So, do you want to look younger and start the year by defying the onset of another decade? It’s a silly question, of course. We all do. Well, not that much younger. But just a bit.
There’s nothing wrong with looking your age – or with looking old, for that matter – except that few of us relish the idea. Certainly, we should learn to accept ourselves as we are, to embrace our changing faces and physiques as the years take their toll, but given the current national preoccupation – make that, obsession – with the beauty of youth and with finding ways to cheat nature and look “good for our age”, it is no wonder that we feel we need to make the best of ourselves.
It stands to reason that, if you want to bring about any changes in the way you look, you’ll have to make a few changes to your way of life, which require sustained effort. Your sleeping patterns, emotional balance, eating habits, exercise regime (or lack thereof), skin-care routine and stress levels – all of this has an impact on the face you present to the world.
To improve the outlook, here is a whole bundle of things that you could try. You need to be realistic, though. As leading cosmetic dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe often says when lecturing on the subject of facial aesthetics: “Choose your parents with care.” How we look and how we age is largely – about 50 per cent – determined by our genes, and there’s only so much you can do to change what your genes have in store for you.
None of these suggestions is going to make you miraculously appear a decade younger, like a candidate on a makeover reality show. Nor will they turn you into Claudia Schiffer or Keira Knightley. Pick out what appeals to you and give it a whirl. There’s nothing to lose but a few wrinkles.
1 Wear Sunscreen
I can’t stress this enough. A large percentage of the visible signs of ageing (wrinkles, age spots) result from the cumulative effect of ultraviolet rays on the skin, over time. Wear sunscreen and you’ll keep these at bay.
2 Get enough sleep
The whole idea of beauty sleep is not a myth. Your body needs time to restore itself overnight and that includes your face, too. While you sleep, cells are busy repairing DNA damage from the day before, so snuggle down and give them a chance to get on with it.
3 Learn where to put concealer
Dabbing a bit onto the skin between the inner corner of the eye and the nose has the effect of casting light into a notoriously dark spot and brightens up the face of anyone over 30. Sneak a bit around the edges of your nostrils, too, to minimise redness.
4 Use a Clarisonic cleansing brush
In the same way that the ultrasonic toothbrush gets teeth cleaner than any other method of brushing, this hand-held gadget has bristles that oscillate 300 times a second and are designed to bounce dirt out of pores, for noticeably smoother – and hence younger-looking – skin (£150, at www.spacenk.co.uk; www.clarisonic.com/uk)
5 Learn Eva Fraser’s Facial Fitness
The redoubtable Eva Fraser is nearly 80 and still teaching her remarkably effective facial exercises. No gadgets, no gimmicks, but you need to be dedicated to learn them and persevere for best results. Starter lesson, £170 with Eva; DVD, from £22.49 (020 7937 6616; www.evafraser.com)
6 Resolve to eat more oily fish
Or failing that, high-grade fish-oil supplements. None of us consume enough essential fatty acids, which as well as helping our brains to function more smoothly are considered vital to keep skin-cell-membranes in good health and therefore stop the skin from getting too dry.
7 Try a Neutrogena Wave
If cleanliness is next to godliness – and in the beauty canon, it certainly is – then get super-clean with this handy little battery-powered machine. It comes with pads filled with cleanser and has a vibrating motion for better de-clogging of pores. Not as powerful or as effective as the Clarisonic, but at £12.99 (at Boots and Superdrug), it’s a snip.
8 Wear tinted moisturiser
If your complexion looks even in tone, you appear younger. That’s not just supposition – it’s been proved by research (by Dr Bernhard Fink, an expert in evolutionary psychology at the University of Gottingen). Try Olay’s Touch of Foundation (£9.99, at www.boots.com; more widely available from mid-January) to help smooth away the years.
9 Drink plenty of water
Particularly hard to do at this time of year when it is so much easier to reach for warming coffee, tea or hot toddies. It won’t hydrate your skin directly, but it will improve the way your insides work and good gut health is soon reflected in glowing skin.
10 Book a Dermaroller session
It’s the latest treatment in what might be called the ”brutal beauty” movement and involves having a finely spiked roller passed repeatedly across your delicate facial skin. It may seem a bizarre way to enhance its texture but, once the skin’s repair-processes have kicked into action, generating new collagen and elastin, you’ll reap the benefits of finer, brighter, smoother skin. Not cheap, but many women swear by it (£250 a session, www.genuinedermaroller.co.uk)
11 Give yourself a facial workout
The neat little hand-held Tua Trend device passes electrical currents between a pair of electrodes to tweak idle, saggy face muscles into shorter, tauter versions of themselves, lifting crepey necks and cheek contours as it does so. Great results for those who work at it (£209 from www.tuatrendface.com; 0845 434 7990).
12 Take up yoga
It is soothing, de-stressing, improves your posture, helps loosen the knots of tension that we all accumulate in our bodies and can be done anywhere. All you need is the space to unroll a yoga mat. Also, yoga devotees usually look remarkably youthful – and if you can’t beat them, why not join in and see if it works its magic for you.
13 Wear the right perfume
One study last year showed that observers who sniffed a particular perfume while judging the ages of women, judged them several years younger. Bonkers? Maybe. But worth a try. The perfume in question was Ageless Fantasy by Harvey Prince (£59 for 100ml, at Harvey Nichols).
14 Try Botox
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but injections of botulinum toxin A, to give it its proper name, will certainly ease wrinkles brought on by frowning or squinting. It’s very safe, but results depend greatly on the skill of the practitioner. To find a good one, go to the British Association of Cosmetic Doctors (0800 328 3613; www.cosmeticdoctors.co.uk)
15 Cut sugar from your diet
The body doesn’t need it and sugar, according to nutritionists and skin experts, exacerbates a process called glycation, which accelerates ageing in the skin. (I tried this last year and found that two weeks off the sweet stuff made my skin noticeably clearer and brighter.)
16 Add the odd facial into your beauty regime
Regular TLC from a skincare professional will pay dividends in terms of a fresher-looking complexion with more bloom and spring to it. If you feel guilty about treating yourself, ask for one as a present.
17 Revise your make-up
Most of us are guilty of falling into a make-up time warp and ignoring the fact that what suited us five or 10 years ago might not look so good today. Also, cosmetic formulations are constantly improving, so newer products are nicer to use, with better results.
18 Exercise regularly
Whether it’s walking the dog, rock-climbing, or scuba-diving, anything that gets you moving will improve your circulation. That in turn will encourage bloodflow to the skin and help give it a healthy, youth-enhancing glow.
19 Try an anti-ageing cream
It doesn’t have to cost £100; there are brilliant offerings on the high street from RoC’s new Complete Lift range, via Olay’s Regenerist, to Boots No 7’s famous Protect & Perfect Intense serum.
20 Give up smoking
Just in case you need another reason to quit. It deprives the skin of oxygen, accelerates the process of skin ageing by hastening the degradation of collagen, which means more wrinkles – faster. Oh, and it’s not great for your health, either.
21 Take up meditation
Not the most obvious way, perhaps, to roll back the years, but if you can learn to achieve the odd patch of focus and stillness in your life, it will help. Getting into the habit of relaxing your face as you concentrate on your breathing will ease the lines of tension and worry that we all develop with the years.
22 Sleep on a silk, or satin, pillowcase
Slippery fabric such as silk or satin drags less on the skin, so doesn’t pull it into wrinkles, which sounds like an old wives’ tale but actually holds true. Hairdressers recommend these, too, for longer-lasting blow-dries (£35 at www.silkskin.co.uk)
23 Eat more good bacteria
If you have what nutritionists call gut dysbiosis, or an unhealthy gut, this will be reflected in the condition of your skin. Taking acidophilus, a probiotic supplement, every day will enhance levels of good gut flora, which should soon result in healthier-looking skin.
24 Take expert advice on your hair colour
“Having a few lighter strands around the face suits almost everyone and will take years off your face,” says Susan Baldwin, creative colour consultant at John Frieda.
25 Try Slendertone Face
Spare yourself the hard work of learning a series of facial exercises: lie back and let a machine do it for you. In fact, with Slendertone’s latest offering, you don’t even have to lie down – just attach it to your face, and get on with life while it puts your face muscles through their paces (£300 at Harrods).
26 Relax your jaw
When our jaws relax, we have a ”freeway space” between our back teeth. Wearing a specially fitted mouthguard, the Oralift, for a couple of hours, twice a week, gradually increases this space, activating the facial muscles and, slowly and subtly, gives a natural facelift effect. It sounds unlikely, but the case-history pictures are compelling. From £575 (020 7636 9978; www.oralift.com)
27 Plump up your cheeks
As our faces age, the fat pads in our cheeks and beneath our eyes shrivel years before the face begins to sag. If you are up for some semi-surgical work, consider boosting the volume in your cheeks with injections of hyaluronic acid-based gel (takes minutes, lasts eight-12 months, costs from £800). Dr Aamer Khan (of www.harleystreetskin.co.uk) and Dr Tracy Mountford (www.cosmeticskinclinic.co.uk) are particularly good at this sort of work.
28 Take the herbal route to health
In the new book that leading naturopath Elizabeth Peyton-Jones is working on, the first chapter will be called “Eat yourself young”. Until that is published, content yourself with her wisdom as revealed in First Aid Kitchen Remedies (£6.95 at www.epjhealing.com)
29 Have your eyebrows shaped
Having your eyebrows professionally shaped – and possibly tinted – is one of those minor beauty revelations that makes you wonder how you ever got by without it before. A defined brow opens and lifts the eye area in a way that’s little short of wondrous. In terms of results, it’s worth far more than the £20-£30 it costs.
30 Learn to curl your eyelashes
Give them a squeeze with an eyelash curler, which looks like a giant pair of nail scissors with a clamp on the end, before you apply mascara and see how it opens up your eyes.
31 Wear blusher
Get blusher right – the right colour, in the right place – and your face will look instantly fresher and livelier. The easiest way to start is with a sheer gel blusher – simpler to use and to spread thinly. Smile, pat onto the apples of your cheeks, and blend up and out from there towards the hairline. And remember that less is more.
32 Get a great haircut
Updating your hairstyle can be enough to make you look years younger and a fringe hides a multitude of frown lines. Cosmetic surgeons will often send would-be clients off for a makeover; frequently, a haircut will give them enough confidence to skip the scalpel.
33 Splash out on a laser treatment
Fine lines and age spots can both be softened by treatment with fractional lasers (the ”fractional” bit means that between each hole in the skin created by pinpoint laser beams, there remains a fraction of whole skin that encourages faster healing). For details, see www.fraxel.com; for practitioners, visit www.cosmeticdoctors.co.uk
34 Spend time doing things that make you happy
You’ll feel better and look better as a result. And in the same vein, try to smile a bit more. It’s nicer for everyone else and it tricks the body into changing its mood. It also uses fewer muscles than frowning.
35 Whiten your teeth
You don’t have to spend £700 at the dentists; get your hygienist to give you a full scale and polish, then choose a decent kit off the internet or invest in a Britesmile Teeth-Whitening Pen, £45, which you can use at home. The only catch? You must have a proper consultation beforehand (www.swsmiles.co.uk)
36 Cut down on alcohol
Not only does drink have a dehydrating effect on the body, but it dilates the capillaries, which leads to a rosy flush on the face (not in a good way) and has a general inflammatory effect on the body that encourages ageing.
37 Discover the magic of overnight face-boosters
Guerlain’s Midnight Secret (£51) has for years been the night-owl’s secret standby. Equally effective, and divine-smelling, is Sarah Chapman’s Skinesis Overnight Facial, which contrives to help you wake with a healthy-looking glow (£42, www.sarahchapman.net)
38 Get into the habit of massaging your face properly
Massage expert Beata Aleksandrowicz has done the most brilliant little book (Quick and Easy Face Massage: Five-minute Massages for Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime, Duncan Baird Publishers, £5.99) that will encourage a smoother, happier face – and provide a tiny soothing break in your day, too.
39 Treat yourself to a professional make-up lesson
Many of the staff on department-store make-up counters are professional make-up artists. Seek one out and see what they can suggest for you. And if you don’t like it, all you have to do is wipe it off, and try elsewhere.
40 Don’t diet too strenuously
It’s sod’s law, but if you lose enough weight to make an appreciable difference to the size of your stomach and hips, the other place where the loss will really show is in your face. You don’t want to end up looking gaunt – even the word is ageing.
41 Practise relaxation
We’re all super-busy these days, which raises stress levels, which is ageing in itself. Relaxation is a habit that can be learnt. Taking time, watching the clouds, practising deep breathing – will all help ease the lines of stress and worry that settle in through habit and then become a permanent part of the landscape of our faces.
42 Zap away age spots
Brown pigmentation marks on the face or hands are a giveaway of ageing skin. Treatment with IPL (intense pulsed light) or lasers helps disperse the pigment, leading to a smoother, more even complexion. It’s neither that painful nor, in the scale of non-surgical treatments, that expensive (treatments cost from £250) but you do need more than one treatment for best results. Try www.courthouseclinics.com or www.sknclinics.co.uk
43 Eat the right supplements
Not hyaluronic acid, although that sounds logical; what works better is something that encourages the body to produce more hyaluronic acid, which keeps the skin moisturised from within. Try Skin Radiance capsules, £34.95 from the Organic Pharmacy (www.theorganicpharmacy.com)
44 Buy some Frownies
Stick these little sticky plasters on the bits of your face that are most creased – the forehead, or around the side of the eyes – overnight, and by encouraging the muscles to relax, they can have a remarkable, and natural, effect on smoothing the face and they’re inexpensive at £18.50 for a box of 144. Actress Rene Russo and model Marie Helvin are big fans (www.frownies.co.uk)
45 Try facial acupuncture
If the idea of having needles stuck into your face doesn’t scare you, give it a whirl. It’s expensive, but can produce remarkable results. Anton Michael Rocke (www.aculift.co.uk) and John Tsagaris (www.energybodies.co.uk) are brilliant at this, and many acupuncturists offer the treatment alongside their other work.
46 Find the shade of lipstick that suits you
The right colour, whether nude-y beige or cerise, will light up your face. Experiment at make-up counters, and consult the Bobbi Brown Lipstick Wheel (at counters nationwide) which tells you that if you’re, for example, a “Tulle Brown” sort of girl, which other colours will also work for you.
Not harshly, but with a muslin cloth wrung out in hot water, preferably every night. That’s enough to take the dead cells off the surface, which makes your skin smoother, so it reflects light better, which is what makes it look more radiant.
48 Use an antioxidant serum
Used after cleansing and before your normal moisturiser as a kind of skin-booster treatment, these contain vitamins that help to repair and protect the skin. Try Kate Somerville’s Total Vitamin Antioxidant Face Serum, £59 at www.spacenk.co.uk
49 Think long and hard before going under the knife
If you’re toying with the idea of a facelift, consult at least three surgeons and mull over what they suggest before deciding. Find a good one through the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (www.baaps.org.uk)
50 And finally, have more sex
Studies have found that couples who make love frequently look more than 10 years younger than the average adult who has sex less often. The current thinking is that the pleasure derived from sex is a crucial factor in preserving youth.