Can you find the fountain of youth? And does it really work?


agingStaying young is an obsession with a lot of people, so much so that a huge and lucrative industry has grown up around it. Cosmetics, skincare products, Botox, surgery – the companies that sell you these products and services are doing very well. For instance, in 2012 just under 500K Botox injections were administered in the US, twice the number in the previous year. These companies are selling to a growing market, too – by 2025, people over 65 will outnumber children under 5, for the first time ever.

But hey, getting old’s a drag, isn’t it? Most of us want to stay younger for longer, because ‘old’ means aches and pains, wrinkles and lines, and tin hips and knees. Who wouldn’t want to put all that off? You might consider that $50 bottle of anti-age-spot goo, but there are other things you can do to put off ‘old age’. Here we sort the fact from the fiction.

Wind back the clock with lifestyle changes

There is growing evidence that making changes to your lifestyle can stop, and even reverse aging. Did you know, that it’s not really the wrinkles that are aging? It’s pigmentation, redness or the dullness of your skin that make you appear older. The good news is that exercise, diet and plenty of sleep are the first steps to recovering that youthful glow – with those lovely smile lines!

Eat a healthier diet

Many health experts recommend a plant-based diet, with moderate amounts of oily fish and eggs for essential omega3. That means cutting back on other animal foods, and getting more of your energy from foods like nuts and seeds, chickpeas, lentils and beans, brown rice, potatoes, kumara, buckwheat, barley and quinoa.

Eating this way can significantly lower blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol and sugar levels – all those things that crop up with age.

Help your new diet along

Exercise is so important for keeping and reclaiming your youthful bounce – plenty of walking, gentle weight-lifting and low-impact activities like swimming and cycling.

Don’t forget your brain – training and challenging it can stimulate new connections and even new brain cells.

Finally, cut out stress – stop working long hours, reduce your alcohol intake, catch up with old friends or family, and use meditation or yoga to clear your mind. Meditation can actually create beneficial changes in your brain, and could be as effective as antidepressants. You’ll concentrate better, and even get your work done faster so you free up some time to relax.

The results could astound you

So, what does all that do? Studies show you’ll slowly increase the length of your telomeres – they’re the caps at both ends of chromosomes. Shorter telomeres are associated with impaired immune system, premature aging and some kinds of cancer. And they do deteriorate – faster in men than in women but in all of us as we age.

Quite apart from the science, you’ll feel better, probably lose some weight you don’t need, and have more energy to enjoy life. That sounds young, doesn’t it?

Outside agents and products

You know the industries that do so well selling to older people? Often they give us just what we need. There are some great products and treatments available that really make a difference to how you look and feel. For expert advice, we talked to Lynette Alack, an Advanced Skin Therapist at the Skin Institute. For her, antiaging always begins with a good sunscreen.

Protect yourself from the sun

Sunscreen is essential. Nothing produces wrinkles, pigmentation changes and skin damage faster than the sun.

“UV is 90% of aging,” Lynette declares. “I’m the SPF police! Why would you do treatments or buy products, and then undo it all by not protecting your skin?”

Lynette says to look for a sunscreen with at least 6% zinc as the active ingredient for effective all-day protection. It’s also a good idea to avoid high-burn times, get in the shade when you can and wear a hat.

Anti-aging creams that work

Those anti-aging creams have big promises, but if you’re buying something off the supermarket shelves or from beauty section of the chemists, the chances are they’re not doing much.

“The supermarkets don’t want you to risk returning the products after having had reactions to them because you haven’t been using them properly,” explains Lynette. “They won’t do you any harm, but they won’t do much to change the skin”.

Lynette says those creams that have really impressive activity need to come from your pharmacists or beauty therapists. Retinol, an active form of vitamin A, increases cell production, will help build collagen and smooth wrinkles. Lynette recommends using this before bed. In the mornings, an antioxidant-rich cream (from Vitamin C or B) will help protect against free-radical damage.

Help from cosmetic experts

While cosmetic treatments sound extreme, many work by enhancing your body’s own natural repairing action, refreshing and rejuvenating the skin.

“I do a lot of specialised peels tailored to clients’ skin. A vitamin A peel is fantastic – it gives a real boost, adds more receptors that help the skin work.”

She’s also a fan of dermal needling.

“It tricks the body into thinking it’s wounded, and stimulates collagen and elasticin in the repair process. That strengthens and remodels the skin. I recommend that two or three times a year as maintenance.”

For dehydrated skin, Lynette recommends Dermagun, which plumps the skin by injecting hyaluronic acid, hydrating and improving texture.

“It doesn’t stay in the skin, so it doesn’t change the look of the face,” she explains. “It just replaces the hyaluronic acid you lose as you get older. That’s a great way to add hydration to the skin. It might also help with sensitivity – sensitive skin is generally dehydrated.”

Grow old youthfully

If you’re looking for a youthful boost, there are changes you can make that will bring back your energy and put a youthful glow on your face. Eating well, getting regular exercise and protecting your skin from that fierce New Zealand sun is your first best step. If you’re looking for an effective cream, skip the supermarket and book in with a dermatologist or beautician, and to overturn existing damage, a treatment might do the trick.

Maybe you don’t so much care about how you look, but you wish your energy level and fitness were like they used to be. All the same advice applies, especially those lifestyle changes. Whatever you do, start reversing your aging process now.