC) skin-care products. It is also available by prescription. Retinoic acid increases cellular turnover, the rate at which cells divide. This makes the skin appear brighter, smoother and plumper.My advice: Use OTC retinol cream once daily. Apply it at night because it temporarily increases the skin’s sensitivity to sun. Most products have a concentration of 1% or less. Prescription-strength retinoic acid usually is not necessary.
  • Moisturizer. Everyone should use this as they age. Adding moisture to skin cells makes them expand, which improves skin volume and texture. Moisturizers protect the skin from environmental factors (heat, dryness and pollution) that undermine skin health.My advice: Use moisturizer with sunscreen at least twice a day. I advise a vitamin C–enhanced moisturizer that includes green-tea extract. Both ingredients improve the skin’s ability to absorb the moisturizer. Compounds in green tea also reduce skin inflammation and sun-related skin damage. Soy moisturizers may provide similar benefits.

Also important: Exfoliation, an effective form of controlled trauma that stimulates the skin to produce more collagen. Every week or two, use a gentle facial scrub with fine grains and a soft facial brush. This practice also removes the dead skin cells that dull your complexion.

Sensitive skin sometimes cannot tolerate even a mild scrub. An ultrasonic brush, such as Clarisonic ($100 to $200 at department stores and online), with a hydrating cleanser is a good alternative.

A chemical peel once or twice a year is another good way to remove dead skin cells. OTC peels contain glycolic acid, lactic acid or salicylic acid, usually in a concentration of about 5% to 10%. Peels should also contain moisturizing ingredients to minimize irritation. If you’re new to chemical peels, talk with your dermatologist before using one of these products, since they can irritate skin, especially sensitive skin.