Save Your Skin

A Few Key Strategies Can Help Promote Skin Health As You Age.

By Kavita Mariwalla, MD, FAAD

For many of us, midlife is a time to take stock. This might include evaluating finances and focusing on long-term planning, revamping exercise and nutrition routines, and being sure to schedule regular healthcare screenings. This period of planning and transition is also a great time to take a look at your skin—literally.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? How is your skin faring at midlife? If the face looking back at you is not quite the one you remember, you are not alone. The good news is that it is not too late to give yourself some tender loving care and help the image in the mirror reflect the vibrant spirit of the woman you are on the inside.

Here are five easy tips for getting your skin back on the road to healthy living.

  1. Develop A Consistent Nighttime Skin Routine. Remember when evenings were filled with bath time and making sure dinner included protein and some vegetables that everyone would eat? Well, now it should also include some time focused on your skin.Wash your face with a gentle cleanser at night and use a night cream that contains retinol. This key ingredient speeds cell cycle turnover, decreases pore size, and can help build collagen. If you have had a lot of sun exposure in your life, talk to your dermatologist about prescribing a retinoid that can help scavenge abnormal cells and keep sun damage at bay. For the morning consider a vitamin C serum to help boost the effects of sunscreen and to help brighten the complexion overall.
  2. Watch What You Eat. This does not mean going on a restrictive diet. Instead, make sure you are getting enough protein and water, and pay attention to when you eat during the day. Adequate protein helps with hair growth (and helps prevent hair loss), so aim for at least 20 grams of protein each day (this is the equivalent of two Greek yogurts or at least one protein bar). Drinking enough water will not only help with overall health through hydration but also detoxify your system from the caffeine on which almost all busy women rely. And when you eat can be important: to avoid insulin spikes late in the day and minimize the weight gain that accompanies hormonal changes at midlife, try not to eat after 8 p.m.
  3. Moisturize. As we age, our oil glands shrink, so our skin naturally becomes more dry. The best time to moisturize is immediately after a shower. Too busy to slather on the cream? Consider a moisturizing shower rinse. Neutrogena, Dove, and Eucerin all make excellent products that are friendly to even the most sensitive skin.
  4. Be Kind To Your Nails. Our nails get more dry and brittle as we age. Pamper yourself by massaging a little petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline or Aquaphor ointment) into the cuticles at night, and consider a hand sanitizer instead of soap and water for ev­ery other time you wash your hands. Believe it or not, those sani­tizers are gentler on your skin than regular soap and water. And never do the dishes bare handed—the use of liquid dish detergent with bare hands is a leading cause of hand eczema and dermatitis.
  5. Treat Your Legs With Care. Exercise, walking, and standing for extended periods are all normal activities for most women at midlife. With time, however, these activities can lead to swelling of the lower legs and even spider and varicose veins. Invest in a comfortable pair of compression socks (yes, they do exist) and wear them to work in the winter, which can eliminate leg fatigue. Your feet and legs will thank you in the years to come. 

Kavita Mariwal­la, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon, who received her train­ing at the Yale School of Medicine and has served on the faculty at Yale, Columbia, and SUNY at Stony Brook. She has published widely in the field of dermatology and has been nominated as one of the best dermatologists on Long Island for the past three years.