Get The Best Skin Of Your Life (And Keep It)

We can think of several times a crystal ball would have come in handy...such as the time when we thought it would be a good idea to get a butterfly tattoo when we were 16. Or the time we dated the dude with the Mohawk that we thought was so hot, also when we were 16 (and again when we were 22…and, you know, who's counting?).
While we don't exactly have future-reading powers, we do know that there are ways to ensure that our skin will look great now, and down the line — so although we'll be much wiser than we were at 16, we'll still have that youthful glow of our teenage years.
It's a buzzkill, but it's true: what we do to our skin now will affect how our complexions will look and feel in the future — from sun spots to wrinkles to crepiness, all are related to good skin care and health habits. So, to ensure that we all have the healthiest skin of our respective lifetimes, we've found out what to do to have gorgeous skin now and later. So even without the crystal ball, we won’t regret the skin choices we made...unlike that questionable tattoo.
Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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To look great by tomorrow:
Get a lactic or salicylic acid peel

Without exfoliating regularly, dead skin cells will begin to pile up, which causes an increase in fine lines and dullness. Beverly Hills, California-based aesthetician Gina Mari says that for a temporary reduction in fine lines and a boost in skin color, all you need is a quick peel. The lactic and salicylic acids provide a light exfoliation that not only removes the dead skin, but encourages new skin cells to turn over, so that, according to Mari, “new fat, healthy cells are encouraged to come to the surface of your epidermis” to create a youthful glow.

Or, if you have a special date coming up (like your wedding or high school reunion), get an instant glow and firmness to your skin with oxygen therapy. When your skin is extremely dehydrated, it looks dry, flaky and can’t absorb moisture. According to Mari, the combination of oxygen therapy and antioxidants will give you glowing skin that you’ll notice immediately. The oxygen helps push the antioxidants, like vitamins A, C, and E, deep into your pores, allowing your skin to reap their full benefits. You’ll walk away with “glowing skin, a plumpness that will last for about three days, and a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” says Mari.
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To look great by next week (or sooner!):

While wearing lotion seems like the most basic step in skin care, it can actually make a huge difference in your skin’s radiance, evenness, and texture. Dr. Heidi Waldorf, MD, Director of Laser and Cosmetic Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, calls it the "moisturizing effect." Basically, when your skin’s barrier is intact, your cells will be lined up evenly, which allows light to reflect off of the skin surface. You’ll also be better able to see the color of your blood vessels beneath the epidermal layer, which gives off that “rosy glow” we all yearn for. So just by moisturizing daily, your skin will seem more radiant within days.

Of course, wearing lotion is also crucial to keep your skin’s barrier intact, protecting it from environmental factors. Look for ingredients in your moisturizers like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which help skin retain moisture. If you have oily skin, you still need to hydrate, but look for ingredients such as niacinamide or ferulic acid for a lighter feel.
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To look great in two to three months:
Stop smoking

Okay, we all know that smoking is bad for you — it causes cancer, emphysema, heart disease…the list goes on and on. But, those little cigarettes also happen to be the second leading cause of premature aging, right after sun damage. “Every time you inhale smoke, you’re cutting off the oxygen supply to your skin,” says Dr. Waldorf. Plus, each puff releases a trillion (yes, a trillion) free radicals that ultimately break down the collagen and elastin in your skin. The result? Sagging, wrinkly skin that will only get worse over time.
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To look great in six months to a year:
Use a retinoid every night

Retinoids receive a lot of buzz, and here’s why: They’re among the most effective anti-aging ingredients on the market. By using a topical retinoid overnight, you’re stimulating your body to produce more collagen, which increases skin’s supple, youthful appearance. Dr. Alex Khadavi, MD, Associate Professor of Dermatology at USC, says that over time, retinoids can also change the surface of your skin by quickening the cell turnover rate and evening out pigmentation. In six months’ time, you’ll be left with more even, supple, and taut skin than you began with. Make sure to consult your dermatologist to find the right retinoid for your skin.
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To look great in ten years:

Use an antioxidant serum

The leading cause of premature aging is, you guessed it: sun exposure. To prevent skin cancer, premature wrinkling, sunspots, and all the other negative effects from UV rays, wear an SPF of at least 30 that has both UVA and UVB protection. To make your sunscreen even more effective, try pairing it with an antioxidant serum. Antioxidants help combat infrared radiation from the sun, which has been shown to cause signs of aging (in addition to ultraviolet rays). Looking for highly effective antioxidants? Choose a serum with ferulic acid, vitamin C or E.