Despite aging being something as sure as taxes or death, there's still a stigma around it. From small changes in our body like wrinkles, to larger issues like ageism in the workplace, dealing with getting older is tougher than it should be. Furthermore, with an anti-aging product market that is worth 19.8 billion USD in Asia Pacific alone, aging comes with significant financial outlay. Paradoxically, despite people stigmatising growing older while spending money to look younger, many hold onto habits that can cause them to age prematurely, like improper sun protection, poor dietary and exercise habits and improper sleep. To help you combat signs of premature aging we listed some of the most affordable things you can do to keep yourself looking as young (or younger) than you really are.
Reduce Spots and Wrinkles With Sunscreen
Sunscreen is a boring but necessary part of your daily skincare routine. However, despite sunscreen recently getting a bad rap thanks to misinformation and unproven claims, it still remains the healthiest and most effective way to reduce photoaging (premature aging due to the exposure to UV rays). Applying around a shot glass's size to your body and a teaspoon size amount to your face is enough to reduce premature wrinkles, dark spots (hyperpigmentation), thinning skin and collagen decrease that is caused by UV radiation. Most importantly, sunscreen that has at least an SPF of 30 has been proven to be effective in reducing 3 types of skin cancer.
Out of all the anti-aging products and procedures, sunscreen will remain one of the most affordable. A tube of SPF 50 costs an average of S$22 from major drugstores, but you can avoid expensive brands like Vichy and opt for a brand like Banana Boat that's half the price, since the active ingredients are pretty much the same. However, if sunscreen does tend to break you out, then it may be worth getting a separate sunscreen for your face from a brand that has been tested for sensitive skin (like La Roche Posay), rather than buying separate acne and breakout creams. If you are out in the sun and get a sunburn, it's imperative that you moisturise and treat your burns with a cool bath, routinely apply aloe vera gel or a lotion containing hyaluronic acid and eat foods rich in Vitamin C to counteract the loss of UV-ray induced collagen production that leads to wrinkles and a loss of skin elasticity.
Retinoids for Wrinkles, Uneven Skin Tone and Add Plumpness
One of the best ways to reduce premature aging on your face, neck and hands is to use retinoids. Retinoids comprise of vitamin A (retinol), retinaldehyde, retinoic acid and retinyl esters. Since vitamin A can't be synthesized by the body, people have been getting the vitamin through food and creams. One of the most common forms of retinoids is tretinoin, which you may already be familiar with if you are getting treated for acne. However, tretinoin does more than reduce acne. In fact, one short-term study showed that pretreatment of sun-damaged skin with 0.1% tretinoin cream prevented collagen degradation, reduced wrinkles, roughness and sallowness. Another 1-month study using 0.05% tretinoin cream even spurred angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels) in the top layer of the skin and led to a disappearance of abnormal cells. Long-term studies were even more promising, indicating that tretinoin can greatly reduce signs of sun damage when used consistently for more than 6 months.
In Singapore, you can only get tretinoin through a prescription so costs will vary. If you use tretinoin and find that the ingredient is too rough on your skin, you can instead use creams containing retinol. Retinol is less potent, and therefore, less harsh on your skin, but provides similar benefits to tretinoin. Adapalene gels (like Differin) also show promising results in treating acne and photoaging as a second line treatment. Both ingredients are available OTC in pharmacies and beauty stores. While these products cost more than your average moisturizer, their effects can be well worth the cost and much cheaper than anti-aging facials and plastic surgery procedures.
That said, you have to be careful when using retinoids. You should speak to your dermatologist to see which product, formula strength and application schedule is best for your skin. This is because retinoid use often causes unpleasant side effects like redness, peeling and skin purging (temporary inflammation and breakouts). Furthermore, overuse of retinol or mixing retinol with the wrong ingredients can result in skin inflammation, peeling and sensitivity. Lastly, read the packaging carefully before buying. There should be a strength and clear description of what kind of retinoid is contained in the cream. For instance, while some products say they use retinol, the actual ingredient is retinyl propionate, which is a much weaker form of retinoids and has not proven to be any more effective in reducing signs of aging over the placebo in skincare studies.
Increase Vitamin D To Counteract Aging From the Inside
Vitamin D3 is vital for important physiological functions like reducing inflammation, controlling excessive oxidative stress and the mitochondrial respiratory function. In other words, it's vital to keeping the body healthy as it ages. Thus, if you want to avoid premature aging, it's important that you maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D. The most affordable way to do so is to incorporate Vitamin D into your diet through foods like salmon and fortified dairy and orange juice, go on 15 minute walks on sunny days, or take supplements.
Sources of Vitamin D
- Fish (Tuna, mackerel, oysters, shrimp, sardines, anchovies)
- Egg yolks (especially pasture-raised or free-range chickens)
- Fortified foods (cow's milk, orange juice, cereals, tofu, yogurt)
When it comes to Vitamin D's effects on reducing premature aging, you have to look at what's going on beneath the surface. While retinoids and sunscreen help you look younger for longer, Vitamin D aids in reducing the risk and severity of diseases that typically occur as we get older. For instance, the Vitamin D deficiency plays a role in the increased risk of developing osteoporosis. On the other hand, taking Vitamin D supplements can help improve balance, mobility and physical functioning in older adults. Once you're able to maintain both mobility and bone health, you'll be able to do more things to avoid aging. For instance, you'll be able to continue exercising, which has been shown to reverse cellular aging and increase telomere strength.
While the Fountain of Youth Is Out of Reach, Reducing Effects of Aging Aren't
As with most things in life, you have to invest time and money into seeing results. That said, you don't have to spend thousands of dollars on expensive treatments and surgeries to prevent aging. Even things as simple as wearing sunscreen and getting enough Vitamin D can help reduce premature aging significantly. If you want to save even more money, you can consider using a rewards credit card that can give you cashback at pharmacies or grocery stores. If you are committed to a particular brand or store, you can even see if there are loyalty programs that can give you discounts or samples. That being said, remember that aging itself is not inherently bad. Rather, it's aging prematurely that prevents us from looking and feeling our best for as long as possible.