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What You Can Do to Prevent Sagging Skin

A top dermatologist reveals her advice

Unless you're one of the genetically blessed few, sagging skin is an inevitable part of ageing. As we age, the skin's underlying structure deteriorates – meaning our definition withers, we lose plumpness and our elasticity. Alongside ageing, factors such as sun damage, smoking and weight changes can also affect the rate our skin sags. Despite the above, we can take steps to minimise sagging or plump existing sag.

Want to know more? Dermatologist Dr. Justine Hextall on behalf of the Harley Medical Group answers the most common questions about preventing and treating sagging skin…

What can you do to prevent sagging?

"Over time we inevitably lose volume in our faces. This is through loss of dermis, fat and muscle and bony changes. That said, there is increasing evidence that external factors such as sun exposure, pollution, stress etc. have a significant effect on skin. A healthy diet with antioxidants, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol and stress and wearing an effective sun screen can dramatically reduce these extrinsic ageing factors. Twin studies increasingly show that these external variables can be more important than genetics in how our skin ages."

What's the best skincare for sagging - and is there anything we should avoid?

"Always look for skin creams with active ingredients that protect skin from external damage. Always wear a sun cream even in winter. Remember that while there is less UVB around in winter, levels of UVA are still significant. UVA is a longer wavelength that can penetrate through glass. UVA (or UV-ageing ) will over time cause a breakdown in collagen and elastin. It is vital therefore to make sure your sun cream not only protects against UVB, but also UVA. There is also a lot of talk now about the damaging effects of even longer wavelengths such as Infrared A and high energy visible light (HEVL) that is emitted by screens. Physical blocks such as zinc oxide, as found in DermaQuest's SheerZinc SPF30, may be important as they simply work by reflecting light away from skin. There are also sun creams with anti-oxidants that also help to mitigate against the free radical damage from light exposure."

What are the latest cosmetic 'lifting' options?

"I am a believer in maintaining skin health and having a good skin care regime, healthy diet and having intermittent non-surgical interventions such as micro-needling. Micro-needling works by mechanically damaging collagen, thus stimulating new collagen."

How important is lifestyle to prevent sagging and keep skin 'lifted'?

"Firstly, stop smoking! Smoking like sun exposure causes free radical damage. This damage causes the up-regulation of enzymes such as MMP-1 that breakdown collagen and elastin. There is increasing evidence now that pollution - particularly in conjunction with UV exposure - causes skin ageing. Topical and oral antioxidants can help to protect against free radical damage from the above. A diet rich fruit and vegetables will supplement our bodies natural antioxidant defenses. Yellow and orange peppers for example contain carotenoid's, powerful antioxidants. Tomatoes contain lycopene that protect against sun exposure. Avocados contain high levels of Vitamin E, an important skin antioxidant. A healthy diet, gentle exercise and sun protection will all help to protect skin and ultimately reduce skin sagging."