Why They Happen: The top layer of skin cells becomes sticky from long-term sun exposure. As a result, the cells start to stack up on each other instead of exfoliating normally. And because they contain pigment, the color darkens as more layers are added.
Natural Fix: Kojic and azelaic acids are the best natural go-to lighteners. Kojic acid, derived from a mushroom, figures in over-the-counter lighteners and in-office peels because it blocks melanin production. Although it's relatively new on the U.S. beauty scene, kojic acid has been a centuries-old favorite in Japan among women who prize porcelain skin. Dermatologists also use azelaic acid, derived from wheat, barley, or rye, at prescription-strength potency to perform skin-lightening peels.
Prevention: Protect your skin, particularly your face, hands, and arms, because you expose them to sunlight more frequently. And forget the SPF 15; proceed directly to 30, many dermatologists' new recommended minimum for daily use. Make sure your product of choice offers broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection.
To offset the accumulation of dead skin cells that can still occur no matter how well you protect your skin, use a gentle, natural exfoliant a couple of times a week. Products containing alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids from fruit are good choices; they don't block melanin production as kojic acid does, but they do destroy the bonds that hold cells together.
Why It Happens: Redness results from several issues: inflammation, broken capillaries, and thin skin. As supportive collagen fibers around blood vessels break down over time, capillaries become dilated (or "broken," in common parlance).
Too much sun can accelerate that deterioration and lead to chronic inflammation. Meanwhile, postmenopausal drops in estrogen can thin the skin, creating an increased translucence that lets you see the red more easily.
Natural Fix: Try a three-pronged approach: First, moisturize with formulas that contain anti-inflammatory licorice, calendula, or chamomile to soothe irritated skin. Second, stick to cleansers formulated for sensitive skin, such as those containing oat and rice extracts or fermented grains. Third, limit the number of products you put on your face, and thus the number of potential skin irritants.
Why They Happen: Smoking ranks as a top cause of those vertical, lipstick-loving lines, and we'll assume that if you ever did light up, you've quit. (Right?) Habitual lip pursing, regular straw sipping, and chugging from small-mouthed bottles can also cause lines. And even if you don't use straws or smoke, wrinkles around our mouths seem more prominent because lips lose plumpness as we age.
Natural Fix: Ease up on the straw habit, drink from wider-mouthed glasses, and try to be mindful of unconsciously pursing your lips. You may not be able to reverse your skin's collagen loss, but you can prevent future damage by using antioxidant creams with vitamin C or, even better, coffeeberry, the fruit of the coffee bush that contains the bean; it has very powerful antioxidants that prevent cell damage. In the short term, plump lips with a rich, natural lubricant containing beeswax, shea butter, olive oil, or any combination of the three.
Why It Happens: Acne is caused by an immune-system response, and it develops in three stages. First, tiny pieces of skin that should be shed instead build up gradually in a pore, forming a plug. Second, the oil that's produced naturally by glands deep inside the pore gets blocked behind the plug. And third, the bacteria that live on the skin find their way into that oil.
Natural Fix: Food allergies can sometimes show up as acne. If you're breaking out every time you eat a specific food, there may be a link. Also, dairy may aggravate acne; try limiting your dairy intake, or at least stick to hormone-free milk and cheese. To treat the blemishes that have already erupted, look for ingredients like natural acids and tea tree oil. Salicylic or glycolic acid work by unclogging the pore, while tea tree has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
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