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Skincare - Ageing skin

You may feel as youthful as you did in your 20s but, by the time you've reached 35, your skin is already ageing - you'll probably start to notice more wrinkles, fine lines, broken capillaries, freckles and age spots. As we age, our skin gets thinner, drier and less elastic, all of which cause wrinkles. Skin constantly renews itself but what happens as we get older is that it can't renew itself as quickly. At the same time, the support structure of collagen and elastin weakens - the average 40-year-old has already lost 30 per cent of her collagen compared with that of a teenager.

Ageing skin is not about the number of candles on your birthday cake. There are four key ways to check if your skin is showing its age: Compare the skin on your relatively protected inner arm with your cheek. The greater the contrast in colour and texture, the more damaged your skin. We all get lines when we smile or laugh but if you're under 40 and you notice wrinkles when you're not smiling or laughing, then your skin is ageing too fast. Examine your freckles. Small dots on the nose are signs of minimal sun damage but larger, irregular splotches on the cheekbones and jawline signal premature ageing. Check whether your skin is becoming drier and more sensitive. Look out for tightness, itchiness, redness or flakiness.

Most of what we think of as the ravages of age - wrinkles, fine lines, sagging skin, freckles and age spots - is largely due to sun exposure. The sun's ultraviolet rays destroy collagen fibres in the skin and break down its elastin. No matter what you do, your skin's elasticity remains permanently altered. In your mid-20s, your skin's oil production also declines and your complexion becomes drier and more sensitive. Add to that the stresses of daily living - lack of sleep, little exercise, poor diet, pollution and smoking - and it's no wonder your skin starts to look less than blooming.

Eating a balanced diet and, if necessary, taking appropriate supplements, is a vital part of creating a healthy complexion. Bear in mind that it takes a good three weeks for newly formed cells to reach the skin's surface, so it takes time for lasting results to show. Vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc are essential antioxidants that help to enhance collagen repair and generally promote skin healing. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) can also have a positive effect on skin as they form a barrier that prevents moisture loss that helps combat dryness, fine lines and wrinkles.

There are plenty of dos when it comes to skincare but it's also worth bearing in mind a few don'ts if you want to keep your complexion looking fresh and healthy: Sun exposure - Always use sunscreen, wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection and avoid the midday sun. Lack of sleep When you sleep - your skin cells regenerate themselves but when you don't get enough sleep, there isn't enough time for your skin to repair itself naturally. Sleeping on your face - Dermatologists claim to know which side of your face you sleep on because of the extra wrinkles. Try to sleep on your back or switch sides as often as possible. Smoking - It causes lines around the mouth and increases facial dryness. Tanning beds - They don't emit UVB rays, so you won't burn, but the UVA rays accelerate ageing. Dry skin - This skin type is prone to wrinkle sooner. Use a good moisturiser and consider buying a humidifier to help compensate for the drying effects of indoor heating by slowing the evaporation of water from the skin's surface.

When skin starts to show the signs of ageing, modify your beauty routine accordingly. Ageing skin often becomes drier. The best way to cleanse it is with a mild facial cleanser that conditions skin with non-drying, non-irritating emollients. Use tepid water as hot water can dry and irritate the skin further. Good sun protection is a must. Use a lotion with an SPF of at least 15 every day. Look for sunscreens in foundations and lip balms, too. Moisturising is the key to an anti-ageing skincare routine. Products containing vitamin E, an antioxidant that neutralises free radicals caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays, help maintain the skin's natural structure, while those with vitamin A keep the skin supple and stimulate its own regenerative abilities. If you use toner, it should be alcohol-free. Better still, look for facial mists containing essential oils or hydrating ingredients. Consider using a product with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or retin-A, which are chemical exfoliators that remove dead skin cells and help to reduce the appearance of fine lines. A once-a-week moisturising mask helps keep skin nourished.