Looking Younger: What’s the Real Secret?

In the past six months, I have noticed an increase of compliments regarding my age. I don’t feel like I’m trying to look younger. I’m comfortable with my age and generally happy with who I have become. But I must admit, with my mid-30s birthday just two weeks away, I’m pretty taken back by the recent comments that some people think I’m in my 20s. The first couple of times I heard it, I laughed it off. The next few times, I was extremely humbled. Now, I have started to question what could possibly be fueling the sudden flattery. Although I cannot confirm that any of the following are to blame, I have compiled a list of 10 things that may be secrets to looking younger.

1. Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco
I don’t smoke or drink alcohol. Smoking causes narrowing of the blood vessels, which can deprive the outermost layers of the skin of oxygen and nutrients. It also damages collagen, causing wrinkles. Likewise, alcohol can be dehydrating to the skin. This can affect the absorption of vitamins and nutrients that the skin needs as well.

2. Protect Your Skin
Sun damage can cause often irreversible damage to our skin, like brown spots, lines, and uneven skin tone. Tanning actually speeds up our body’s wrinkling process because ultraviolet light damages elastin (the skin’s fibers). I have fair skin that, after “a good burn”, would tan nicely. Many Memorial Day weekends, I would endure a second-degree burn in order to achieve and maintain a “beautiful” bronze glow throughout the remainder of the summer. It dawned on me several years ago that I was increasing my already high risk of getting skin cancer if I continued this cycle. I now use SPF 30 sunscreen and protect my face with hats, while relying on sunless tanners, self-tanning moisturizers, and bronzers to add subtle color to my skin.

3. Stay Hydrated
I love water, so when I decided to give up drinking sodas, it was an easy transition. About two years ago, I went one step further, limiting my consumption of milk, juice, and decaffeinated coffee & tea. Most days, I drink more than the daily recommended 64 ounces of water. It not only helps moisturize your skin but it cleanses your system as a whole. It not only helps you look younger, but it will help you feel younger too! I know there are a lot of people who generally do not like the taste of water. There are many enhancement options now, like MiO and Crystal Light Pure, that provide flavor options. Find one that is tasty to you and drink up!

4. Skin Care
I have dry, sensitive skin. Many products that are common favorites break me out. One well-known skin care line even caused chemical burns! With organic products becoming more and more popular, I started looking to more natural products in hopes of finding a good fit. I ended up finding two items that I feel contribute to my youthful appearance.

Ponds Cold Cream – yes, that stuff your grandma used to slather on her face at night. I know… I felt really old purchasing it at first too. But it truly is a great product for those of us who have dry, sensitive skin. The primary ingredients are Mineral Oil and Beeswax, which act as both a deep cleanser and a moisturizer. My face feels so soft after using it.

Bare Escentuals – I am in love with the mineral foundation! I was the girl who would buy the cheap drugstore foundations, usually whatever was on sale. I tried liquid, pressed powder, and cream-to-powder and could never find the perfect fit or the right shade for that matter. The older I got, the more I branched out trying more expensive department store foundations. No matter what I used, I always felt like my skin looked worse with the foundation than without. I was tired of spending money and went back to the cheap liquid. If nothing looked good, at least I would spend as little as possible on it. Last summer, my best friend convinced me to try BareMinerals. She explained that consumers no longer had to purchase this product online (and be sucked into the manufacturer’s automated ordering plan, which discouraged me from ever trying it) because it has become widely available. She took me to Sephora inside our local JCPenney, where I was perfectly matched to my shade. (I guess that wasn’t too hard. I’m pale; they sold me fair. Ha!) What I love about this product is: a little goes a long way, it doesn’t magnify pores or fine lines, it can be mixed with the BareMinerals bronzer to create a natural-looking tan, it’s quick to apply, and it covers really, really well. You can literally build your coverage. On most days, I just quickly brush it over my face to even my skin tone. Other days, I need full coverage. All it takes is a few more swirls of the brush. So easy!

5. Hair Tips
I have gray hair. There, I admitted it. Actually, white may be a better description. It isn’t a strand here or there either. Most of it around my face is completely without color. When it first started turning (when I was in my mid-20s, thanks to my thyroid disorder) I tried to embrace it. That didn’t last long. I spent years trying to mask the white hairs with an overall boxed color similar to my natural color. I ended up having to touch up my roots every 3 weeks and I just felt like my hair was boring. Thankfully, I have an amazing hairstylist who recommended highlights. I was skeptical at first. Chunky highlights have never really been my thing. I’m not certain they’re even trendy anymore and I wasn’t so sure how they would mask the patches of white hair around my face. To my surprise, she never had plans of putting in obvious highlights. Instead she created the most subtle and natural-looking color by mixing two different shades of blonde. She also cut in long, whispy bangs. They were cut far enough back that, when worn down, I couldn’t see any white hairs peeking through! I do think they add to a more youthful look too.

6. Say Goodbye to Bad Carbs
After my dad’s heart attack and my mom’s diabetes diagnosis, I have learned to cut back on bad carbs. I avoid added sugar and white starches like bread, pasta, rice, and refined grain. There are many healthy advantages to removing these items from your daily intake, but sugar bonds with protein which ultimately can cause wrinkles. And I feel less sluggish without bad carbs.

7. Follow the Trends
I have a bad habit of wearing the same glasses frames for years. It saved money just to switch out the lenses regularly. This year, I decided it was time for my old, worn metal frames to retire. I found some new ones (almost identical) to replace them, but my brother suggested I choose a pair of frames that were a little more trendy. Having no clue how to step out of the box, I enlisted him to help select something outside of my norm. I ended up with brown tortoise shell and purple plastic frames, that have a unique shape to them. I have since noticed a lot of younger adults wearing similar styles.

8. Less Stress
Everyone has stress. Some is unavoidable. But I decided last year that I would eliminate all of the stress that I could control. I put a lot on myself by filling my schedule too full, making poor choices (like credit card debt), and trying too hard to please others. Not only do I worry less now, but studies have shown that being more relaxed can make you look younger!

9. Plenty of sleep
There is such a thing as beauty sleep! Although I am guilty of burning the midnight oil some nights, overall I try to get at least 6 hours sleep. Geoff Wright, an expert in chronobiology (the study of the body clock) and director of The Hair And Beauty Partnership in London, states: “There are set times when our body clock dictates that various processes take place in hair and skin. From 8pm to 11pm is the time for hydration and stimulation, while 11pm to 3am is the time for nutrition and regeneration, and 3am to 5am is the time for resting. When we are asleep, our cells rebuild and repair themselves (the growth hormone functions only at night). If you don’t sleep, this function is impaired.” So lack of sleep or even poor-quality sleep can, in fact, make you look older.

10. Smile!
Although I’ve been told that I do it too much, I believe it does wonders for you. Not only does it use fewer muscles than frowning, but you feel and look better as a result. Who knows, it may even make others feel better too!

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