There are some simple steps you can take to look great for your age, whatever that may be. And one of the best areas to concentrate on is your skin.

Environmental Destroyers

The skin is the largest organ in the human body, and it's vulnerable to damage from many sources. Over time, practices such as smoking cigarettes and exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun can create wrinkles; pollution can clog pores. Environmental poisons set off chemical reactions that produce free radicals, which are unstable, unattached oxygen molecules that damage skin membranes, proteins, and DNA.

Changes Over Time

Internally, as a normal byproduct of metabolism, skin cells create still more free radicals. When we're younger, these free radicals are removed by antioxidants in the skin, which become in shorter supply as the years pass. Collagen and elastin -- the skin's support fibers -- break down. Cell turnover slows. The skin's outer cells don't slough off as easily, so skin isn't renewed as efficiently. What's more, the skin doesn't retain as much moisture. Cells leak moisture when the glue that holds cell membranes together begins to degenerate. Sweat and oil glands also produce less moisture. Facial bones become less dense and fat deposits under the skin shrink, causing the skin to lose elasticity. And, as women enter their late 40s and 50s, the decrease in the hormone estrogen makes skin thinner, because it is no longer able to hold as much water.

Genes also play a role in how your skin ages. The rate at which women lose collagen, elastin, and moisture varies among individuals: Some women may have firm skin into their 60s, but when it comes to your skin, your lifestyle can make a difference as well.

What You Can Do, Right Now

Easily, many women are confused or simply overwhelmed when it comes to making sound decisions about skin care. How could they not be? As seductive advertisements and a bewildering array of new and expensive skin care products bombard us, it's a wonder that any woman can feel confident in this arena. So, what can you reasonably do, without resorting to expensive or invasive cosmetic procedures, to keep your skin's healthy glow? It’s never too early to begin protecting your skin, even when there's not a blemish or wrinkle in sight. Even young women in their teens and 20s can begin a lifetime of healthy habits, such as not smoking, protecting their skin and using quality skin care products that can slow down the skin's aging process.