How to stay looking young: top tips from a doctor

To avoid your skin ageing prematurely, eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, stay indoors when air pollution is bad, quit smoking and avoid stress

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 February, 2015, 6:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 June, 2016, 3:05pm

As we age, our skin undergoes considerable changes. The onset of wrinkles, spots and dryness are natural signs that the skin has begun a transformation.

Defying ageing is every woman's (or man's) dream, but it's a simple fact of life that as we get older, nature takes its course and the ageing process kicks in.

Can we defy skin ageing? The answer to that million-dollar question is a resounding yes.

In ancient Egypt, Cleopatra was famous for her beautiful skin. Her secret was that she bathed in fresh milk. That may be taking the quest for youthful looks a bit far, but there's still a lot you can do.

To maintain your skin's glow and texture while fighting wrinkles it's important to recognise factors that can contribute to the ageing process, such as stress and the effects of the sun. It's also good for you to get plenty of exercise, enough sleep, and add more omega-3 foods to your diet.

Another simple tip is to believe in the power of retinoids, which are a derivative of vitamin A and can smooth wrinkles and clear brown spots efficiently.

But it's essential that you consult a doctor before undertaking anti-ageing or sensitive skin treatment.

A good starting point for anyone looking for healthy skin is learning to recognise the causes of skin ageing. Most people don't know how to protect their skin from simple everyday threats such as air pollution.

The next step is to identify and implement the most effective method of treatment.

Skin ageing is not caused by the passing of time alone, but also by exposure to different environmental factors. The process is known as premature or extrinsic skin ageing process, which can be distinguished from chronologically intrinsic skin ageing process by characteristic signs.


Most people don't know how to protect their skin from simple everyday threats such as air pollution
Dr Kong Ching-boon

In cases of intrinsic ageing, the skin appears dry and pale with fine wrinkles displaying a certain degree of laxity and a variety of benign neoplasms (tumours).

Extrinsic skin ageing is characterised by striking morphological and physiological changes, and in general leads to premature ageing. Prominent manifestations of the process are coarse wrinkles, solar elastosis (degeneration of elastic tissue)and pigment irregularities.

These signs superimpose intrinsic skin ageing signs at chronically exposed areas of the body. Sun exposure and smoking are well-known environmental factors leading to extrinsic skin ageing.

All extrinsic factors ultimately reduce collagen synthesis and increase collagen degradation, while damaging telomeres, which can lead to cell death.

Air pollution is a newly-found cause of skin ageing and many experts believe that pollution is "the next UV rays". Outdoor pollution comes from fixed industrial sources and mobile sources such as road traffic.

Studies have shown that background particle pollution was also positively correlated to pigment spots on the face. These results indicate that particle pollution influences skin ageing as well.

Another study looked at women in urban and rural areas of Germany and found that urban women, who were more exposed to pollution, had higher instances of hyperpigmentation, also known as age spots, than the rural women.

It is widely accepted that particulate matter (PM) releases free radicals. They disrupt the skin's barrier, damage collagen and elastic tissues, and speed up signs of ageing, including wrinkles.

Air pollution also can cause acne-like eruptions or allergic reactions, including inflammation, redness or eczema. There is higher prevalence of sensitive skin reported in polluted cities.

Skincare products can be a useful method of protection. A general strategy may involve the use of mild rinse-off products, such as shampoo and shower gel, to clean off pollution.

Skin protection by means of BB creams or foundation is another option, while the use of sunscreens to block UV radiation and to prevent photoreactive compounds reacting on UV exposure is advisable.

Finally, four top tips for staying young-looking:

  • Enjoy a diet rich in antioxidants by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid outdoor activities when there's heavy pollution
  • Employ stress management at all times

Dr Kong Ching-boon is a Hong Kong-based doctor