Change how you live and improve the way you look with these fifty ways you can look more beautiful. Time changes our perspective. When we were younger, we joyfully celebrated the passage of one year and anxiously awaited the arrival of the next. “Oh, it’s her first birthday!” “He’ll be turning five and starting school next month.” “One day I’ll be sixteen and able to drive….” “I can’t wait until I turn eighteen and I can be on my own.” “Just think, I’ll be twenty-one soon….” Each birthday is a milestone, a hurdle to cross to reach that finish line that says you’ve finally matured.
by Robin W. Pearson
For many people past their early thirties or forties, however, the passage of another year represents more of a millstone about the neck than a milestone or a rite of passage. Instead of using phrases such as “sweet sixteen” and “jail bait,” you say words such as “over the hill” and “old timer.”
For these people crossing the “finish line” happened one morning after a particularly long look in the mirror. They consider themselves finished upon seeing hair now threaded with strands of gray, blemishes on their face and hands, and wrinkles instead of laugh lines. Since that look, they grunt more often when they stand up. They’re beginning more sentences with the words, “You young people….”
But, don’t consider yourself finished–get back in the race! Accept aging for what it is: a natural process. Aging indicates gradual-and not-so-gradual-changes inside our bodies that occur over time. Aging affects the way we think, act, feel, and look, but these changes can be for the better, not for the worse. Just like a good wine, we can improve with time. We can change big things by doing little things along the way.
Here are 50 ways that you can turn back the clock and look (more) beautiful than ever.
1. Stand up! Improving your posture can instantly improve your looks. Take it from Oprah Winfrey. She devoted part of one show to showing women that by standing tall with shoulders back, arms straight at your sides, and weight evenly distributed you can lift the breasts and tuck in the tummy, automatically taking pounds off your figure.
2. Monitor your facial expressions. Frowning and squinting causes wrinkles around the brows, eyes, and mouth. A happier face automatically makes you look better and younger.
3. Change your hairstyle. Many hair stylists agree that shorter styles compliment older women more than longer styles. But, your hair doesn’t have to be short. A manageable style above the shoulders will quickly help take years off your looks.
4. Dress the part. Getting older doesn’t mean lengthening hemlines or covering shoulders. You’re never too old to look good! Just ask Patti LaBelle or Tina Turner who enjoy showing off their ever-youthful legs.
5. Sleep on a satin pillow. It appears that sleeping on a satin-covered pillow is not just good for your hair. Some experts agree that it also promotes smoother skin and prevents sleep lines.
6. Makeup. For long-term improvements, wear makeup that contains moisturizers and has the necessary sun protective value (SPF). To improve your looks now, wear less makeup during the day. Says beautician Sharon Berry, “I don’t use a lot of makeup. To stay looking younger, I sleep in a mask once a week, exfoliating the skin.”
7. Gray hair. You don’t have to get rid of gray hair completely to look younger. Says Arlene Webber Barclay of Ciseaux salon in Florida, “Gray is the absence of color, so gray hair needs highlighting, subtle hues, and moisturizers to improve its looks and feel.”
8. Color your hair. Coloring your hair can have immediate effects on your appearance. “Going to a lighter shade of hair color can really do wonders,” Arlene explains. “For example, depending on the skin tone, medium browns, rather than blacks, can compliment the face.”
9. Ultra peel. Clear up blotchiness and hyper-pigmentation, common in African-American women. This process doesn’t cause as many problems in healing as laser surgery and is very effective.
10. Microdermabrasion. “This works like a hand-held vacuum, going across the skin,” says Dr. Matt Leavitt, medical director of Advanced Dermatology and Advanced Cosmetic Surgery. It fades pigmentation spots and increases collagen formation. “And it’s fast, ” Dr. Leavitt adds. “You can have it done during your lunch break.”
11. Chemical peels. A TCA treatment gets rid of pigmentation problems and pre-cancer cells. Although it takes three to four days to recover from peeling, it is less expensive than laser surgery.
12. Facelifts. A nip and a tuck around the eyes and in other areas of the face can get rid of wrinkles more quickly than the gradual application of topical creams. However, there are risks to any surgery and you have to allow time for your face to completely heal.
13. Liposuction, tummy tucks, and other cosmetic surgery. These can remove extra skin resulting from dramatic weight loss or just those stubborn pounds you haven’t been able to lose. Says one female comedian, “Not every part of the body can resist the effects of gravity. Surgery can be your breasts’ best friend, giving a lift to more than your spirits.”
14. Hair transplants. Replacing lost hair can take years off. Experts have found new ways to promote hair growth in damaged areas or they can permanently transplant hair.
15. Get your rest. Get the proper amount of sleep at night, approximately seven to eight hours. Not getting enough sleep will cause you to look older, dramatically and immediately. Recommends Starlyn Griffis, pianist, and mother of a young son, “For tired eyes, smooth on a light color in the corners of the eye. Sometimes getting proper rest is just not in the equation.”
Growing Older, Staying Youthful
16. Change your thinking. To change your looks as you grow older you need to change how you look at growing older. Recent studies show that many people believe that middle age–45 to 72–is really the best time of your life. During this time most people are past some of the problems they faced during their younger years. They are not dealing with childbearing and childrearing; they are more financially stable; they know what they want in life; and they have established careers.
Why then, if there are so many positive aspects to getting older, do people regard aging so negatively? You should see yourself as the same vital person at 35, 55, or 75+ as you were when you were a starry-eyed college graduate. Think about all that you’ve gained over the years–wisdom, financial success, experience, family–instead of all that you’ve lost. Remember the saying, “Age is just a number!” It’s easier to travel down a hill than it is to get up and over it.
17. Surround yourself with positive people. Develop strong, loving, and supportive relationships with friends and family members. Be with people who encourage you to continue setting and achieving goals and not people who urge you to settle down, and “act your age.” Associate with people who help you and who you can help, no matter what age you are.
18. Stimulate the brain. Continue learning by taking computer classes or earning another degree. Read the newspaper, magazines, or other news publications. Staying youthful means staying current and up to date.
19. Visit your doctor regularly. Talk openly with him or her about ways to handle the process of aging that are specific to your needs. You should always consult your doctor before you begin any exercise routine or use medications.
20. Hormone therapy. Many older people have decreased levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Balancing levels can stimulate the libido, protect against disease, and improve skin and muscle quality.
21. Human Growth Hormone Replacement Therapy. “It’s like plastic surgery from the inside out,” reports doctors of the California Anti-Aging Institute. This therapy supposedly improves things such as skin elasticity, memory, and bone density.
22. Stay active. Continue doing things you love, even if it’s at a slower pace. Don’t sit at home wallowing in the misery of getting older. Says actress Brenda Braxton, “I can still do eight shows a week after having danced since the age of 3.”
23. Sexuality. Maintain an active sex life. Jane Shibley Hyde’s Half the Human Experience: The Psychology of Women states, “Some people believe that sexual activity is a drain on their health and physical resources, and deliberately stop all sexual activity in middle age in order to prevent or
postpone aging.” But, Hyde goes on, “there is no time limit drawn by the advancing years to female sexuality.”
24. Beauty creams. Beautician Janie Gleaves stresses the importance of beauty and anti-wrinkling products that work over time. “To deal with the effects of aging, I always suggest Oil of Olay.”
25. Use moisturizers. It’s important to moisturize your skin daily to prevent dehydration, loss in skin elasticity, and age spots. Also, “Remember the hair, ” says Janie Gleaves, a beautician since 1958, who sports a beautiful snowy mane. “I recommend Nexxus toning and moisturizing shampoos. Gray hair tends to be very dry.”
26. Watch alcohol consumption. According to the Skin Care Tips Newsletter, “Alcohol can leave toxic by-products in the tissues that can speed up aging…In addition, alcohol draws water out of the tissues and leaves the skin dull and dehydrated.”
27. Three words: Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Kelley Grissom is a physiologist and the director of the Women’s Wellness Center, Orlando, Florida. She says, “Remember: If you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s important to keep the body moving; it doesn’t have to be a rigorous exercise routine.”
28. Quit smoking. Besides the all-important fact that smoking takes years off your life by increasing your health risks (cancers, hypertension, stroke), it adds years to your looks. Smoking causes premature wrinkles and nicotine inhibits blood circulation.
29. Get a professional facial. Arlene of Ciseaux says, “Some of the problems of aging skin are unwanted hair, scarring, and dermefebration which causes blotchiness and skin darkening. Getting a professional facial two to three times a year helps decrease these problems.” She also recommends products by Estee Lauder, Prescriptives, Mac, and Cara.
30. Stay out of the sun. Too much sun causes wrinkling, skin dehydration, and toughens the soft texture of the skin. More importantly, it can lead to severe problems such as skin cancer. Avoid indirect sun as well, such as when traveling in the car.
31. Reduce stress. A stressful lifestyle can take years off your life, causing you to appear much older than you are. Deep-breathing exercises can help relax tense facial muscles, decreasing the chances for developing wrinkles. Sharon Berry, of the California salon Let It Whip, goes on to say,
“Stress affects you all over your body, including the hair. When I see that a client is having problems with her hair, my first question is, “Are you stressed out?” When stress comes into play, Sharon recommends Dudley’s DRC for its reconstructive effects.
32. Watch your weight. Obesity can add years to your body–by causing stress to your body’s organs and organ function–and years to your looks. Watch what you eat, exercise regularly, and lose weight gradually if you’re on a weight loss program.
33. Preventative maintenance. Says Charlene Warren, a captain in the Medical Service Corps, United States Army, “There are steps one can take to help maintain youthfulness, but there is no magic pill. There are thousands of herbal teas, supplements…touting all sorts of miracle cures. The best method is prevention; maintain a healthy lifestyle. It all starts in infancy, and we are racing the clock from then on.”
34. Eat right. Maintaining a balanced diet is important in the war against looking old. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that fight the damage that free radicals inside the body inflict on the skin. Try eating more strawberries and spinach.
35. Take your vitamins. Diets rich in calcium help fight osteoporosis. The Doctor’s Book of Home Remedies reports that in one study, “…the women who took in more calcium had substantially greater bone mass and fewer fractures after the age of 65 than did the women who had low-calcium diets.”
36. No fad dieting. Don’t hop from one currently popular diet to another. Fad diets can actually work against you. Losing lots of weight can cause excess skin. Wrinkles develop because older skin is not as elastic as younger skin, so it doesn’t snap back into place.
37. Drink water. Using daily moisturizers cannot counteract the effects of not getting enough water. In one New York Times article, “Keeping Your Skin Youthful,” Frank Grazian says, “Drink at least eight ounces of water a day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. It’s vital to replenish the water your body loses each day to prevent dry skin and keep it hydrated–for a more youthful look.”
38. Avoid caffeine. Caffeine is found in products such as soft drinks, chocolate, coffee, and tea. A heavy daily intake of caffeine can lead to problems with the skin by interfering with hydration processes.
39. Wear a hat. Protect the sensitive skin on your face and decrease wrinkling by wearing a hat when walking in the sun for prolonged periods of time.
40. Use sunscreen. Make sure the sun protective value is at least 15. The product should also cover ultraviolet-A and -B rays. Apply sunscreen about an hour before being in the sun for prolonged periods of time and be sure to reapply later.
41. Know your environment. Protect your skin from harsh environments. Replace the vitamin E your skin is stripped of when you live in areas with ozone problems. Dr. Jens Thiele of the University of California, Berkeley, reports that the lack of vitamin E can lead to even more skin damage.
42. Use humidifiers. Some people choose to sleep with a humidifier going. The moist, humid air it produces helps rejuvenate skin, replacing moisture the skin loses on a daily basis.
43. Consult a dermatologist. Some people waste money and time buying over-the-counter skincare products. A dermatologist can provide expert advice and point you in the right direction for your specific skincare needs.
44. Think seaweed. According to some dermatologists, seaweed, such as kelp, helps your body rid itself of free radicals. You can use products containing seaweed for everything from brushing your teeth to washing your hair.
45. Wash your face. Wash the face twice a day to remove dirt, makeup, and excess oils. Makeup that improves your looks earlier in the day will do more harm than good if you wear it to bed, however. “Also,” warns Dr. Leavitt, “don’t wash your face more than twice a day because that will remove necessary moisture, drying out the skin.”
46. Study medication labels. Be careful about the medications you take to help cure other problems. Their side effects can have adverse effects on your skin, causing breakouts, dryness, or other skin irritations.
47. Glycolic acid products. Over-the-counter alpha-hydroxy products can remove dead skin, erase fine lines, and fade age spots over time. Body & Soul: The Black Women’s Guide to Physical Health and Emotional Well-Being suggests using alpha-hydroxy products instead of fade creams. It says, “Many Black women use…fade creams to lighten dark spots and discolorations, but those products have recently come under fire. Hydroquinone, the active ingredient in these creams, has been linked to cancer, and consumer activists have attacked the manufacturers for exaggerating their marketing claims.”
48. Retin-A. Produsct containing Retin-A work to thicken the skin. Used at bedtime, about twenty minutes after washing the face, it also helps the body by getting rid of pre-cancerous cells.
49. Copper peptides. One new copper peptide product, Neova, by Procyte, helps the skin by improving its ability to heal wounds. It also helps the look of the skin by reportedly “reversing” the aging process.
50. Know your history. Know what skin problems you might face in the future by talking with your family. Heredity is an important factor in any health issue. Some problems are preventable, if you have advanced warning.
You can view aging as some do, as an enemy to fight. Others see it as a badge to be proudly worn. Annette T. Vernon, a member of the nursing staff at Duke University Hospital, sums it up best: “I am thirteen years older than my husband, and I am very happy; I don’t worry about things like getting older..I let go and let God, as He says. He says keep your mind on Him and He’ll give you perfect peace.”
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