Over-exfoliating is one such culprit.

By Elizabeth Swanson
November 26, 2019

These days, skincare is all about prevention: We want to know what we can do to keep our skin protected, clear, and moisturized so that we can look healthy and radiant as we age. There are several definitive ways to work towards this, like wearing sunscreen daily, never smoking, moderating alcohol consumption, and getting those eight glasses of water per day. In an effort to preserve our complexions, however, we could actually be doing more harm than good (and potentially even accelerating the aging process). Here, Marie-Veronique Nadeau—a chemist, esthetician, and founder of skincare brand Marie Veronique—shares several sneaky ways you may actually be contributing to your skin's aging process instead of preventing it.

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Using collagen-boosting treatments at the wrong age.

"I think there is a huge misunderstanding about collagen and how it works," Nadeau says. "Up until age 30, we make all of the collagen we need, and we don't want more than we need. Too much collagen will interfere with the cycle of collagen production that occurs naturally, which includes breaking down and removing old, brittle collagen fibers. It's better to leave collagen-boosting treatments and products until ages 35 to 60 to counteract the natural slow-down of collagen production that occurs with age." (This applies to microneedling, laser treatments, dermabrasion, peels, or any other treatment that wounds the skin in order to stimulate collagen production, Nadeau says.)

When you begin collagen-boosting treatments, you'll want to space them out appropriately—even when you're older, you don't want to make those collagen fibers work too hard. If they do, they'll become weaker over time and break down more quickly than they otherwise would. "Serious aging starts when too many senescent (or old) cells clutter the system," Nadeau explains. "In fact, it's too many senescent cells that leads to visible signs of aging, like wrinkles." From 35 to 50, Nadeau says a treatment once every two to three months is effective. From ages 60 to 70, go for treatments once every six months, and after 70, once a year. Post-treatment care is also important, she adds, and should include a vitamin C serum, as it provides material needed for the skin fibers to make more collagen.

Exfoliating too often.

Removing dead skin cells once in a while is not a bad thing, says Nadeau, who recommends deep exfoliation just once a month when you're young. "If you do it more often, you'll make the cell turnover rate happen faster than your skin can keep up with. You'll end up removing nice, healthy cells before they're ready to go." Young skin, she explains, has a thin epidermis and a thick dermis, which is why it looks firm, unwrinkled, and has a nice glow. Older skin has a thick epidermis from collecting dead skin cells (which is why some exfoliation is beneficial) and a thin dermis (which is why older skin gets wrinkles). For exfoliation, Nadeau recommends using retinol nightly after age 40—or a little earlier if your skin is thin or damaged. "It normalizes skin cell development and returns skin to what it was when it was younger," she says. "I always know who's using retinol and who isn't by the condition of their skin."

Eating too little fat.

"Low-fat diets are horrible for the skin," Nadeau says. "Make sure there is fat in your diet, and I don't mean plant oils, either. Liver pâté and bacon give skin that glow of health. It's unfortunate for the pigs, and I feel terrible about it, but can I help it if bacon is the ideal combination of B vitamins with the perfect fat delivery system? Pâté is good too, especially with cornichons, which can act as your vegetable."

Consuming lots of sugar.

"Excess sugar consumption makes your collagen and elastin fibers become brittle, weak, and prone to breakage," Nadeau says. "At some point, the matrix of fibers that holds up your epidermis no longer holds up the surface of your skin evenly, so your top layers of skin start to show lines and crevices. The extracellular matrix on a sugar diet looks more like a lumpy cotton mattress than a smooth, memory foam, state-of-the-art one," Nadeau says. She recommends cutting down on sugar and substituting it with honey or real fruit-juice sweetened items.

Not moisturizing enough.

Simply keeping your skin moisturized on a daily basis can help stave off aging—doing the reverse can accelerate it. "It's a mechanical thing," Nadeau says. "Your face makes expressions all day long, and if your skin is dry rather than supple, the grooves that the expression lines make in your skin tend to stay longer, eventually becoming permanent. Like a machine with moving parts, your skin needs lubrication to work optimally."

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