Before I jump ahead to what most of you would like to know, let me first say this: there are no ugly women or men, just lazy ones. The reason Japanese women look as well put together as they do is because they take immense pride in their appearance. As do the French, which is why they can stop themselves from over-indulging in wine or cheese. So cultivate vanity, dear readers. That is a pre-requisite if we are to get anywhere with this exercise of trying to look younger.
What follows is a non-negotiable, must-do list to stave off the long arm of aging:
1) Quit smoking
If you have never smoked, good on you, if you are still puffing, that was your last cigarette. Other than yellow teeth and nicotine-stained fingers, smoking makes you smell like a walking ashtray. That’s before considering lung cancer, emphysema and the lost of limbs from poor circulation. In the long run, you will have smoker’s lines around the mouth from pursing your lips repeatedly and skin more leathery than a crocodile. Think about it: is this really what you want?
2) Get out of the sun
Coco may have had the sense to spawn a fashion empire but she sure didn’t have the sense to spare her skin damage by baking in the sun. A tan, while wonderful against white clothes, is a sign of skin damage. Yes, you’ll look marvellously edible with caramel skin, but if you are naturally fair, you’ll only stay that way two months tops. What you’ll be left with is a built-up lifetime of sun damage.
Some people don’t even tan. They just burn and a crust forms from their poor dried out skin. Some get new moles. Some of these moles turn cancerous. If you must be brown and golden like one of them gingerbread boys, make sure your tan comes from a tube.
3) Wear Sunscreen
This seems like commonsense, but many people only wear sunscreen when they are going to the beach or when it is thirty-degrees outside. You have to wear sunscreen everyday, 365 days a year, from when you wake up in the morning until you wash your face at night, rain, hail, or shine. There is no excuse. Believe me, the money you spend on sunscreen will be the best ever investment you make for your skin. Forget about all those anti-oxidant, acid and laser treatments. If you don’t wear sunscreen each and every single day, you won’t see the benefits of any of them.
4) Eat a healthy diet
Excessive or prolonged regular consumption of sugar triggers a process called Glycation, causing skin to become thicker and loose it’s elasticity. This, my friends, is what accounts for wrinkles and sagging skin, other than unavoidable intrinsic ageing. So eat your fruit and veg. Cut down on simple carbohydrates like bread, rice and pasta and consume enough protein for your height, weight and sex. Aside from making good food taste horrible, low fat diets are bad for the skin.
Even those who eat everything under the sun have gaps in their diet. A lack of one vitamin, mineral or trace element can make itself felt in a myriad of ways. A lack of healthy fats for instance, may manifest itself as dry skin or dandruff. If your budget hampers you from splurging on supplements, at least get these two: good multivitamin and fish oil. While the former can’t replace a good diet, it insures you against insufficient nutrients. Fish oil lubricates the skin from within, giving it that nice tone and overall glow.
The Chinese have a saying that men need a full stomach and women need their sleep. Looking back at all the pictures I’d taken right after the birth of my child, when I was as sleep-deprived as any new mother can be, I’d have to agree. Sleep is the cheapest and most effective beauty treatment. Be sure to be in bed between ten pm and midnight, for the curative and regenerative effects of sleep to be felt, as that’s when the magic takes place. Any later and you might as well not have slept at all. I take that back. Any sleep is better than none.
6) Drink plenty of water
Imagine you’re a camel in a desert. Now what do camels think of when they’re surrounded by nothing but sand? That’s right. Water. I drink up to three litres a day to flush out toxins and keep my skin clear. If I fall sick, I might drink more. It’s a Chinese cure-all for fever and sore throats, coughs and colds…
Aside from keeping you enviably trim, exercise will give you a nice, healthy, glow. Well, you aren’t going to look like you’re lit from within, incandescent with life, by sitting on the couch. I’m not advocating triathlons either; exposure to the elements from all that prolonged outdoor activity simply ages your skin. Just do as much incidental exercise as you possibly can in a day. Instead of riding the escalator or lift, take the stairs. Get off the bus one or two stops before your destination. Ditch the car every so often and walk.
8) Eliminate stress
Take up yoga, meditation, or simply hit the local park in your joggers. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but you must because all the worries of the world get written on your face in the form of sagging and lines. Cultivate an oasis of calm wherever you go by taking deep breaths throughout the day, sipping green tea and just resting your eyes on the available green around you. If, like me, you are indoors for most of the day, it would be good to go for a stroll during your lunch time to get the stress out of your system.