Author's note: I definitely don't think that anyone should aspire to look younger than she is in an effort to subscribe to some impossible idea of what society wants/expects. I think beauty is all about what makes you feel good and taking care of yourself in whatever ways work for you. Truthfully, I only started writing this article because I found the idea of old elbows to be ridiculous. That being said, I personally want to look my age, not older, and I also believe in taking care of all of myself, and that includes looking after my largest organ and the thing that keeps my insides from falling out (science!). However, one should grow old in whatever manner she wants; my grandmother wouldn't be my beautiful grandmother without her wrinkles and liver spots and infectious charm. In short: do with these tips what you want. But please do wear sunscreen. xx.
One of the worst things about being a woman is when you catch a glimpse of your elbow in the mirror and you’re like, “Ohmygod, the skin of the joint that allows me to bend my arm is looking so old. How can I even go in public with an appendage that’s so tired and wrinkly? No more short sleeves for me. I simply must hide my unsightly synovial hinge joint!”
Wait, what? You’ve never done that? Don’t you know that self-loathing of even the most benign body parts is required for all women as soon as they hit puberty? Alas, don’t you fret your pretty little elbows off. I’m here to tell you all of the things on your body that look older than your actual age that you probably never thought about. You’re welcome.
Seriously though. Taking care of our skin is important, and not just for reasons of vanity. (Although I do believe looking good can make one feel good.) So I asked Dr. Kathleen Welsh, my dermatologist extraordinaire, for her advice on how to better take care of these weird body parts we tend to ignore. Because even though it’s dumb to freak out about my elbows, I also don’t actually want saggy elephant elbows.
Why do I trust Dr. Welsh? Well, not only has she vastly improved the appearance of my skin and the way I treat it, she seriously looks like she’s 25 years younger than she is (I did the math based on the fancy degree hanging in her office). I fully admit some of her advice isn’t great for those of us on a budget, but I do think everything she says is worth knowing about and considering. Truth: She’s the only doctor I look forward to seeing, other than my dentist. Also, I got nothing free for writing this article, just so you know.
Dr. Welsh’s number one piece of advice -- or at least the one she’s said to me every single time I’ve been in her office -- besides using sunscreen every single day (duh) is to start using Retin-A as early as possible. She says her patients who started using Retin-A for their acne in their 20s have noticeably younger looking skin than that of their age peers.
I asked her where she recommend we use Retin-A, other than our pretty faces, and she said she “always tell patients they can apply Retin-A (Tretinoin) mixed with Obagi Blender (or a combination of Tretinoin and Hydroquinone like Triluma) to the hands, neck, and décolleté 2-3 times per week, as tolerated, increasing to daily.”
Listen, I know Retin-A is a little pricey, but I’ve found that a little really does go a long way. And the reason you keep hearing about it from dermatologists? It works. If I could afford to slather it all over my body, I would.
But it’s not just about Retin-A when it comes to taking care of your skin. Here’s Dr. Welsh's (and some of my totally unprofessional, but tried and true) advice when it comes to those parts of your body you just don’t think about that much.
Hands & Décolleté
I’ve told this story before and I’ll tell it again. When I was younger, my mother -- who modeled when she was a teenager -- kindly told me that while I could never be an actual model, I might be able to be a hand model. Sadly (not really), that dream was never realized, but I did learn a thing or two about taking care of my hands.
Truth: Your hands age faster than the rest of you because they’re exposed to the sun all of the time and they’re one of the first things to lose fat and elasticity. I’m not advocating wearing gloves 24/7, but I do keep hand lotion with SPF 30 in my car so that I can apply it whenever I’m driving. (Personally I think driving is the worst culprit for sun damage.)
In terms of the upper boob and neck area, all I have to say is this:
One of my biggest regrets in life is the summer in graduate school I spent laying out at the beach instead of working on my thesis. Not because I didn’t get my book written, but because, holy cow, I destroyed my skin. I called my newly acquired brown spots “freckles” until I came to terms with what they really were: sun spots.
Your neck and cleavage is another part of your body that gets a lot of sun exposure and that skin is thinner, so you’ve got to really protect it.
Dr. Welsh says, “Assuming that a woman is taking care of her face, the biggest 'age giveaways' are the neck/décolleté and hands. These tend to be the areas that suffer the most sun damage, and show their age with brown spots, wrinkles, and lost collagen and elastin (which causes drooping and sagging).”
You can ask your dermatologist about treatments that might be right for you, but Dr. Welsh recommends getting brown spots removed with one of several laser treatment options. I actually got a Photofacial on my face last year and it was the best money I’ve ever spent on my skin; it completely got rid of all of my sun damage and now I don’t wear any face makeup at all. I would love to get it on my décolleté but, it’s not cheap and someone doesn’t have a full-time job right now. <--ME.
Dr. Welsh also recommends skin resurfacing with Fraxel “which treats brown spots and improves the tone and texture of the skin.” Lastly, if you’re really freaking out, and this probably won’t happen until you’re older, she says, “Filler is an effective treatment for hands that have lost volume.”
Feet (and a Little Bit About Self-Tanner)
I don’t know what it is, but I love the look of tan feet. It reminds me I was outdoors doing something. Even if that something was floating down a river in a raft drinking beer. The thing is though -- feet are just like the rest of our body and they lose fat and bone density as we age, which makes me wonder if I’ll still want them to be tan with they’re all enlarged and flattened out cave-man style.
Clearly Dr. Welsh isn’t cool with tanning and frankly her perfectly fair Snow White skin makes me reconsider my take on being a bronzed beauty, but she does get that some people want a "healthy" glow.
I use Jergens Natural Glow year-round on my body because YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN SOMEONE MIGHT SEE YOU NEKKID. And I just started using their Glow Face Daily Moisturizer with SPF 20 last week, but I’m not totally sold on it since I felt like my skin broke out a little bit. (I'm not giving up yet though.)
If you can spend a little more, Dr. Welsh has some great self-tanning recommendations. “Tan Towels make it really easy to apply self-tanner.” (I've used them and can vouch for this.) She also recommends “Jane Iredale’s Tantasia for a streak-resistant, natural bronzing effect. Both of them will give you the golden glow that you like without risking your health or exposing you to harmful UVA or UVB rays.”
(Cat was also a fan of Tan Towels.)
Elbows & Knees
No one’s looking at your knees if you’re on them, if you know what I mean, which you do because, hi, it’s me. (By the way: Missed you guys!) But occasionally we are forced to get up off our knees and wear things like skirts and shorts. And oftentimes we pair those with short-sleeve tees or tanks.
I tend to neglect my elbows until all of a sudden they’re really itchy and dry (hot!), but my one little trick is that I rub any excess face moisturizer (not the Jergens stuff though) on my elbows after I apply it morning and night. This probably isn’t cutting though since Dr. Welsh says, “The skin on knees and elbows is often thicker and needs to be exfoliated more aggressively than the delicate skin on the face. Using an antioxidant body lotion, a glycolic body lotion, or glycolic pads can all help to smooth and soften this thicker skin while adding moisture."
She continues, "A good trick if you're on a budget is to use a drugstore foot cream that is specially formulated for calluses, which can help to smooth and soften the skin on the knees and elbows.”
It’s not just foot cream, but for my super dry skin, I love AmLactin 12% Moisturizing Cream. Seriously, the stuff works.
Your Skin on a Budget
Before I let her go, I asked Dr. Welsh if she had any tips and tricks for those of us who aren’t in a position to pay for in-office treatments or fancy creams.
Her advice was simple.
1. If you already wear makeup, you should visit your favorite beauty county once a year. While replacing any products you need, you can ask for tips to “update your makeup style and techniques.”
2. Invest in a BB Cream “because it really is a 2-in-1 product, which is great if you’re on a budget.”
Lastly, and file this one under “it never even occurred to me!"
3. Dr. Welsh says, “The older you are, the lighter and pinker your lipstick should be -- dark lipstick can age you and can leak into the lip lines that form around the mouth.”
But mostly, no matter what, she just wants you to “WEAR SUNSCREEN.” (The caps are all mine; she’s too sweet to yell.)
Want more information on how to keep your skin looking young and fresh? Dr. Welsh recommends “How Not to Look Old,” by Charla Krupp, a beauty editor expert.