At age 34, I've decided to age naturally. That's right-no syringes, scalpels, Botox or lasers. But it wasn't an easy decision, especially considering how common these procedures have become. According to the FACE report, a recent survey of more than 800 women across Canada, 57% of everyday women receive injectable treatments like Botox and fillers, and 34% believe that these treatments are as mainstream as hair colouring or teeth whitening. So where does that leave people like me who are choosing the new alternative: going natural? Will we become, well, dinosaurs-scaly and extinct?No way. I'm convinced that we can still survive in this wrinkle-phobic society, but only by feeling the best we can from the inside-out. Here's how:Lifestyle Choices for Optimal AgingSlowing down the skin's aging is very much linked to our lifestyle choices. "Real anti-aging involves protecting and supporting our overall health, not just the topical," says Kristen Ma, Ayurvedic practitioner, co-owner of Pure + Simple Inc., and author of Beauty: Pure + Simple.Proper water intake, for instance, is important for healthy, hydrated skin. But how much is enough? The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND) recommends the following on their website: "To determine how much water you need on a daily basis divide your body weight (in pounds) by 2. This equals the number of ounces of water you need daily. A normal glass is approximately 8 ounces."Keep in mind that more water is required if your day includes exercise, caffeine-based beverages like coffee, tea and pop, and/or alcohol. Very few of us manage to consume this much water-we simply forget or we dread those extra trips to the bathroom-but it's crucial for keeping our cells quenched.As for a skin-happy diet, naturopath Dr. Patti Yik recommends foods containing high amounts of antioxidants, like berries and green tea. Antioxidants protect the body's cells, including the skin, from damage caused by everyday stressors like environmental toxins and radiation. Vitamin C in particular is an important antioxidant for boosting collagen, and can be found in foods like bell peppers, kiwi, citrus fruits and bell peppers.Essential fatty acids also enhance skin health. These can be found in walnuts, flax seeds and wild salmon, or in a high quality fish oil supplement. Some people, fearing weight gain, avoid fats like the plague-even the healthy ones. But Canada's Food Guide recommends a daily intake of 30-45 mL (2-3 tbsp.) of unsaturated fat to keep the body, and the skin, functioning optimally."Essential fatty acids are great for nourishing the body from the inside out when they are taken orally," says Ma. "And they are anti-inflammatories." Keeping inflammation at bay is crucial because it can lead to the creation of free radicals-major contributors to the aging process.As for what to avoid, one of the worst culprits is-you guessed it-UV damage. "Excessive sun exposure or tanning beds can cause unnecessary stress to the skin, damaging skin fibres," says Dr. Yik. "This causes the skin to sag, stretch and slow the healing process." By avoiding these harmful UV rays, as well as bad habits like smoking and excessive drinking, we can expose our skin to fewer of the stresses that lead to premature aging.Natural, Non-Invasive Skin Boosters
Ma advocates using natural skincare products whenever possible because everything we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream. The first step, after cleansing the face, is to apply a serum containing natural ingredients that retain the skin's moisture. The serum in her Pure + Simple line, for example, contains hyaluronic acid, collagen, and elastin in a base of aloe vera and algae, all of which work together to increase the skin's hydration.The next step is to seal in that extra hydration with moisturizer. "I love plant oils as moisturizers," says Ma. "My favourite oils for anti-aging are sea-buckthorn berry and rosehip oils. Both are loaded with essential fatty acids and antioxidants." Yes, that's right-those powerhouse essential fatty acids can be used topically as well as internally, lubricating the skin and locking in moisture."It's a powerful anti-aging combination," Ma says, referring to the synergy of water and oil that mimics the natural biology of our skin.Another important anti-aging step is to boost circulation. "As we age, our circulation becomes poorer," says Ma. "This leads to dullness, dehydration and decreased collagen production." That's why it's important to use skincare ingredients that stimulate blood flow to the skin, like Vitamin C, ginseng, ginger and sea-buckthorn oil.Certain facial treatments aim for the same effect-massage, acupuncture, microdermabrasion and micro-currents, so head to your favourite spa for a non-invasive skin boost.Dr. Yik also recommends taking contrast showers (alternating blasts of cold and warm water). "They help to improve circulation, tighten pores and reinvigorate the skin," she says, which results in healthy skin, scalp and hair.The Final Step: AcceptanceOnce you embrace the lifestyle choices that best preserve your skin's health, the next step is the most important, and possibly the hardest: just let go and accept your aging as a natural part of life."We must decide that who we are is more important than how we look," says Gwen Randall-Young, author and psychotherapist. "We will all age and so we can decide to do it gracefully and focus on the deeper values in our lives."In her book, Growing into Soul, Randall-Young discusses the necessary shift, in the second half of our lives, from an ego-based mindset to a soul-based way of being. Whether our inner self thrives in the church pew, while chanting its "ohms," or by volunteering in the community, it's important to connect to something beyond our external appearance."At the soul level we are all beautiful," says Randall-Young. "We must begin to identify more with our soul than with our body. When we focus on bringing love into the world and to those around us, then we feel beautiful."So maybe it's time for us to smile at that wrinkle and accept it for what it is-a harmless little line, an artefact of our many experiences, from raising our children to visiting foreign lands. Let's stop waging war against our bodies and transfer that energy into spirit-boosting activities like meditating, practicing gratitude, and using our innate talents to improve the lives of others.The soul can take over from here. And best of all? It never gets wrinkly.