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AARP Smart Guide: 22 Easy Tips to Reboot Your Beauty Regime

Fine-tune your personal care habits to give maturing skin and hair the extra attention it needs

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News flash: The words “antiaging” and “look younger” have mostly been banished by the world of beauty marketing. And for good reason: The notion that the goal of an older person is to look many years “younger” than their age is outdated and insulting. Today, older women AND men have a more realistic and compelling goal when it comes to their appearance: to simply look (and feel) healthy, well-rested, fresh and energized. Put simply, looking healthy and happy is the new beautiful. No single breakthrough brand, miracle ingredient or 14-step regimen of products can deliver that. But how to get there? What of the old products and techniques still apply?

Alas, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for mature skin for two good reasons. First, the genetic nature of our grownup complexions differs  just as it does with our hair and bodies. Second, our skin has gone through a unique life journey, with its share of challenges (sun damage, smoking, dryness, for example) and positives (good diet, fitness, ongoing care). 

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To help, here are 22 easy and affordable tips to keep you healthy, happy and, in turn, beautiful. Test a few that apply to you, and if you like the results, try turning them into habits. You’ll soon find that adding a little beauty to your day doesn’t require countless hours in front of the mirror or products that cost hundreds of dollars.


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Yulia Reznikov


1. Grab a glass of water ...

It’s the easiest beauty tip, and one of the best. Drinking lots of water may improve your skin’s natural elasticity and suppleness, which can help plump out wrinkles and give you a more rested look. It also can promote nail growth and reduce hair loss. After the age of 50, we’re more susceptible to dehydration because the ability to recognize thirst decreases and our kidneys lose some of their precision in regulating the body’s water supply. The general rule of thumb has been eight glasses a day but some recommendations may have you drinking more. For instance, one way to calculate how much water you need is to take half your body weight and drink at least that amount in ounces each day. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds you should be drinking a little more than 9 cups of water a day. There are a lot of online water calculators available, as well. If you’re not in the habit, drinking a lot of water a day can seem daunting, so carry a refillable bottle with you and find a way to enjoy it. Some prefer lots of ice, others add cucumber, mint leaves or berries to give it a flavor boost, some prefer room-temperature tap.

2. … and run a humidifier, or two

You’re drinking more water, now add moisture to the air for an even better result. Our skin’s water barrier function becomes less effective as we get older, which hinders our skin’s ability to maintain moisture, says dermatologist Joseph Jorizzo of Wake Forest School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine. “In the winter, when the humidity goes from 50 percent in a home to 3 percent, considerable dryness occurs and it’s very easy for dry skin to convert to irritable skin eczema, which is a magnet for staph germs,” explains Jorizzo. Your goal: keep the rooms you frequent at a humidity level of 40 to 60 percent.

3. Block UV rays from doing more damage

Dermatologists insist on sunscreen as the vital everyday health and beauty product. Note that we didn’t say to not go in the sun; the growing consensus is that older people should still get some daily sun on their protected skin in order to get the vitamin D needed. Aim to get your daily sun before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. — check the UV index on a weather app or website to avoid intense midday sun and getting even the slightest amount of burn. Sunscreens have come a long way in not feeling greasy and gloppy. Applying daily — and reapplying when needed — will help prevent skin cancer; limit freckling, sun spots and wrinkling from sun exposure; and prevent skin from drying out. There are two types of sunscreens: A physical sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (aka mineral or natural sunscreen) blocks UVA/UVB rays and deflects them; a chemical sunscreen (with ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone) absorbs rays like a sponge. Jorizzo recommends using two sunscreens: one for your face, another for your body. “Body sunscreens have molecules that enhance their sustentivity, which prevent them from being washed off by water, but facial skin often doesn’t like that Teflon-like coat, making facial sunscreens very useful,” he explains. Note that those for your face often need to be applied more often (check your sunscreen’s label for specific timings). All of your sunscreens should have an SPF of at least 30. And don’t forget those commonly overlooked areas: lips, ears and scalp. Tip: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that sunscreens remain at their original strength for three years, so keep an eye on the expiration date.  

4. Wash gently ...

Exfoliation is essential to remove or dissolve dead cells that linger on the surface of the skin, giving it a dull, dry look. But beware of facial scrubs with harsh particles, extra-zealous polishing tools and high-power at-home peels. “Scrubbing excessively and using wash clothes and loofas can strip your skin of its natural barrier, putting you more at risk of developing eczema,” says dermatologist Raman Madan of New York’s Northwell Health. This is particularly true for mature skin, which tends to be thinner, drier and more fragile. “Loofas and wash clothes are not only irritating but can start to harbor bacteria,” adds Madan, who recommends using your hands instead. Also avoid overheating your skin. Baylor College of Medicine reports that hot bath or shower water can also lead to excessively dry skin and eczema. Lukewarm water — typically 98.6 degrees — is recommended.  

5. … and exfoliate delicately

Stay away from harsh, store-bought facial scrubs and trendy DIY options like using coffee grounds. Using abrasive scrubs, like those with crushed walnut shells, may feel like they’re getting the job done but instead may create microscopic tears in your skin, which expose it to infections and irritation. (Not to mention putting coffee grounds down the sink can cause an expensive plumbing headache.) Instead use products that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), which include glycolic, lactic and citric acids, or beta hydroxy acids (BHA) — also known as salicylic acid, which exfoliate the skin more gently. “Scrubs are too harsh on the skin,” says YouTuber Hot & Flashy Angie, who creates beauty tutorials for women over 50. “But the latest formulations of chemical-exfoliating serums are gentle and hydrating, removing dead cells to reveal younger, more glowy looking skin.” Angie’s favorite products are: The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA serum for daily use, Pixi Glow Tonic for daily use, and Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari BabyFacial for weekly use.

6. Find the best type of moisturizer for you

And use a lot of it, advises Madan. Extra hydration is needed not only to combat wrinkles but also, more importantly, to help prevent microscopic skin tears. “There are two key ingredients that you can’t go wrong with,” says dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal of the Cleveland Clinic: ceramide to “really restore the skin’s water barrier, which maintains hydration”; and hyaluronic acid (HA), to “plump and hydrate the skin.” Both ceramides and HAs are naturally occurring substances found in our skin, but we lose both over time as we age.

7. Get right with retinoids

 There are a lot of topical options that will boost skin health, but vitamin A, also known as a retinoid, is one of the most powerful. It’s best applied at night. “Nighttime is where we can reverse some signs of aging,” says Khetarpal, who recommends using a retinoid cream to stimulate collagen and turn over skin cells. “The over-the-counter version is called retinol, which is good for those with more sensitive skin, and the prescription version is tretinoin (like Retin-A), for those with normal or combination skin,” she says, noting that tretinoin is the only FDA-approved topical for fine lines and wrinkles. For either, use only a pea-size amount and start by applying one to two times per week, slowly increasing the usage until your skin gets used to it. Even over-the-counter retinols are powerful. Redness is always a red flag that there’s inflammation — not great for most skin, but especially for those who have rosacea or a history of allergic reactions.

8. No bad combos

Certain products, when combined, can cancel out the effectiveness of the other or cause irritation. For instance, don’t use benzoyl peroxide and vitamin C at the same time. And retinoids should not be applied at the same time as benzoyl peroxide, vitamin C, and AHAs or BHAs. A good morning regimen: gently cleansing your face, applying moisturizer and sunscreen. At night, cleanse, apply your retinoid and add moisturizer.

9. Pursue the probiotics

These live microorganisms are present in beauty products, supplement capsules and certain foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir. When eaten, probiotics help to fight inflammation in the gut and do the same to your skin when applied topically. Look for “live cultures” or for ingredients to include lactobacillus or bifidobacterium. “I like to use Greek yogurt for extra protein in my smoothies, but it also works great for the skin,” says Paula Simpson, biochemist and author of Good Bacteria for Healthy Skin: Nurture Your Skin Microbiome with Pre- and Probiotics for Clear and Luminous Skin.  “Its gentle exfoliating properties make it great for sensitive skin types and when used regularly, it’s been found to calm and rebalance the skin, improving moisture and elasticity.” Make your own mask by breaking a probiotic capsule into two tablespoons of natural Greek yogurt and stirring in a small amount of honey. Apply to a cleansed face, leave on for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with warm water and pat dry. 

10. Pay attention to your hands ...

Wear gloves when cleaning or gardening. “Working around the house can expose your skin to harsh chemicals that can irritate and dry your skin,” says Madan. Try taking shorter baths or showers (in warm, not hot, water), and be sure to use a moisturizer every day. And now that we are all using hand sanitizer more, like over washing, hand sanitizer sucks the moisture out of your hands, says Madan. Incidentally, the high-dose biotin supplement you’re taking for your hair should also improve nail strength and length.

11. … and treat your feet

A pumice stone is an affordable way to keep your feet in beautiful condition. Also, it’s 100 percent natural and nontoxic, as long as you purchase a “pumice” stone (pumice is a volcanic glass) and not a synthetic look-alike. To use: Give both your feet and stone a warm soak for five to 10 minutes — because dry stones are a big no-no — before rubbing the stone in a circular motion with light pressure over the areas of dead skin. After two or three minutes, rinse your skin and check to see if the dead skin has been removed. If not, get back to work. Apply moisturizer once complete and make sure you wash your stone to avoid a buildup of bacteria.

12. Get plenty of z’s

Sleep is vital to beauty. A lack of it can lead to poor water balance in the skin, increased inflammation in the body, and weight gain — all of which can affect the way you look and feel. One way to promote better sleep is to ditch electronic devices two to three hours before bed, according to Harvard Health Letter, a newsletter from Harvard Health Publishing. It reported that blue light boosts alertness, mood and reaction time by suppressing the sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin. That’s beneficial during the day, but disruptive at night when your body is preparing for sleep. So, switch off where possible and aim to get the recommended seven to nine hours per night if you’re under age 65, and seven to eight hours if you’re 65-plus.  


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13. Enrich with oil

Our oil glands shrink as we age, which can reduce the amount of natural oil produced by our scalp, leading to dryness. Simpson recommends using avocado oil. “It contains over 70 percent monounsaturated fatty acids; specifically, oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid, which helps lock in hair moisture, smooth breakage and even encourage hair growth through balancing scalp microflora and nourishing the hair follicles.” Apply and massage the oil over your scalp and hair, leave for 10 to 15 minutes, then wash hair. If you’re concerned about an oily scalp, just apply to the ends of your hair.

14. Delay hair loss

As well as treating dandruff, zinc pyrithione and ketoconazole also have been shown to promote hair growth, says Khetarpal. “With every decade of life, for both men and women, the incident of hair loss goes up because of changing hormones and gene expression,” explains Khetarpal. Find some extra support in a high-dose biotin supplement: “Three to 5 milligrams support the growth of the hair, making each individual strand stronger and thicker,” she says. Taking more vitamin D may also help. In addition, liquid or foam products containing the active ingredient minoxidil, offered in 2 percent and 5 percent concentrations, have been found to slow hair loss and in some cases regrow hair — but you’ll need to use it daily. If you stop using, any progress will be reversed.

15. Clear up dandruff

“As people get older, around 60 and above, we see the prevalence of dandruff go up significantly,” notes Khetarpal. The natural yeast bacteria on the scalp often becomes overgrown, causing itching, scaling and flaking. Khetarpal recommends using a shampoo featuring either zinc pyrithione or ketoconazole. Zinc pyrithione is widely available in over-the-counter shampoos in a range of prices. These agents also feature in prescription medications, where they are used at a higher dose.

16. Detangle gently

No one likes seeing hair in their brush or drain, and hair-washing days are the worst for this. Of course, the classic wide-tooth comb method still works, but combs take time and can snarl in curly, textured or wavy hair. The update is a detangling “wet” brush such as those from Tangle Teezer and WetBrush, which are designed to remove knots with no pulling or tugging, no breakage. Use the brush in the shower to distribute conditioner or a hair mask evenly after your final rinse. At the beach, you’ll love it after a swim. As always, start at the bottom and slowly work your way up.

17. Keep eyebrows and beards in top shape

“Itching is common not only in the scalp but also, for men, in the beard and eyebrow region where yeast lives and oil glands are more active,” notes Khetarpal. “Certainly, those shampoos (with zinc pyrithione and ketoconazole) can treat the yeast component, but there’s also sometimes inflammation, causing redness.” Being on the face, it’s often more noticeable, too. To treat: “An over-the-counter, 1-percent hydrocortisone cream is a good place to start.” There are also numerous beard oils available that can help to keep the skin moisturized and condition the beard.   


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18. Get highlighting

Highlighters come in either a powder, cream or liquid form, with the latter two providing a dewier look. Wear it over makeup or just on sunscreened skin. “Highlighter has been a huge trend,” says Angie, “but most mature women don’t use it because they feel it can accentuate wrinkles.” In reality, highlighter helps lift and fill your face when it’s applied correctly (lightly and well blended) to the right areas: the apples of your cheeks (the meaty, front parts that pop when you smile) and tops of cheekbones (the long, diagonal section under your temples that pop when you suck in your cheeks). Angie’s picks: Jouer Powder Contour in Rose Quartz, Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlighter, and L’Oreal True Match Lumi Glotion in Fair.  

19. Consider this if you wear glasses

Prescription lenses can distort eye size, says Lois Joy Johnson, AARP beauty and style editor. Nearsighted? Your lenses are concave and make eyes appear smaller. Compensate by using liner and shadows to contour a bigger shape. Do a pale shade on lids, a taupe or medium shadow in the crease, and a very dark liner at the lash line. Farsighted? Your lenses are convex, so eyes appear bigger behind your glasses — but any lines, crepey texture on lids or messy makeup are also magnified. Do a clean, crisp liner and skip the smoky dark shadows when wearing your glasses.

20. Decide on one wow zone

Make a stronger lip or your eyes the focal point of your makeup, then go easy on the rest. “If you can wear a bold, dark, deep or bright lip, then you don’t need much eye makeup,” says celebrity makeup artist Sandy Linter, whose clients include Christie Brinkley and Elizabeth Hurley. You might do a red, berry or rosy pink lipstick with low-key neutral eyes, or switch things around and do smoky lined lids with a soft neutral lip.  

21. Ditch the bags and dark circles

The skin around your eyes is more tender and also affected by different issues than the rest of your face. Hal Rubenstein, one of the founding editors at InStyle magazine, says that if you have bags, try a product that contains caffeine and/or peptides — such as Olay Eyes Ultimate Eye Cream, which has peptides, or Olay Eyes Brightening Eye Cream, which has caffeine. Dark circles can be brightened with extracts of mulberry, linseed, green tea or caffeine; try Kiehl’s Age Defender Eye Repair with linseed extract. For addressing wrinkles or crow’s feet, you want a product with retinol high up on that contents list.  

22. Keep an eye on the weather

“Know how your skin reacts to climate changes. You might want a richer moisturizer in winter, a lighter one in summer, since sun exposure leads to clogged pores — even at [age] 50,” says dermatologist Doris Day, a clinical associate professor at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “Your skin also loses more water at night and produces more oils during the day. So use a light day moisturizer or cream — such as RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 — for day, and a richer cream at night — such as Aveeno Absolutely Ageless Restorative Night Cream or Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer.”

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