This month (and next) the editors of SUCCESS asked us to respond to some of your repeated questions about attractiveness. We’re happy to do so, as we’ve started a new website, YOUBeauty.com, to motivate people to make healthy choices. Why beauty?
First, beauty for men and women is health. Really, for those of you who think beauty is about mirrors, makeup and how many pudding packs you have to sacrifice to fit into your skinny jeans, pull up a chair, postpone your top-of-the-hour Botox appointment and hear this.
Beauty isn’t some vapid and superficial pursuit that exists solely to sell products, wag tongues and produce drool. Beauty is actually precisely perceived, purposeful and rooted more in hard science than in abstract and random opinion.
From the time we started prancing around the world with our body-hair parkas and leafy lingerie, evolution has pushed us to be more attractive. And that’s why beauty serves as the foundation for our feelings, our happiness and our existence. In fact, beauty doesn’t reflect our vanity as much as it does our humanity.
Beauty, my dear, appearance-obsessed friend, is health.
We already know that beauty is always on your mind because it’s on everyone’s minds. You can’t help but think about it—consciously or not—every time you step in the shower or in front of the mirror. It drives many of the decisions you make about exercise and eating, and it determines how you choose between the black suit and the tan pants.
This kind of traditional beauty—the outer kind—really isn’t just about looking good. Outer beauty serves as a proxy of how healthy you are; it’s the message you send to others about your health.
Way back when, before we could decode your genome, use fertility tests to see when you’re ovulating and order MRIs to see what was going on with your liver, people used beauty as a serious assessment of the potential health of a partner. Beauty was the best way to figure it out (and in a tenth of a second, mind you). Now, if you take the concept of beauty a few steps deeper, you realize that inner beauty—the idea of feeling good and being happy—also has tremendous health implications in every aspect of your life.
So let’s answer a few questions and give you some tips so you can stay beautiful inside and out for the next 40 years.
Q: What are a couple of basic things I can do to keep myself looking young?
A: The good news is that the most effective youth-preserving strategies aren’t complicated at all. Eight basic choices are key:
The most basic and the most important is wearing sunscreen every day, rain or shine. Even when it’s cloudy up to 80 percent of the sun’s skin-damaging UV rays come through. We like nanoparticle zinc oxide, but other choices work as well.
Moisturize. Get in the habit of applying a moisturizer with SPF in the morning, preferably one with the ingredient zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, or a combination of the two.
After that, focus on getting regular, quality sleep. While you sleep, your skin repairs itself, and without quality shut-eye your skin will not have a healthy glow.
Make it a priority to pack your diet with good-for-your-skin foods like colorful fruits and vegetables. Proven skin-helpers are vitamin C (find it in kiwi, strawberries and bell peppers) and even 70 percent-plus dark chocolate (thanks to polyphenol-rich cocoa beans).
Add omega-3 and omega-9 monounsaturated fats to your diet. Get into the habit of popping omega-DHA 3s (1g of omega-3 fatty acids or 400mg of DHA supplement from algae) about 30 minutes before lunch and again before dinner. That decreases your desire for food later. Less food equals a smaller waist. Smaller waist equals longer life. Or skip the supplements and instead eat six walnuts or a little avocado before each meal and 4 ounces of nonfried fish (not shellfish) three times a week. Salmon and trout are the only fish in North America that predictably have DHA—the active component for your eyes and brain. It converts to the good stuff for your heart and for your skin, too. You can also try avocado and DHA pills—900mg a day.
6, 7 and 8. Lose weight, get toned and keep your hair—we’ll deal more with those next month, but trim, toned and great hair make you look, feel and live younger.
Q: I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on wrinkle creams. Am I wasting my time and money?
A: It’s possible that you are spending your money on the wrong things. First things first: The best anti-aging cream in the world won’t do a bit of good if you are not wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen every day. If you only buy one skincare product, make it that. After that, be realistic about what a topical cream can do for wrinkles. If a wrinkle is already in place, very few products will help—you may just be doing a wallet transfer from you to whomever. Some exceptions though: Prescription retinoids (such as Renova or Differen) are the only proven skincare “topical products” that can decrease wrinkles. A retinoid paired with sunscreen is your best bet. Botox works for established muscle-induced wrinkles too.
Q: How do I prevent age spots?
A: Sunscreen and lycopene! Have I said sunscreen before in today’s column? Age spots only happen because of sun exposure, so wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, rain or shine, is the No. 1 priority. Wearing a sun hat on sunny days and big sunglasses to protect the skin around your eyes will help, too. There are also diet tweaks that can help prevent spots. Loading up on polyphenol-rich foods can help your skin protect itself. Lycopene (found in tomatoes and cooked tomato paste or sauce) is the best nutrient for this, and beta-carotene (load up on carrots) and vitamin C can help, too.