From the time I was 14 years old, I’ve had to battle with my skin. Whether it was acne on my cheeks and chin in high school or problematic acne on my neck and along my jawline when I got into college. And now I’m trying to prevent fine lines and wrinkles from sneaking up and wreaking havoc on my skin.
I think I can speak for everyone when I say we all want to have great skin, it’s the first thing people see when they meet and greet us, and for many of us it can be a battle regardless of our age or background.
Renowned dermatologist, Dr. Howard Murad was kind enough to join me for an unbelievable interview where he not only discussed what women in their 20s, 30s and 40s can do to prevent fine lines and wrinkles, but how we can combat acne, tips for controlling stress, sleep issues and much more!
Candace Rose: What can women in their twenties do to prevent fine lines and wrinkles?
Dr. Howard Murad: “First and foremost, the key to preventing fine lines and wrinkles and maintaining youthful, healthy skin is hydration. I’ve done years of research to prove that the final common pathway to aging and disease is water loss. The health of your skin is a reflection of your overall health – vibrant health from the inside out lies in maintaining strong cells that can attract and keep water the way younger cells do. If you can repair your cell membranes (and I mean all cells, from the brain cells and heart cells to connective tissue and your outermost skin cells that present you to the world) while attracting water and nutrients to them, you can fight aging and the effects it has on your appearance. To achieve total body hydration and thus prevent premature aging, I always recommend taking an Inclusive Health approach.
Inclusive Health tackles cellular restoration through a 3-pronged approach; Looking Better through topical care, Living Better through internal care and Feeling Better through emotional self-care and stress management. Most signs of aging begin to emerge when people are in their 20’s with the appearance of fine lines, dry skin, and a dull complexion so this is a very important time to begin taking a preventative approach.
Topically, look for products which contain the Murad Recipe, a nourishing balance of the hydrating ingredients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories necessary for a creating the best environment for our skin. Additionally, daily use of full-spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection (at least SPF 15) is critical to prevent against wrinkles, age spots and hyperpigmentation. Sometimes sun protection is sacrificed by women because they want to avoid using too much product on the face. Simply choose a moisturizer that already contains SPF, or mix a sun protector with liquid makeup for a 2-in-1 product, to sidestep this problem. Sun damage is cumulative and shows up later as signs of aging, or in worse case scenarios, as skin cancer.
While choosing the correct topical regimen is extremely important, topical skincare products address only 20% of your skin on the surface, the epidermis. The other 80% of your skin is affected by what you eat and drink, including your dietary supplements. In order to keep your skin properly hydrated and looking its best, remember, you are what you eat! Maintaining a balanced, healthy diet can do wonders for a person’s overall appearance inside and out. Begin each day with a healthy, well balanced breakfast and consume nutrient-rich foods. Eat a variety of whole oats, grains, eggs and fresh fruit to boost metabolism, and include dietary supplements as well. Lastly, don’t forget to eat your water! Colorful raw fruits and vegetables contain structured water –the best form of water for the body’s cells as it stays in your system long enough for your body to put it to good use.”
Candace Rose: What advice do you have for women in their 30’s and 40’s who are starting to see fine lines around their eyes and changes in their skin tone?
Dr. Howard Murad: “Women in this age group who are beginning to see fine lines and changes in skin tone are likely experiencing hormonal aging. Hormonal aging occurs as levels of estrogen decline, resulting in a weakening of the collagen and elastin fibers. Skin then becomes thinner, more fragile and can have a loss of firmness and elasticity, coupled with a lackluster tone.
On average, we lose about 1% of our collagen every year after the age of 20! It’s a startling fact. Collagen is essential for maintaining youthful skin; it cushions and supports the epidermis, preventing it from collapsing on the muscles and bones, while elastin, a protein with an elastic quality that will return to its original state after stress, whether it is compressed or stretched, allows skin to stretch and flex smoothly.
The more collagen we lose, the more fine lines and wrinkles appear, which is why it is essential that we work to increase our collagen levels as we age. We accomplish this not only through topical products, but also by living an Inclusive Health lifestyle.
To combat hormonal aging, I recommend a diet full of water-rich foods like raw fruits and veggies which hydrate your skin from the inside out. Cold-water fish, avocados and almonds all are full of healthy fats that can bring aid to a thirsty, dehydrated complexion and can plump sagging skin. To encourage collagen production I recommend eating whole grains which contain glycosaminoglycans plus foods rich in amino acids such as embryonic foods like eggs and beans for a boost in cellular wall-building lecithin and other important nutrients. Also, book yourself a day at the spa to relax and unwind from the stresses and hassles of day-to-day life.
Topically, I recommend products that contain Apricot Oil, Evening Primrose Oil and Borage Seed Oil to help protect the skin’s natural barrier and increase moisture retention. Also look for products that contain fruit enzymes, which will gently exfoliate to reveal brighter, softer skin and sulfur, which will helps to eradicate the breakouts as well as phytoestrogens to help replenish essential hormones that diminish with age. If you are looking for products, I recommend our Resurgence line, which was specifically developed to combat the signs of hormonal skin aging.
Finally, balancing work, family, friends and personal duties can cause exhaustion, making the signs of hormonal aging more prevalent. Make sure to find time for yourself and be careful not to stress out!”
Candace Rose: Should women use eye creams?
Dr. Howard Murad: “Yes, women (and also men) should use eye creams on a regular basis. The skin around your eyes will likely be the first place that fine lines will appear and begin to “age” your skin. Help diminish them by using an eye cream both day and night to hydrate the skin around the eyes and increase suppleness. Try using an eye cream with a broad based SPF during the day to protect against both UVA and UVB radiation and a hydrating/moisturizing eye cream in the evening.”
Candace Rose: How does what we eat affect our skin?
Dr. Howard Murad: “How many times have you been told “you are what you eat”? It’s an adage you’ve probably heard more times than you can count – and for good reason. Your external beauty is a direct reflection of internal health – there is a fundamental relationship between what goes into your body and your outward appearance. If you want to be beautiful you must eat beautifully; meaning you must feed yourself to nourish your physical and emotional wellbeing.
As I mentioned above, topical skincare products address only 20% of your skin on the surface, the epidermis. The other 80% of your skin is affected by what you eat and drink, including your dietary supplements.
I suggest following the guidelines of my Pitcher of Health, a comprehensive guide to nutrition that allows the body to perform at its optimal level of health, to create a diet designed to improve cell hydration and to minimize both free radicals and inflammation.
Eat Your Water: Proper hydration is vital to the health of your cells, and without healthy cells, your health and appearance will adversely deteriorate. Contrary to the eight-glass-a-day myth, sticking to a healthy, vegetable based diet will keep the body well hydrated, minimizing the amount of drinking water needed. I call this eating your water. Oftentimes, you lose valuable nutrients when the body is flushed with too much water and just find yourself running to the bathroom every 5 minutes. If you eat your water, you won’t need to count your glasses. Replace at least one glass of water a day with one serving of raw fruits or vegetables; you will be able to stay hydrated significantly longer. Eating foods that are rich in structured water, especially raw fruits and vegetables, will not only help your body hold onto water longer, you’ll get the added boost of important antioxidants, fiber and other nutrients.
- Whole grains (4 to 8 servings): The best source of complex carbohydrates, whole grains provide the body with long lasting energy and contain fiber, minerals and vitamins.
- Protein (4 to 6 servings): Healthy protein supplies the body with the amino acids needed for cellular renewal that keeps all organs and systems functioning at an optimal level. Enjoy embryonic foods like eggs, beans and seeds; these foods contain all the building blocks for regeneration and will flood your body with vital nutrients to make all your cells healthier.
- Fats (3 to 4 servings): All fats are not created equal. “Healthy” fats are unsaturated, such as Omega fatty acids 3, 6, and 9 found in fatty fish like black cod and salmon, flaxseed oil, extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, natural-style nut butters, and nuts. These “good” fats keep your body hydrated, supple, youthful and healthy.
- Supplements: Even the healthiest diet cannot provide the body with everything it needs. Supplements ensure optimal nutrition.”
Candace Rose: We know lack of sleep is harmful to our body, overall well-being and the appearance of our skin. What advice do you have for moms, caregivers and those on the go who are lacking in sleep? Is there anything they can do to improve the look and feel of their skin?
Dr. Howard Murad: “There really is no substitution for sleep. When you are deprived of sleep it will show on your skin. Restful sleep allows the entire body to regenerate, including your mind. For busy people who have trouble finding enough time to sleep, practicing good sleeping habits is essential. To help turn your mind off so that you can actually fall asleep, it’s important to find ways to calm your brain, especially the 30 minutes leading up to bedtime. Turn off the TV and stay away from technology prior to preparing for sleep. Drink a cup of tea, take a few deep breaths and try to find a few minutes to meditate. I also suggest eating water-rich foods prior to bedtime. You can set the stage for glowing morning skin at dinner. When you eat water-rich foods for dinner, you will sleep better and wake up feeling more energized than you would if you had a high fat, high alcohol meal prior to bedtime. Prepare a fresh salad alongside a salmon fillet, which is more than 60 percent water and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and your skin will thank you. Chicken, beans and pasta are also great choices, but watch sodium content and fatty dressings, which dehydrate skin. By choosing antioxidant-rich foods with high water content, you’re increasing your body’s capacity to heal itself.
Finally, it’s important to thoroughly cleanse and moisturize your skin before bed. Washing your skin before bed isn’t just about removing your makeup. In fact, cleansing is mostly important because it removes dirt and debris accumulated throughout the day and sets the stage for your moisturizer to be absorbed. Be sure you have a night cream in addition to your daily moisturizer, which also addresses your individual skin needs, such as acne or aging.
Another tip that can help you is making sure that your pillow case is clean. First, choose a fabric that is gentle on your skin, wash your pillowcase frequently and replace your pillow regularly. Due to increased perspiration at night, your pillowcase becomes dirty and soiled, and your pillow could become moldy if perspiration builds up over time. Following these steps will help your skin look more rested and youthful each morning.”
Candace Rose: What advice do you have for men and women who suffer from adult acne?
Dr. Howard Murad: “While teenage acne is tied to the hormone surge during puberty, the onset of adult acne is less predictable because it can be triggered by hormones, emotional stress and also by abuse of the skin through hyper-active lifestyles, alcohol, poor diets and sun. Women are more likely to have adult acne then men, while men often have more acne scarring. The key points of difference between how we approach acne and adult acne is related to the underlying condition of the skin. The younger skin of an acne sufferer is generally much more resilient and free from the signs of aging than is the skin of an adult with acne. This means identifying a treatment approach for adults that is strong enough to deal with acne and yet gentle enough to avoid damaging more fragile more mature skin. Those suffering from adult acne should use products that not only combat breakouts with ingredients such as Sulfur and Salicylic Acid, but also moisturize the skin and help restore a more youthful appearance.
Consuming greasy foods will not cause acne, but overall proper nutrition is important for healthy skin. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin A to help normalize the production of dead skin cells, a key factor in acne breakouts. I suggest eating your water through raw fruits and vegetables – Goji berries and pomegranates are particularly good – you not only hydrate your cells, you also feed your complexion with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Many people, who suffer from acne, try to avoid grease at all costs. However, the skin needs healthy oils. Foods such as eggs, salmon, black cod, and walnuts contain healthy oils that keep the complexion well-nourished and prevent the skin from drying out as well as breaking out. Many people with acne think that drying out their skin is the best way to prevent oil overproduction, but that’s a myth. Oily skin needs moisture – just the right kind. When you dry out your skin it actually creates and overproduction of oil, making acne worse. Keep in mind that seasonal changes can also lead to breakouts, so aim to maintain skin balanced to prevent dryness and breakouts.”
Candace Rose: Should you treat acne on your neck and body differently than the acne on your face?
Dr. Howard Murad: “Yes, you should treat body acne differently than acne your face. Your body tends to be less sensitive than your face so you can use slightly stronger products. If you have facial acne, you should cleanse, tone, and then treat. For those with body acne, treating before cleansing can make a difference. Start with a clay mask on your back to help absorb the excess oil while the pores are open, which in turn allows the treatment product to penetrate deep into the pores. There are a few factors that can contribute to body acne including clogged pores, stress, diet and hormones. Many body breakouts are caused from sweat becoming trapped on the skin, breeding bacteria and clogging pores. To help avoid this, make sure to shower and thoroughly clean your skin after any exercise or activity that induces sweating. Follow with an oil-reducing toner to help keep pores clear. Stress can be another factor that causes the oil glands to work harder, leading to an overproduction of oil that can clog pores. Hormones can have the same effect, prompting sebaceous glands to produce more oil. This excess oil, when combined with dead skin cells and bacteria, is what leads to blackheads and pimples. As for diet, there isn’t one food you can eat that will result in breakouts! However, eating a healthy, nutrient-dense, water-rich diet is very important not just for helping combat acne but also improving your overall skin health.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any tips for people suffering with combination/sensitive skin which can be difficult to treat?
Dr. Howard Murad: “The most critical aspect to preventing sensitivity is making the skin stronger so it is better protected from potential irritants and, again, I recommend an Inclusive Health approach to dealing with this issue. Topically, choose products that include hydrators, anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants. It’s always best to try and stay ahead of sensitivity by maintaining the skin instead of trying to deal with the consequences of a reactive episode. I recommend regular and preventative skin care maintenance – including daily use of broad spectrum sun protection with a high SPF, and periodic facials. Almost any product can cause a reaction – so be aware of how your individual skin reacts. If you’re having an odd reaction to something – stop using the product and consult your physician. Because sensitive skin is often a reaction to an allergic trigger, ask your doctor about a patch test for common allergens so you can learn what to avoid.
When some areas of the face are drier or oiler than others including areas of the forehead, mid-face, and the lower-face, it is referred to as combination skin. To help treat unbalanced skin, use a gentle cleanser followed by a treatment toner that carries an ingredient like Lecithin, to bind water to the skin and restore suppleness, and Sodium PCA to help rebalance and rehydrate the skin. Follow with a mositurizer that includes Shea Butter to maintain the skin’s barrier function and provide intense moisture.
Because stress can be such a major trigger for those with sensitive skin issues, support the skin’s ability to cope with irritants by managing stress; focus on relaxation and reducing the complexity in your life. Making an effort to maximize sleep and emotional-care through massages and meditation will also make stress more manageable. I tell my patients to focus on my insights: ‘Be imperfect, live longer.’ ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself.’ ‘Healthy skin is a reflection of overall wellness.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with readers?
Dr. Howard Murad: “Yes – pay attention to your stress levels Stress is one of the most aggressive causes of premature aging, and the most detrimental form is Cultural Stress. Cultural Stress is a term I use to describe a new type of stress, which is the constant and pervasive stress of modern day living, plays havoc on physical well-being and is turning into a societal crisis. I have done significant research and have found that 90% of health problems today can in part be attributed to it. Cultural Stress can cause an outpouring of adrenaline, cortisol and other stress-related hormones that contribute to damaged cell walls which in turn, allows the precious water that keeps them functioning to escape. The water loss has a myriad of effects. It causes our cells and connective tissue to break down, which prevents our heart, lungs, brain and other organs from functioning at optimal levels—all of which become apparent when you look at the skin. Stress induced water loss also contributes to common skin problems – acne, rosacea and even premature signs of aging.
What can you do to manage stress? Try to incorporate these tips into your routine:
- Disconnect: Put down your phones! Take time at least twice a week to not check your phone or email. It’s a healthy mental break.
- Watch What You Eat: Deficiencies in B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium stress out your body and trigger and increase in cortisol levels, not to mention food cravings. Add omega-3 foods like salmon as well as other cold-water fish, walnuts, flaxseeds and olives which have numerous proven health benefits, including those that protect your heart. It is also important to limit your intake of processed foods!
- Get Touched: I recommend that everyone visit a spa or massage therapist center as frequently as possible. Massage not only benefits the muscles and tissues being kneaded and stretched but also has been found to lower stress levels significantly.
- Go To Bed: Sleep can dictate how much you eat, weight gain, whether you can fight off infections, and how well you can cope with stress. Turn off the TV one hour prior to sleeping and refrain from stressful activities and conversations two hours prior to retiring to the bedroom.”
Candace Rose: Where can we go for more information?
Dr. Howard Murad: “http://muradinclusivehealth.com/blog/.”