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Anti-Aging Skincare Tips For Sensitive and Reactive Skin

I’ve been thinking about how to stay youthful looking for as long as I can remember.

By youthful I don’t mean some fantasy about looking like I did when I was 22. My idea of youthful is looking healthy with a glowing complexion, and my hope is that people are surprised to know my age.

It’s important to stay realistic about how youthful we can look as we start to age. I don’t talk about age as a number really, because it's all relative. My focus is making sure I look the best as possible for my age.

The challenge for people like me is that I am unable to use a lot of the chemically derived, anti-aging skincare out there — stuff like retinoids and hydroxy acids, which work wonders for many. My skin is also super-reactive to most actives, especially retinoids and vitamin complexes such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), as well as niacinamide (vitamin B3), the holy grail of anti-inflammatories. This makes anti-aging products almost impossible for me to use.

A side note: For those of you who do not know what a retinoid is, it's a topical vitamin A-based drug. It can help speed up cellular turnover, keep pores unclogged, and increase collagen production. Sounds great … unless you’re like me and have sensitive skin. Put retinoids on sensitive skin and you’ll likely wind up with a burning, blistering rash that takes months to heal. That’s what happened to me.

So what can people with sensitivities to actives and preservatives do to encourage youthful-looking skin? Skin that’s glowing, smooth, and healthy?

It's not just one thing — and it's not just a topical solution. It's a lifestyle that includes the following:

Diet: Much of what happens on the outside of your body is the result of what you put into your body. It's important to eat foods that nourish skin. Avoid (or limit) anything that can dehydrate, such as alcohol. Stay away from foods high in sugar and white carbohydrates; they can actually age you faster by breaking down glucose. Eat foods (fish, beans, legumes) that help build strong collagen and those that have lots of water, such as fruits and vegetables. They will help your skin stay hydrated and comfortable.  

Supplements: Omega-3s found in certain seafood, like salmon, can help keep skin moist and may even delay its maturing process by preventing wrinkles. Flaxseed oil is another great oil for keeping skin healthy and youthful — it replenishes your skin's own lipids and oils, which diminish over time.

Sun (is a big No): Listen, I love the beach, and I love to be outdoors, but I never sit directly in the sun with the intention of getting a tan. That is a sure way of prematurely aging your skin and also making sensitive skin really unhappy and reactive. When I have to be in the sun, I always wear a hat and my Revive serum. The hat will help protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. The serum will ensure your skin stays hydrated and moisturized.

Quality sleep: There is a big difference between quantity of sleep and quality of sleep. Quality of sleep is when your body shuts down completely and gets to rebuild itself, literally. Skin, for example, makes new collagen when you sleep, which prevents sagging. That's part of the repair process. More collagen means skin is plumper and less likely to wrinkle. Signs of quality sleep? You fall asleep fast (within 30 minutes); you sleep straight through the night or wake up only once; you feel rested (not drowsy) in the morning.

Moderate exercise: You need to get the heart rate up, which means 30 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walking, hiking, etc.) at least five times per week. Cardio improves blood circulation, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the skin to promote collagen production and new skin cells. It’s also helpful for anti-aging. 

Now for the skincare part:

Use a gentle face wash: Skin tends to get less oily as we age, so you don't want to use a cleanser that has alcohol, harsh actives, sulfates, parabens, or phthalates. You want to use a gentle cleanser with simple, easy to understand ingredients … the most important being essential fatty acids (they deliver major hydration) and green tea extracts (they fight against damage from free radicals, which are compounds that attack cells).

Use a gentle face serum that really moisturizes: Because oil glands can become less active as you age, applying a hybrid oil serum that is rich in vitamins, fatty acids and antioxidants will help plump up your skin. It also keeps your skin barrier healthy and strong.

I use the Nurture Cleanser, which is super gentle. It cleanses without stripping my skin's natural barrier and nourishes my skin while cleansing it. Nurture has organic green tea extract and Dead Sea clay, which is full of antioxidants. After cleansing I use Revive Serum. It’s super moisturizing and has amazing botanical oils such as rosehip, hemp and borage, all curated to help soothe sensitive skin and tackle signs of aging.