Not getting any younger
August 29, 2012 7:59 PM   Subscribe

Lately when I look at myself in the mirror I look old for my age (36). But I don’t want to look old for my age. I want to look amazing for my age! What are some daily regimens I can follow to preserve what’s left of my fading beauty (hah) for as long as possible?

Here are my complaints:
1.) Wrinkled, mottled skin (with bonus acne!) I haven’t been to a dermatologist in ages, but I suspect I may have acne rosacea.
2.) I have the bad habit of pursing my lips all the time, especially when I’m stressed or pensive (which are my default emotions). I’m trying to break this habit, but in the meantime I’m getting deep vertical lines in my lips, which makes me look sooooo oooooooold.
3.) Despite being fairly active, I’m getting rather pudgy, especially in the stomach and upper arms. When I see pictures of myself, the word I think of is “stout.”

I realize that I am probably more critical of my flaws than others are, at least I hope so. However, I do feel that I am really showing my age, especially in comparison with some of my peers who presumably have healthier habits. My only explanations for this are that I am perpetually stressed out, eat a ton of sugar (getting slightly better about this, though it’s a struggle), have sleep problems, smoked a lot when I was younger, and spent every summer until last year roasting myself in the sun all summer long.

I’m not likely to reduce my stress levels until someone gives me enough money that I can quit my job. My poor sleep is due to my neighborhood being randomly noisy enough that even a white noise machine can’t drown it out. However, I’m wondering what other habits I can change to try to slow this terrifying slide into old age. Diet regimens? Skin care products? Deep breathing through my nose? I’m willing to invest significant effort into this.
posted by indognito to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
SPF 30+ sunscreen every day before you leave the house. Hats and sunglasses if you're going to be in the sun any length of time. This is the #1 thing you can do to prevent prematurely aged skin (as well as skin cancer). If you do nothing else, do this.

Extra credit: Homemade vitamin C serum
posted by the jam at 8:12 PM on August 29, 2012

Need more info...

Do you smoke? Stop.
Do you drink? Curtail it.
Do you exercise? Increase it.

Get more sleep.
Hydrate more.
Wear sunscreen. Always.
Age Gracefully.

Bust most importantly... love yourself, be happy with yourself, and realize that aging is just something that HAPPENS. Accept that, and your true beauty will shine through. Everything else is just narcissism.
posted by matty at 8:15 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Drink more water
And definitely see the dermatologist
Increase your fruit and veggie intake
Walk more - even adding a stroll around the block in the evenings will help improve your circulation, which is good for all your systems, including skin.
posted by bilabial at 8:15 PM on August 29, 2012

Start with a visit to a dermatologist. They can identify your specific skin issues.

Find a workout regime you like well enough to stick to it.

Can you bear to sleep with earplugs?
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:16 PM on August 29, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, so far! Just wanted to clarify some things people have asked...

Need more info...

Do you smoke? Stop.
Do you drink? Curtail it.
Do you exercise? Increase it.

Well, I do not smoke any more or drink alcohol, ever. I exercise vigorously every day (to help with the sleep issues as well as stress levels). I will, however, be looking into sunscreen, for sure! (I know there have been several AskMe questions about good sunscreens).

Can you bear to sleep with earplugs?

Good thought--I started with earplugs, graduated to white noise machine with earplugs, and now use white noise along with an iPod with brown noise loaded onto it. Sigh.
posted by indognito at 8:21 PM on August 29, 2012

THROW AWAY all sugary foods. Just do it in one clean sweep. You\re runing your workouts by eating tons of sugar. You could be fit and not look it because you eat garbage. Once I got over the initial hurdle, I never went back. So maybe you will get used to it, too.
posted by amodelcitizen at 8:24 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Serious strength training.

This also intrigues me, but alas I am one of those mythical women who actually does bulk up, and honestly I don't need to be carrying any more weight in my upper body and arms. Or is there any kind of full-body strength training that will help distribute the weight more evenly?

All right, will stop threadsitting.
posted by indognito at 8:24 PM on August 29, 2012

The good news about strength training (unlike cardio) is that you CAN target specific body parts. If you do bulk up through strength training, emphasise training the bits of yourself that are smaller and you will end up looking more balanced as a whole. For you it sounds like that means you probably want to start doing things like squats and hamstring curls and maybe calf raises.

For me, I was always a pear shape, and when I started doing weights about eight years ago, I put on about 5kg, but my shoulders and chest increased noticeably, and my arms a little too, so suddenly I looked more hourglass, which I like.
posted by lollusc at 8:31 PM on August 29, 2012

yoga might be good for your upper arms & for combating stress.
posted by katieanne at 8:32 PM on August 29, 2012

but alas I am one of those mythical women who actually does bulk up, and honestly I don't need to be carrying any more weight in my upper body and arms. Or is there any kind of full-body strength training that will help distribute the weight more evenly?

Is it "bulking up" from lifting weights or from eating "a ton of sugar"? I have seen many women with biceps much larger than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, and it wasn't because they were pumping iron.

As a woman, you simply are not going to produce enough testosterone to become a manotaur unless you try very, very hard. It will not happen by accident. And, as others have noted, unless you are eating more calories than you burn, you will not be adding bulk of any sort, fat or muscle.

But, the biggest factor in others' perception of your age is what you have from the neck up. Your face and skin are going to be the biggest factors. You can maintain what you have with a proper diet of lean protein and greens. However, while you should see a dermatologist, you will not be able to do much about the damage caused by years of summer roasting. A dermatologist could greatly help you with this.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:40 PM on August 29, 2012

Daily regimens?

Neutrogena Sunblock SPF 100+
posted by twentyfoursummers at 8:43 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dermatologist. Ask at the appointment about retinols, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid. Any sort of exfoliation above a gentle pat with a towel or rinse with a washcloth (NB-the jury is still out on the Clarisonic. Your derm might recommend it) is generally not advised. Chemical exfoliation is much preferred to mechanical. Do go see a derm before you do any of this on your own, however, as rosacea does not respond well to some of the above acids, and you don't want to go there.

Once you get the go-ahead on some of those, if any, there are prescription and non-prescription products you can use. Not all of them are expensive. Aspirin masks are great, for instance (salicylic acid).

Other posters have suggested hydration, sunscreen, exercise, and moisturizer. These, along with a doctor-approved regimen, will improve the look and quality of your skin.
posted by oflinkey at 8:53 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

So.....36-8 was exactly the age that I noticed real signs of aging. Just normal changes, but it was really, well, weird. I remember exactly where I was when I saw myself in this restaurant mirror and gasped at myself. It took me by surprise, and it took a few years for that initial shock to wear off. You go for quite a few years as an adult looking relatively the same, then it seems overnight you need to confront this new reality. Anyhow, this was how it was for me.

You could just be going through this adjustment.

But I am also a firm believer in developing good habits like others have mentioned above, and rather than youthifying, rephrase it to beautifying. That is something you can maintain forever, without having to worry if you look any certain age. It also sounds like you would feel much better with skin improvements, so I might try that first. And for slimming without bulk, pilates, which is also good for posture, all beautifying measures.
posted by nanook at 10:18 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could try giving yourself Lactic Acid Peels at home if you can't afford to go to a dermatologist (which would be preferable if you have the cash, of course). Do a patch test and don't leave it on too long to start. I do these and have rosacea, so I use only a 30% solution which is fine for my skin, but of course YMMV.
posted by hazyjane at 10:35 PM on August 29, 2012

3) Diet. You can either cut out some foods which make up a significant portion of your diet or you can keep eating roughly the same only less of everything, it doesn't matter (most people find neither of these options to be pleasant, but usually one is less unpleasant than the other). Just pick something and stick with it.
posted by anaelith at 3:53 AM on August 30, 2012

About six months ago, I discovered that I had rosacea on my face. First time for me; I'd never had any skin conditions of note before. I've always prided myself on my skin so this was upsetting, to say the least. Also, after an attack of bronchitis in February, I had constant post-nasal drip and always sounded like I had a cold. I noticed the rosacea around the same time, maybe a little later.

I saw my doctor a couple of months ago about the post-nasal drip and he suggested I cut out cow's milk products. Goat and sheep milk are OK; not sure why. I am a dairy fiend, BTW.

Well, guess what. The rosacea cleared up along with the post-nasal drip. I made no changes other than cutting way down on cow's milk (I'm sure I'm still getting some in prepared/baked goods). A lot less intestinal gas into the bargain. If I consume any significant amount of cow's milk (more than an ounce), the post-nasal drip starts coming back within a few hours, as does the gas.

Throwing that out there because it was just so bizarre. My (Irish) doctor says that Western Europeans are prone to dairy (cow's milk) intolerance as they get older; apparently this is right on track for me.
posted by Currer Belfry at 4:14 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

The women I do yoga with all look great for their age.

To squash the pudgy, you need to change your diet - it will be far more effective than exercise (which you should keep doing for the other reasons you mentioned)
posted by backwards guitar at 4:36 AM on August 30, 2012

Since no one has mentioned it yet: hair cut and color. Having a flattering modern cut and nice color can really help brighten one's look.
posted by rachums at 4:46 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for your answers. Some things I'm going to try:
Sunscreen sunscreen sunscreen.
Visiting a dermotologist.
Trying yet again to cut out sugar, or at least cut back.
Strength training in addition to cardio.
Cutting out the small amount of dairy I eat.

So.....36-8 was exactly the age that I noticed real signs of aging. Just normal changes, but it was really, well, weird.

Yeah, I'm sure this is some of it. However, since I'm going to age anyways, might as well do it as gracefully as possible. I'd much rather have crows' feet from smiling a lot than frown lines and lip-pursing wrinkles.

...rather than youthifying, rephrase it to beautifying.

Point very well taken. I think that some people actually look more beautiful as they age and their faces take on a lot of character. I just don't want mine to make me look like the villain in a Disney movie.
posted by indognito at 6:01 AM on August 30, 2012

I'll just address the acne rosacea here.... I suffer from that and have found diet definitely affects it, but for treatment I have found Finacea to do a fantastic job at keeping away the major flare-ups I used to get. It's a cream my regular doctor prescribed (no dermatologist needed - thank heavens since it takes so long to get an appt). It says to use it morning and night and I just use it at night. Love it. It's expensive as there is no generic brand of it, but it's worth it! (Metrocream is another alternative that wasn't as effective for me, but maybe different people react differently.)
posted by LilBit at 6:50 AM on August 30, 2012

Every night and every morning, slather your face in 100% pure aloe vera gel. (NOTE: it should not contain any alcohol. "Fruit of the Earth" aloe vera is pure and you can get it at Walmart, etc.) Then in the morning, moisturize with something good. Add a little non-greasy sunscreen if you're going to go outside. But yeah: moisturize moisturize moisturize.

Honestly, "getting a little pudgy" is probably doing your face some good. Most of us tend to look more drawn without fat in the face. But when I get that way, I go off bread and sugar for a while and things balance out.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:53 AM on August 30, 2012

I have had similar problems to you, tried everything, and the best thing I've found so far is Retin A at night (I'm on the lowest possible dose) combined with using a daily BHA cleanser (anything with salicylic acid should work - I'm using Olay Daily Renewal.) It has made a world of difference, cleared up my acne completely (+ no more blackheads!!) and made my skin look fresh and young. Give it a try!
posted by Pademelon at 6:58 AM on August 30, 2012

This also intrigues me, but alas I am one of those mythical women who actually does bulk up, and honestly I don't need to be carrying any more weight in my upper body and arms. Or is there any kind of full-body strength training that will help distribute the weight more evenly?

Pilates seems to be good for all around, utilitarian strength. I've never seen a "bulky" looking person who practiced that kind of exercise.

There may be a time period where the muscle growth goes faster than the fat loss and you look "bulky", but that just means to stick to what you are doing for a while longer. The nice thing about rebuilding muscle mass is that muscle consumes energy by just sitting there, where fat does not. So over time, building muscle means that you burn more calories.
posted by gjc at 7:01 AM on August 30, 2012

Give being vegan a try for a week. I know, it sounds crazy, and in some ways is, but if you really are active every day and still aren't as fit as you want to be, than diet is the way to change that. There is no easier way to kickstart your diet in a new direction than to cut all of the crap out of it completely, and luckily, pretty much all of the crap is processed foods.

Watch the film "Forks over Knives", that may help to keep you inspired to clean up your diet.
posted by markblasco at 8:11 AM on August 30, 2012

You can break habits like lip pursing if you want to work hard at it. It's purely (hah, that sounds easy) a matter of becoming aware of it and stopping yourself every single time you notice yourself doing it.

I tend to clench my jaw and instead of just forcing myself to stop, I force myself into a position where I can't clench my jaw - basically with my mouth slightly open and my tongue resting on the bottom of my mouth. You could try a slight open-mouthed smile.

The advantage of the open mouthed slight smile is that it stretches your lips a little making your lines less obvious and also is a very pleasant neutral expression.
posted by kadia_a at 9:53 AM on August 30, 2012

Not addressing one of your specific complaints, but in my case, I looked younger than my age right up until my eyelids started sagging. Now I look every bit my age, if not older, and will until/if I decide to get surgery. I don't know if eyelid exercises and eye cream would have helped if I'd started them early enough, but I sure wish I had.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:54 PM on August 30, 2012

Exfoliate! I just use a washcloth drenched in warm water every time I shower. I can definitely see and feel a difference in my face when I do this.
posted by deborah at 3:17 PM on August 30, 2012

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