In recent years, there has been a distinct shift in the the approach taken to facial rejuvenation amongst plastic surgeons. Not only has the importance of prevention become apparent, but a more holistic approach encompassing consideration of skin texture, volume changes, and so on has come to the fore. This is entirely logical – there is little point undergoing invasive surgery if the basic materials (the skin) is not optimised prior to surgery. I always encourage my patients to adopt a similar holistic approach to their faces, in order that they can achieve the best possible result from any procedure.
All the expensive creams and treatments you can lay your hands upon cannot possibly have their best effects unless the basics are right. Prevention is key – and there are some simple measures that you can take to prevent premature aging of your skin. Simply put:
- Protect your skin from the sun – every day!
- Do not smoke or use other forms of nicotine
- Stay well hydrated and follow a healthy diet
Sun exposure is a prime culprit in skin aging. Not only does it cause lines, wrinkles, and patches of pigmentation, but there is a strong, proven association between sun exposure and the development of skin cancer. Many people wear sunblock on their faces only on sunny days, or mistakenly feel that the relatively low factors contained in their foundation offer adequate protection. I advise wearing a sunblock, specifically formulated for the face, every day. Sunblocks formulated for use all over the body will often leave a greasy or white film on the skin, or cause spots, both of which tend to discourage ongoing use. Do remember that a small amount of sun exposure is necessary for the production of vitamin D, which is essential in calcium metabolism and maintaining bone strength, however, effective dietary supplements are available, and exposing the vulnerable skin of the face is not the optimal way to achieve strong bones! As in most things, a sensible, balanced approach it best.
Smoking and nicotine
Smoking will negatively effect the outcome of many cosmetic procedures, and in some cases, (such as pulse dye laser for skin skin rejuvenation or treatment of hydradenitis suppurtiva), render them completely ineffective. Cigarette smoke contains hundreds of toxic chemicals, the dramatic impact of which on human health is well documented. Nicotine itself causes narrowing of blood vessels, particularly in the skin. What this translates to is less nourishment getting to the cells of the skin, and slower removal of naturally-produced waste products. As plastic surgeons, we see the dramatic effects smoking can have on the healing of surgical wounds, as well as chronic wounds such as leg ulcers, pressure sores, and so on. Given what we see in these circumstances, it is not at all surprising that smoking has such a negative impact on the appearance of the skin. While nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, gum, and so on are definitely a better option than smoking, they are still associated with this reduction in blood flow, and are best used only for relatively short periods of time in the course of giving up smoking entirely. The good news is that once you have quit, you are likely to notice improvements in the quality and texture of your skin, and any treatments you do undergo are likely to have better, more sustained results.
Hydration and diet
Maintaining adequate hydration and following a healthy diet are logical steps to follow, not only for the health and appearance of your skin, but for your overall health and well-being. It is advice we all hear continuously, but it does make sense.
Beyond the basics
There are a myriad of options available, whether it is a prescribed skin care programme, designed to prompt your skin to start renewing itself, non-ablative laser treatments to encourage the formation of new collagen, topical and laser treatments for blemishes such as spots and pigmentation or conditions such as acne or rosecea, or injectable treatments such as botulinum toxin, fillers, or lipofilling or ablative laser treatment for rejuvenation, or treatment of scars from acne or other causes. It can be very hard to know where to concentrate your efforts! It is always useful to try to write down a list of your priorities. This is very useful when it comes to a consultation, as it will let both you and me make a plan to achieve the best possible result for you, whether or not you are contemplating a surgical procedure either now or at a later stage.