Laugh lines and crow's feet add character to the face. But for some, they're telltale signs of aging that prompt some consumers to sprint to the nearest skin care boutique -- or cosmetic surgeon. Many pricey anti-aging products promise to slow the coming of wrinkles and fine lines, or even reverse aging and reveal youthful skin again. Start with the basics, though: Drink plenty of water; get enough sleep on a daily basis; don't smoke; and establish a cleansing routine every morning and night. Build on this strong foundation for healthy skin with 21 tips that can ease the appearance of growing older without much expense.
START AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE
Most people's skin is at its healthiest in their 20s. Oily adolescent skin and acne breakouts are gone, and protein production is at its peak. Don't wait until fine lines and wrinkles start forming in your late 20s and early 30s to start a routine. Kids, teens, and young adults should wear sun protection on their faces every day to alleviate signs of sun damage later, especially if they spend a lot of time outdoors.
DITCH THE HEAVY POWDER AND FOUNDATION PAST 30
Using foundation as a base and finishing with powder are steps in many makeup routines. But people should consider changing things up once they hit 30, says makeup artist Sarah Brock. Face powder and heavy foundation can make skin look older by accentuating wrinkles and fine lines, so use powder sparingly, applying only on the T-zone and over eyeshadow. For coverage, try a lighter CC cream instead of foundation. It conceals blemishes but has a lighter consistency.
KEEP IT SIMPLE WHEN TRAVELING
On the next trip that requires air travel, pack a gentle cleanser and moisturizer that's ultra-hydrating. A dry, pressurized cabin can affect the skin's top barrier, potentially making it more sensitive, especially around the eyes' thinner areas. Also take care of your skin before a trip, so it's in tip-top shape before boarding the plane, skin expert Joshua Zeichner tells Allure.
LOCK IN MOISTURE WITH A SPRAY
Frequent makeup application can dry out the skin. Moisturizer helps, but many professionals also use sprays to set makeup and seal in moisture. Facial mists can be made at home by combining water and preferred natural oils, but oils can get pricey. Try a Mario Badescu facial spray (starting at $7 for 4 ounces on Amazon) packed with herbal extracts and fragrant rosewater. Pro tip: For long days out, bring the spray along for an instant pick-me-up and makeup rejuvenator.
DON'T SQUEEZE THE PORES
Because of lower collagen production levels, debris accumulation, and sun exposure, dilated pores get more noticeable over time. For those tempted to squeeze whiteheads and blackheads, skin expert Sally Penford tells Cosmopolitan it's best to avoid the practice. Extractions should be done by professionals only, so follicle walls and capillaries don't get damaged. Exfoliating cleansers may help remove built-up dirt, oil, and dead skin.
MASSAGE AND WORK OUT THE FACE
Yoga, pilates, and stretching do wonders for muscles, but the muscles of the face and neck are often forgotten. Aestheticians massage faces in order to stimulate blood flow and tone facial muscles and loosening skin. Facial massages can stimulate skin cells to produce collagen and boost elasticity. To do your own facial massage, warm a teaspoon of a favorite moisturizer or rejuvenating cream by rubbing your palms together. A variety of DIY facial massages can be found online.
OPEN THE PORES FIRST
For the face to fully absorb creams, serums, and other liquids, pores should be open. Anti-aging expert Dr. Aaron Tabor tells Shape that he recommends opening pores up with heat. Soak a small towel in hot water and place it on the face for a few moments before applying product for maximum absorption.
USE EYE CREAM
The skin around the eyes, where there are fewer oil glands, is the thinnest and driest. Even before the first under-eye wrinkle or glimpse of crow's feet, moisturize and boost the health of this weaker area with eye cream. Oz Naturals' Super Youth Eye Gel ($15.49 from Walmart) is made of natural, organic ingredients, including plant stem cells and vitamin E.
PAT WITH THE RING FINGER
Decades of rubbing and tugging on skin with hands, towels, and pillowcases result in gradual wear and tear. Use a light touch, especially on the thinnest areas around the eyes. Lotions and other products applied to the face should be warmed between the palms and patted on instead of being rubbed and swiped. Many skin care and cosmetic professionals apply eye makeup with brushes and creams with their ring fingers, so they exert less force than they would with the index and middle digits.
EAT FOODS THAT SPUR COLLAGEN PRODUCTION
Collagen is the essential protein that supports the body's connective tissues and gives skin its supple firmness. Countless skin care brands sell products with collagen as a main ingredient, but eating foods such as fish, green vegetables, soy products, and citrus fruit is another way to boost collagen production (and more cost-effective, too).
Facial skin has a natural layer of oil that moisturizes and protects against pollutants in the air, but it gets stripped away with every wash. Moisturizer adds a protective layer to rebalance the pores and lock in moisture so the skin feels refreshed, soft, and hydrated. Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 Anti-Aging Moisturizer (starting at $15.19 on Amazon) promises to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots by hydrating with vitamins (notably C, E, and VitaNiacin complex) and antioxidants. More than 1,200 reviewers award it an average of 4.3 out of 5 stars, and many mention noticeable improvements in their skin.
REMOVE DEAD SKIN WITH A SCRUB
The body works continuously to shed dead skin and generate new layers. Speed the process with a natural, nutritious scrub once a week using a product such as the Skin Food Black Sugar Mask Wash Off ($8.93 on Amazon). The natural black sugar and other ingredients work as a mask that sets after 15 minutes and scrubs off dead skin when rinsed away. It gets an average of 4.6 out of 5 stars from more than 1,100 reviewers, with many customers remarking on how refreshed it makes them feel.
USE A FACE MASK ONCE A WEEK
Drinking water and using a daily moisturizer hydrates skin for a healthy glow, but using a sheet mask once a week adds even more nutrients and benefits. These disposable masks (with cutouts for the eyes, nose, and mouth) are soaked in vitamins and antioxidants. They're placed directly on the face for 15 to 30 minutes so the ingredients can be absorbed. A pack of 10 Dermal Collagen Essence Masks, made with green tea extract ($6.75 on Amazon), garners an average of 4 out of 5 stars from reviewers -- but DIY facial recipes made from ingredients found in the kitchen are cheaper and may be just as effective.
REMOVE MAKEUP, ESPECIALLY FOUNDATION AND POWDER
Coming home after a long day at work or a night out with friends, it may be tempting to crash into bed without washing your face or removing makeup. This could have lasting effects on how you look in the future, though, as eyeliner, powder, mascara, and heavy foundation can settle into pores, fine lines, and wrinkles. Always invest the extra five minutes in makeup removal, especially around the eyes. Use an oil-based makeup remover first, then a gentle cleanser for the entire face, before heading to bed.
DON'T JUST EAT VITAMIN C; APPLY SOME
Vitamin C is essential to the production of collagen, the protein that keeps skin firm but breaks down with age, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles. To get a daily dose of much-needed vitamin C, eat plenty of citrus fruit and try topical vitamin C such as Pure Body Naturals' Vitamin C Serum ($11 on Amazon). It averages 3.9 out of 5 stars from over 4,700 reviewers.
SUNGLASSES AND HATS ARE MORE THAN JUST FASHION
Beach hats with wide brims, large cat-eye sunglasses, and cool fedoras aren't just summery fashion accessories. Hats and sunglasses shield the face and eye area from direct UV rays, preventing it from breaking down that precious collagen. Skin care professionals recommend avoiding exposure to the sun when rays are strongest, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. When out in the sun, apply sunscreen frequently, wear sunglasses, and put on a hat to double the protection.
EAT MORE FOODS WITH ANTIOXIDANTS
When working, exercising, and sleeping, the body works to repair muscles and tissues. Antioxidants are vital nutrients that help the repair process and improve the skin's appearance. When planning a week's meals or buying lunch, consider adding more antioxidants. Fruits such as blueberries, kiwis, and cranberries and vegetables including spinach, kale, and artichokes are rich in antioxidants.
CONSIDER SATIN PILLOWCASES
For those who sleep with their faces pressed against a pillow the entire night, it may be time to invest in new pillowcases. Cotton pillowcases can cause friction against the skin, resulting in sleep lines and creases in the morning. Young skin bounces back quickly, but wrinkles can form along those lines once elastin and collagen levels start to decrease (around the age of 30). Satin pillowcases are recommended by many beauty gurus, who claim that the smooth, silky material doesn't rub against skin as you toss and turn.
DE-STRESS WHEN YOU CAN
Few things take more of a toll on overall health than stress. Stress can affect appetite, sleep, and appearance, especially around the eyes. People who are under pressure should try to relax and de-stress when possible. Take it one small step at a time. Consider a daily 15- to 20-minute walk to reset at lunchtime; sign up for a weekly yoga class (or watch a YouTube video for home exercise); or plan a weekend getaway to rejuvenate.
ADD A SCOOP OF GELATIN
Protein powder is used for muscle recovery and building after a hard workout. People looking for healthier bones, joints, hair, and nails, can try a scoop of gelatin powder. Gelatin is made from the prolonged boiling of animal bones, ligaments, skin, and tendons, usually from a cow or pig, and contains collagen, protein, keratin, and a variety of other nutrients that can boost overall health.
DON'T FORGET THE NECK AND HANDS
When pampering the face with moisturizer and sunscreen, don't forget the neck and hands -- they are just as exposed to sunlight and other elements as the face but are often neglected. As part of the morning and night routines, be sure to apply moisturizer, sunscreen, recovery cream, and other products on these important areas, as well.