Look as Young as You Feel: Optimize Your Skin Health

Originally published in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza (link), December 1, 2010. You're eating healthy, exercising and feeling great, but the age of the face in your mirror is closer to what's on your driver's license than the way you feel. Don't give up. Mewer laser resurfacing technologies, BBL or IPL, microdermabrasion, peels and anti-oxidants such as vitamin C and Retin-A can help increase cellular turnover — reducing pores, wrinkles, acne and sun damage so your skin not only looks healthier — it is healthier.

Although Reno/Tahoe is a spectacular place to live, the high desert environment presents unique challenges to your skin. With 315 days of cloud-free skies each year, our skin takes a beating from the sun. Our air is drier, with lower oxygen content than found at sea level. This strips your skin of moisture and circulation.

So, what can you do?

Drink lots of water. Living an active life at altitude requires more water than most of us consume.

Wear sunscreen. Most dermatologists recommend an SPF of at least 30, but really, the SPF isn't what matters - that measures UVB protection and you care about damaging rays. Look for broad spectrum protection with either zinc or titanium in the ingredients. Then, reapply often if you're out and active. If you're worried about vitamin D, protect your face and neck while letting sun shine on your back and legs during hours when the sun is less intense.

Exfoliate. Your skin builds up a surface layer of dead cells called the stratum corneum. A thin layer protects your living skin, but when thickened, it chokes the layers beneath — plugging pores, making your skin look dull, and adding depth to wrinkles and scars. As you remove this, you stimulate healthy turnover of vital lower layers.

Polishes and scrubs buff away upper skin layers. Focus use on thicker cheek, chin and forehead skin, sparing the delicate eye area. Light laser resurfacing (commonly called a microlaserpeel) chemical peels and microdermabrasion offer more controlled exfoliation, with a physician customizing the ideal treatment depth for each area. This can yield an amazing improvement in texture and tone with immediate results, perfect for right before that holiday event.

Antioxidants are hot in skin care, and that's because they work. Applied directly to the skin in concentrated serums, vitamin C decreases free radical damage, protecting the skin from oxidant stressors of modern life. It is also essential to collagen production.

Tretinoins, popularly branded as Retin-A, are vitamin A derivatives and one of the most potent treatments available to increase cell turnover, decrease wrinkles, and improve acne and rosacea. They also increase cellular protein production of collagen and elastin, and may increase telomere length, decreasing DNA aging. Tretinoins are only available by prescription, but are a valuable tool in your arsenal against skin damage.

Whatever your age or skin condition, there are treatments available to improve the current heath of your skin and minimize future damage. A few changes to your routine and your skin can look younger and healthier just in time for holiday parties.

— Dr. Rebecca Gelber, is an Incline Village resident and graduate of The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She is an adjunct professor with the UNR School of Medicine and practices locally at Tahoe Aesthetic and Integrative Medicine, 775-298-1750, www.tahoemedicalspa.com.