I was shockingly jolted into the realization that I was looking old (as opposed to overworked or party-worn) when I was beginning my yoga routine in front of a full-length mirror. I was half way through a sun salutation when I caught sight of myself and saw with horror that, as I bent forward, gravity was pulling at my jowls and the skin under my eyes. I was sagging before my very eyes and it was all I could do not to slump to the floor in despair. Back in a vertical position, there was no escape. There were other tell-tales: deepening furrows of the brow and laughter lines that had outlived such a generous appellation.
When you reach this point, my 40-something friends (I was 43), it is time to decide on a course of action. But which road to take? Should you venture down the path of retinol? Opt for the tougher route of chemical peels or laser treatments? Go for fillers? Or take the slippery slope of Botox?
I didn't take any of these. It was more of a gut reaction than anything else. In retrospect - and knowing what I know now - I am glad that I didn't. Retinol, or vitamin A, works. However, the treatment is harsh for sensitive skins like mine. And, like chemical peels or laser, it is forcing a more rapid turnover of skin cells. The results are good in the short term, but what is the longer term result of getting more quickly to the Hayflick Limit (the point at which - usually after 52 times - that a cell just stops recreating itself and dies).
Meanwhile, Botox is a poison and if that isn't bad enough, recent research on animals has shown that once injected it can roam around and even end up in the brain. For me, there has always been another reason to avoiding Botox. Frozen muscles atrophy and, therefore, without regular Botox top-ups, your facial muscles will sag even more and make you look even older.
The other thing is the lack of expression. Years ago (like 25), I was having supper with some friends and one of them said: "The thing I really love about you, Marta, is that I can always tell exactly what you are thinking by the look on your face". I was a little taken aback - especially when everyone else started to howl with laughter. So, I have an expressive face and, if that's what being me is all about, then expression lines are something I'll have to live with.
With all this in the back of my mind, I discovered microcurrent treatments. You can read more about it by clicking here and watch our video. But in brief, this is a salon treatment where tiny electric pulses perk up your muscles, giving them a mini workout. The result is stimulated circulation and a healthier glow, while those toned muscles do a better job of holding your face up. Microcurrent doesn't get rid of wrinkles, but it does keep everything plumped up and it is supposed to increase collagen production. Some people are surprised when I say I haven't had fillers. True, I was born with chubby cheeks, but the microcurrent has certainly helped keep them that way.
About a year ago, my esthetician added LED (light emitting diodes) to her repertoire and my monthly microcurrent facials are followed by a session of LED lasting about 16 minutes. I am convinced that my monthly salon treatments are my best skin care investment yet. And, of course, I top up those sessions at home with my Baby Quasar.
The furthest I will go towards treatments remove or break up the stratum corneum (as laser and peels do) is microdermabrasion. I have tiniest amount done in a treatment lasting about three minutes and then only if my esthetician thinks my skin isn't looking too senstive.
The Hayflick Limit notwithstanding, gentle exfoliation to slough of cells that are already dead is hugely important. It keeps pores clear and clean and helps the skin to be more receptive to the expensive serums that I'll be talking about in part 2. The Clarisonic brush is, of course, indispensable. Good, non-abrasive exfoliators that I use regularly (once or twice a week) are Suki's Lemongrass Exfoliator, Stem Organics Smooth Skin Exfoliant and Ikove's Acai Chocolate Facial Exfoliate.
As I said, I haven't had injectable fillers, such as Restylane, but if you are noticing hollowed out cheeks and puppet lines then it could be worth considering. I say this because a couple of years ago evidence emerged from the University of Michegan that effects of Restylane may be more than superficial. This filler can actually boost collagen. Because the filler stretches out the collapsed fibroblast, the fibroblast starts to behave as though it is young and reacquires its old functions, such as the production of more collagen. Note: the study only looked at Restylane, not any other kind of derma filler.
Of course 40-something skin care doesn't just stop at the salon — check out my part 2 post about potions and lotions (that work!) for 40-somethings.