I want to embrace my body. I want to accept my wrinkles. But truthfully, like probably most women older than 45, I wish I were about 10 pounds lighter and I wish I looked about five years younger. The irony, I remind myself, is that in five years I will desperately wish I looked exactly as I do today. But today? I wish I could dial my wrinkles back half a decade. Without Botox.
Botox is a no-go for me, not just because Botox is a little scary but because, honestly, there are a million other institutions that want my money, from Rutgers University (we’re halfway through paying college tuition for our firstborn) to the grocery store. When I feel like treating myself, I am more apt to order takeout or put cash toward a vacation. Smoothing my face is low on my list of priorities. And yet, it’s there.
I asked Ranella Hirsch, MD, a widely respected board-certified dermatologist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for her take on how I can fight wrinkles short of injectables. Here are her tips, plus other gems I’ve heard from friends and learned myself. There are at least nine things we can do to stave off wrinkles and the expensive procedures to hide them.
Wearing SPF is Key
I told Dr. Hirsch, with a pat on my own back, that wearing sunscreen is one step I already take that I know is wise. At least I put it on my face every day; I am laxer about remembering my shoulders, neck, and arms. “There is no question that reliable and correct use of SPF is the single biggest thing anyone can do to slow the hands of time,” Hirsch says.
Personally, I am a devotee of pretty much anything Olay will sell me. But Dr. Hirsch says I should look specifically for products with retinoids and vitamin D derivatives. (My current shopping pattern is to look for the word “wrinkle” and not fixate on ingredients, so I have to change that.) “Retinoids and vitamin D are the longstanding stalwarts in dermatology,” Dr. Hirsch says. “They help increase the production of collagen and cell turnover.”
You Can Take Collagen Supplements Or, Better Yet, Eat Nutritious Foods
Speaking of collagen — this next tip is not from the dermatologist, but from a friend of mine who is a beauty editor. She told me that spreading a collagen cream on my face was a waste of money because the only possible way to feed it to my skin was by ingesting it. But buyer beware: Collagen supplements are unregulated and honestly probably do not work miracles. It’s like throwing money in a wishing well, and TBH I sometimes do that, too. But the best ways to protect your skin’s natural collagen are to do all the things you know you should do: Wear sunscreen, use those retinol creams, and eat your fruit and veggies. [Narrator: The author is eating a king-size Kit Kat as she types.]
Use an Antioxidant
These come as a serum or as a cream. Back to Dr. Hirsch: “You can boost your use of a sunscreen by also using an antioxidant. Think of it as the burglar alarm supporting the lock on your front door. Because it will react with free radicals, the antioxidant helps reduce your total amount of UV damage.” Sold.
I do not exfoliate so much because my experiments at home have made me break out. But many women are successful with home exfoliation products. “You can also get a professional-strength chemical peel with someone like me,” Dr. Hirsch reminds. I am sure it would work wonders, but would also cost money that I am loath to part with.
Wear Sunglasses and a Hat
This is an affordable tip from my childhood friend who has Nicole Kidman-like skin. She credits not only avoiding the sun during peak hours around noon but also frequently wearing a hat and sunglasses so that she doesn’t squint. Those tips and other habits that slow wrinkles, including sleeping on your back, are worth a try, though obviously genetics and stress are going to have a say in how you wrinkle as well.
Go Easier With Makeup
This is just a tip from me. I have crossed into the age when piling on powders makes my wrinkles look deeper. (Sarah Jessica Parker doesn’t wear anything but eye makeup now when she does her own face, so it’s not just me.) I do wear a liquid foundation to cover my rosacea but I retired my powder blush and powder in general. It’s not going to keep wrinkles away but it draws less attention to them. And the dewy glazed-donut look is trending even with the young and childless.
Getting a haircut with bangs is the tried-and-true method of hiding forehead wrinkles, for both celebs and normal people. My hair is thin and I have not tried it, but as long as we’re counting ways to hide wrinkles, I would be remiss not to list it here.
I know you know this: Smoking is hell on your skin. These pictures of smoker/nonsmoker twins offer up visual proof. Plus, smoking probably costs more than Botox. Then there’s all the news about how smoking means your kids are more likely to smoke. Think of it this way: You want to be the good example of someone who doesn’t smoke, and by doing that, you can perhaps also be the example of someone who never pays for Botox.