Washing your face every night removes dirt and oil, and hydrates your skin. It’s the one thing that every one of the radiant grandmothers we spoke to had in common. Most of the women keep it old-school simple, with gentle soap and water, followed by an inexpensive moisturizer.
Kim Gratton, a grandmother of three who lives in New Hampshire, uses coconut oil instead of soap. “I just add a little oil to a washcloth that’s dampened with warm water and rub gently. Then, rinse, and massage in a little more coconut oil as a moisturizer,” she says. “I love what it does for my skin!”
Try it: Always wash your face with warm water, not hot, since it can irritate skin. If using coconut oil, rub a teaspoon’s worth of the oil onto your skin and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping off, or wash it off with water. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil make it antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-fungal and antiviral, so it offers your skin protection against bacteria as well as keeping it well moisturized.
“The thing I’ve noticed that makes the biggest difference for me is hydration,“ says Kim Gratton. “Drinking lots of water really does give my skin a softer look—the little ‘grandma lines’ are much less noticeable.” Research has shown that drinking water increases blood flow, and improves skin’s density and plumpness, effectively filling in lines and wrinkles. “More than 70 percent of our brain, our hearts, our lungs are water. Our bodies overall are about 60% water,” says Geraldine Smith, a retired geriatric care nurse and grandmother of three who lives in New York City. “It just makes sense that we respond to water! I drink as much as I can as early in the day as I can since I don’t like to get up in the middle of the night.”
Try it: While everyone’s hydration needs vary, the “eight glasses a day” guideline is still a good place to start. Keep in mind that many fruits and vegetables also include a high percentage of water, including cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, strawberries, and watermelon. Another hydration secret: Keep your environment moist as well, recommends Kathryn Frew, M.D., a dermatologist and founding partner of Modern Dermatology. “Investing in a good humidifier can go a long way to keeping your skin properly hydrated, particularly during the winter months,” she says.
“Moisturizing your skin is absolutely the key to halting the aging process,” says Sabrina Dowd, M.D., a dermatologist in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money. In fact, skin often becomes more sensitive as we age, and even expensive beauty products can be irritating.” She suggests using a natural oil like coconut oil, which helps the skin lock in it’s moisture. “Organic coconut oil is a great choice for many women; I use it myself,” she says. “ It’s inexpensive and you can buy it in bulk at places like Costco, or get it in a tub or jar at the grocery store.” Look for cold-pressed coconut oil that is virgin and unrefined, with no additional additives.
Esthetician Marta Sienkiewicz suggests looking for moisturizing products that contain hyaluronic acid that will plump skin. Other ingredients to look for: peptides, which help collagen production, and antioxidants, which help protect skin.
Try it: Sienkiewicz cautions women to stay away from creams that are too heavy. “Many women believe that they need heavier creams as they get older because their skin is drier, but that’s a myth,” she says. “The truth is that heavy creams clog pores and clogged pores keep skin from doing the work it’s meant to do.” If you want to try a natural oil, but don’t like the scent of coconut oil, consider organic sunflower, or olive oil. Jojoba oil is also a good choice since it is nearly identical to the sebum our bodies produce to help keep our skin lubricated.
Kathy Otzel, a grandmother of two from Lewisberg, Pennsylvania, has completed several half marathons. “To be honest, I don’t do the exercise for my skin,” she says. “I do it because it makes me feel better in general, especially my mood, but I know that it makes my skin look better, too.”
Otzel is right about that. Exercise keeps oxygen flowing to the skin, and research has shown that it improves the skin’s composition, effectively helping it return to a more youthful state.
Try it: “Anything that is good for your overall health is good for your skin,” says Dr. Frew. “Exercise increases circulation and that can help all your organs, not just your skin.”
“In my mind, wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day is the first line of defense for anti-aging,” says Dr. Frew. “It’s like brushing your teeth, and flossing: it should be a daily habit.” Patients come to her office and ask about Botox or fillers or retinoids, which all have their uses, she says. “But regular sunscreen use is a tool that’s as effective, especially if you’re preventing damage before it happens. And it’s much cheaper, too!”
Dr. Frew recommends choosing a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.“These compounds are used in baby sunscreen for a reason: they are safe. They contain particles that reflect the sun’s rays but they aren’t absorbed through the skin.”
Try it: Be sure you use enough sunscreen and reapply it during the day. “You should be applying the equivalent of a shot-glass full to areas of your body that are exposed to the sun. And reapply after exercising or being in water,” says Dr. Frew. A shot glass holds about two tablespoons. A dollop the size of a nickel will cover your face; you’ll need more for your neck and décolletage.
“Healthy skin is a result of being healthy. That includes a good diet. Junk food is really hard on the skin,” says esthetician Sienkiewicz. Sara Cowlan, M.S., R.D., a nutritionist and registered dietician in New York City, explains, “I believe there’s room in a healthful diet for any and all the foods you’re not allergic to, but too much junk food will not make anyone look or feel good! There may be chemicals and additives in junk food that create free radicals and inflammation that can damage our skin if we eat them in large quantities.”
Instead, the majority of your calories should come from whole foods, continues Cowlan. “Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that can help get rid of free radicals and decrease inflammation. In addition, make sure you take in Omega 3 fatty acids, which are not only heart healthy, but also keeps the outer layer of the skin intact and build collagen, which helps skin maintain elasticity and firmness. You might want to sip green tea, too, as it may help to protect against sun damage.”
Try it: Try to eat foods that are high in Vitamins A, C and E, as these antioxidants help skin to function optimally. Sweet potatoes, carrots and squash are all vitamin A heavyweights. Almonds, tomatoes, and peanut butter are good vitamin E choices. As for vitamin C, you’ll find the most in red peppers, kale, broccoli, and oranges. For Omega 3 fatty acids, try flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and salmon. Eating lean protein is also important since your body needs protein to produce collagen.
“Ideally, everyone could have a facial once a month, says Sienkiewicz. “A good, professional facial is like a professional dental cleaning; it gets out dirt and oil that you just can’t get out by yourself,” she says. But if getting a regular facial doesn’t fit your budget and schedule, consider doing it at home. There are great recipes for homemade masks and scrubs online that use ingredients like oatmeal and honey, which soothe the skin; avocado or banana, which moisturize, and strawberries or blueberries, which have a fruit acid that exfoliates. “The basic rule is that if we can eat it, it’s safe for our skin,” Sienkiewicz says.
Try it: Click here for some great homemade mask recipes that can hydrate, brighten, and exfoliate your skin.“Making masks with grandkids can be fun, too! Just be careful,” Sienkiewicz cautions, “Remember that young skin tends to be more sensitive, so always patch test for sensitivity before you put a mask on a child.” Click here for some great grandkid-friendly beauty treatments. Of course, this is a good precaution for mature skin, too.
Sloughing off dead skin cells with an exfoliating scrub or lotion once or twice a week can help rev up the skin cell turnover that makes for a glowing complexion.
Kathy Otzel shared an unusual skin hack that was recommended to her by a dermatologist. “I use an inexpensive cream that contains ammonium lactate. Usually, it’s recommended for rough skin on feet or elbows, but I’ve been using it on my face for more than two years and it makes my skin really soft” A lactate acid cream or lotion slowly exfoliates the skin, explains Dr. Dowd. “It might be too harsh for some people, and no one should ever use it on skin that’s chapped or irritated. But people with normal or oily skin will likely be fine using it.”
Retinol is another good ingredient to look for, especially for the skin around the eyes, suggest Dr. Dowd. It helps improve cell function and speeds up cell turnover. This means younger looking skin. Glycolic acid is another go-to ingredient. It loosens dead skin cells so they can be sloughed away to reveal the fresh skin beneath.
Try it. If you’re looking to try a retinol cream to get rid of fine lines, Dr. Dowd suggests RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Eye Cream. As for glycol acid, in low concentrations, it can safely be used every day by most women. But beware, cautions Sienkiewicz. “A low concentration of acid in a moisturizing cream is fine for most skins. But if you want to try a peel, go to a professional you know you can trust. Do-it-yourself glycolic acid kits can do a lot of damage—I’ve seen it time and time again.”
You may remember a time that ladies wore hats and gloves. Those ladies had the right idea. Putting a physical barrier between your skin and the elements is smart, whatever the season. Grandmother Jan Mohrman grew up near Austin, Minnesota and settled in Rochester, New York, where winter weather can sometimes be among the coldest in the country. “I walk almost every day, and I always protect my skin from the cold, to keep my skin from chapping or drying out,” she says.
Dr. Frew encourages her patients to use clothing to protect themselves from sun, too, since sun exposure can create wrinkles, as well as expose skin to harmful rays that can cause skin cancer. “Fabric designed to protect skin from the sun’s damaging rays is best, especially if you have fair skin,” she says. But even a regular long-sleeved shirt and a broad-brimmed hat will help. “Bottom line, if you’re going to be out between the hours of ten and two, you should cover up,” says Dr. Frew.
Try it: Always wear a hat if you’re going to be outside for long periods of time, and consider clothing that is made of UV-protection fabrics. Don’t forget sunglasses, too, which should be coated for UV protection.
“Sleep is essential for good health overall,” Dr. Frew points out. “Your cells repair while you’re sleeping. This is the time your body uses to heal itself.” The problem is, most of us should be getting more sleep than we do. Marta Sienkiewicz puts it this way: “Sleep is a cure-all. If a client isn’t sleeping well, her skin will show it,” she says.
Try it: Sleep quality matters as as much as quantity. “You need deep sleep for your body to restore itself,” says Dr. Dowd. “Ideally, you should be getting six to eight hours of sleep a night. Hormonal changes that happen as we age, along with other factors, can affect how well we sleep. If you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, talk to your doctor about possible solutions. Click here to learn about surprising factors that might be impacting your sleep.
“Everyone should have a yearly skin check,” urges Dr. Frew, “and do a self-check once a month to look for anything unusual, like moles that bleed or have changed shape or color. If you see anything that concerns you, talk to your doctor. Also schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist once a year to check the pigment of your retinas, since they can also sustain sun damage.”
Try it: If you haven’t recently had your skin checked by a dermatologist, schedule an appointment today. Dr. Frew frequently participates in the SPOT me program that’s sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology. “This program provides free skin cancer screenings. You can check the American Academy of Dermatology website to find the date and time of a screening in your area. If you don’t have a dermatologist of your own, this program can give you access to one,” she says.
Finally, we love the advice from Dawn Bartmess, a grandmother of two who lives in Colonial Beach, Virginia. “Probably the best thing I do for my skin is laugh with my grandbabies and cuddle them close. It makes me happy. And the happier you are, the better everything looks! Including your skin,” she says.
Emotions do have powerful effects on the skin. Worry and stress have been shown to alter hormone levels, and are linked to skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. Stress also speeds up the aging process. “We don’t fully understand the mechanism yet,” says Dr. Dowd, “but we know stress causes rashes, hives—even hair loss. And it can definitely make you look older.”
Try it: Happiness and contentment can quite literally make skin radiant. You can’t bottle it or buy it, but love and laughter may be the best-kept beauty secrets of all. And that’s good news for grandmas, because most of them are naturals at both.
No one wants to look old. That’s probably why Americans spent over $2 billion on skincare products in 2013, and are projected to have spent the same in 2015. But even with all those lotions and serums and creams on the market, what actually workswhen trying to keep skin soft, smooth, and glowing? We asked grandmothers around the country for their best tried-and-true skin secrets. Read on for their real-life hacks, as well as some expert advice, to help you keep your skin looking its best, whatever your age.
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