Prevention is better than cure! Therefore the best way to look after your skin is to prevent ageing.
Nine ways to speed up your skin's cell function to reveal a youthful, glowing complexion.
Use a moisturiser regularly, depending on your skin type. Moisturised skin is supple and is less prone to damage by chemicals in various cosmetics and products we come in contact with in everyday life. Moisturising can also even out your skin tones and smoothen out fine lines and wrinkles.
Sunlight exposure is the single most important factor that makes our skin age. People who use sunbeds or sunbathe have much older looking skin compared to age-matched controls. Use a sunscreen with a SpF factor of at least 30. Using a sunscreen with <30 SpF is as good as using nothing. SpF or 'Sun protection Factor' is basically a measure of how much longer it takes for the skin to burn the skin when the sunscreen is applied, as opposed to when you do not have the sunscreen on.
So basically if your skin normally starts burning after 10 minutes of exposure to mid-day sun, using a SpF 30 sunscreen should allow you to stay out in the sun for 30 x10 = 300 minutes. However, this is in test conditions when the sunscreen is applied on the skin at a volume of 2mg/ cm2. In practice, we use much less than this and thus the true SpF potential of the sunscreen is never achieved.
Thus, it is recommended to always use a sunscreen of SpF> 30 and top it up every 2 hours, as sweating and rubbing against clothing removed the sunscreen from the skin. Even sunscreens that claim to work all day, do not do so.
Washing the skin is important to remove bad odours, makeup, sunscreens, dirt etc which might potentially clog the pores and make the skin look lustreless.
Water alone is not sufficient to get rid of fat soluble and water insoluble grease and dirt accumulated on the skin. Removal of these requires substances called surfactants, contained in soaps and cleansers. If you have normal or oily skin it doesn't really matter which soap you use. However, people with dry/sensitive skin are better off using perfume-free, neutral pH soaps (called syndets), which do not irritate the skin. People with dry/sensitive skin in fact should try and wash their face/skin as infrequently as possible (not more than 1-2 times a day), and make sure they moisturise immediately.
Cleansers, toners, scrubs and exfoliation
Most people with normal skin do not need to use any cleansers, scrubs or exfoliators, particularly if you have a good personal hygiene and are not working in a dirty environment. Cleansers and exfoliators are completely over-rated and publicised by multi-national companies looking to make a quick buck from unsuspecting customers looking for skin products to make them look better. People with sensitive or dry skin should stay away from any such products. These products are only useful for people with oily/ acne-prone skin, where soaps alone are not enough to remove the oil/dirt/make-up from the skin. However, one needs to be careful not to overdo it as excessive cleansing can remove the protective oil layer on the skin and damage the skin further causing an irritant dermatitis or even a form of acne called perioral dermatitis. Which product one wants to use is a question of personal choice, depending on how harsh the product is on the skin. Commonly, cleansers contain 0.5-2% salicylic acid or 2-5% benzoyl peroxide, useful for exfoliating the dead skin cells and unclogging pores.
Once again, this does not really apply to people with sensitive/dry skin who are advised to stay away from chemical peels. Chemical peels (like Glycolic acid, salicylic acid, Jessner peels, Trichloracetic acid, phenol etc.) can certainly help even out uneven skin tones and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. However, this mainly applies to medically-administered chemical peels (that produce a medium to deep peel). Most over-the-counter chemical peels contain chemicals in mild concentrations which only cause a superficial peel and thus, mainly serve as cleansers. If you wish to pursue chemical peels, it is best to see an experienced dermatologist in person.
This is perhaps one of the most effective ways to rejuvenate your skin and remove the dead skin layer to make the skin look more plump and youthful. Microdermabrasion is a general term for the application of tiny rough grains to buff away the surface layer of skin, wherein the process painlessly abrades (like fine sandpaper) the surface of the skin. This has an effect of encouraging new skin cells to grow from underneath to replace the older cells on top.
However, there is also some evidence to suggest that unlike salon microdermabrasion with creams etc, medical microdermabrasion which also uses a vacuum device (diamond microdermabrasion), helps in remodelling the collagen in your skin and helps is making some superficial acne scars, open pores and fine lines less obvious. Over a year, with periodic monthly microdermabrasion, one might find an improvement in texture and smoothness of the skin. However, once again people, with sensitive/dry skin need to be very cautious.
Topical retinoids are chemicals derived from Vitamin A, scientifically proven to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and also used in the treatment of acne/comedones. Retinol and Retinaldehyde are the commonest topical retinoids contained in many over the counter anti-aging creams. Unfortunately, these are very mild retinoids and in the concentration used in cosmetic products, have no scientifically proven effect on ageing/wrinkles. Only medically prescribed retinoids like tretinoin, isotretinoin and adapalene, have any visible effect on the skin.
Collagen, serums etc
Unfortunately, these do not have any anti-aging effect apart from moisturising the skin and making the fine lines/wrinkles temporarily appear less visible (just like any other moisturising product would do).