Feel like your bathroom cabinet is overloaded with solutions for dry skin and other epidermal dilemmas? You’re not alone. American women spend billions of dollars each year searching for the Fountain of Youth in a jar, and cosmetics companies are more than eager to sell you the next greatest potion. However, dermatologists nowadays are often recommending that people minimize their product usage, in part because there’s no evidence that $400 creams are worth their hefty price tag. That’s worth considering this spring as you clean out your medicine cabinet and ditch all those expired products that never really met your expectations.
According to a recent survey sponsored by a European skin-care company, the primary concern among older women, at least when it comes to their skin, is dryness, followed by wrinkles and a sagging neck. Natural skin remedies for these problems are always worth a try, considering that, quite often, they’re free and work just as well as over-the-counter products.
Try these skin salves from the Rodale Remedy Finder before plunking down $100 on the latest potion:
• Dry skin. Buy fatty soaps. Standard soaps contain lye, which can be irritating as well as drying, but some soaps, such as Dove, contain extra amounts of fatty materials, such as tallow (animal fat), cocoa butter, lanolin, or even olive oil, and will moisturize better than a pricey cleansing cream or any standard-formula soap. And after you wash up, don’t dry your face completely: Moisturizers are more effective when applied to slightly damp skin than to completely dry skin. When it comes to choosing moisturizers, don’t assume that expensive creams are more effective. There’s no evidence they work better than petroleum jelly or mineral oil, says one dermatologist. However, since those are both derived from nonrenewable petroleum, opt for vegetable oils like sunflower or peanut oil.
• Wrinkles. The best thing you can do to stave off wrinkles is avoid sun exposure, whether that’s through using sunscreen, wearing a hat or clothing that offers sun protection, or sitting in the shade. Also, grab a pair of shades when you’re outside, as squinting can lead to crow’s feet around the eyes. But back inside, something as minor as how you sleep can lead to wrinkles, too. Sleeping on your side or stomach with your face mashed into a pillow causes wrinkles, while sleeping on your back may keep that from happening. If wrinkles have already set in, buy an inexpensive vitamin C cream, which helps build collagen and minimize wrinkles. And try a homemade papaya peel: Grind 2 tablespoons of washed and peeled papaya in a food processor, and add 1 tablespoon of dry oatmeal (the oatmeal helps to remove debris from the skin). Pat this mixture onto clean skin and let it set for 10 minutes. Then remove it with a wet washcloth, using an outward, circular motion. Papaya is full of enzymes that help break down the outer layer of skin, minimizing wrinkles.
• Sagging neck. The skin on your neck is the thinnest skin on your body, and that makes it particularly susceptible to the process of aging. Using the same treatments you would for wrinkles and dry skin can help prevent neck skin from sagging. And maintaining good posture can eliminate strain on your neck muscles, which can add to sagging. The way you dress can help conceal any sagging you may already have, as well. Standard turtlenecks can pinch loose skin and accentuate sagging skin, but a loose-fitting or scrunch-neck version can help hide sagging.