How to address premature ageing: Turn back time with these effective techniques

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Sun damage, excess weight, dodgy teeth, and bad hair. These are a multitude of beauty misfires that age us before our time - but there are ways to shave years off your look. Here's how.

White, healthy teeth

Stained or yellowing teeth hardly scream youthful, but advances in dentistry make it a cinch to buy yourself a whiter smile, says Sydney-based cosmetic dentist Dr Angelo Lazaris.

"Even a relatively simple procedure, such as teeth whitening, can permanently knock five to 10 years off your appearance," he says. "It's available in surgery or as a take-home kit, which uses a hydrogen-peroxide gel to neutralise the pigments in teeth to whiten them naturally."

Keep it up by following the white teeth diet, says author Charla Krupp. "Limit your intake of dark foods and drinks, such as blueberries, black coffee, red wine, and cigarettes. These can send your teeth right back to dullsville."

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Thick, yellowing fingernails

"Hands and nails can make you look older very quickly," says nutritionist Karen Fischer, author of The Healthy Skin Diet. "I think the health of nails reflects your body's inner health, particularly digestion." Studies show a protein-rich diet and good gut health helps, says Karen. "This is where probiotics come in, as well as dark leafy green vegetables and alkaline soups - they all help gut health. And reduce stress where you can."

Nicotine also yellows nails, so if you smoke you'll want to quit. Studies show that biotin (a B-complex vitamin, also known as B7) can improve nail health and stimulate growth. A good nail and cuticle cream can keep your nails hydrated.

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The right hairstyle

"Many women find hair gets finer and less bouncy with age," says Jo Smith, educational art director for Toni & Guy Australia. "But a good cut and the right colour can easily take five to 10 years off."

"It's a myth that you can't have long hair after a certain age," says Jo. "It's only when it's long and heavy around the face that it drags you down, making you look old and tired. Long hair can work with layering or a soft fringe to give your face a lift. Colour also makes a big difference. The darker the hair is, the more depth and thickness it looks like it has. And, because skin tone changes as we age, Jo says, be flexible about what suits you right now, not 10 years ago.

"If you're well from within, that'll show in your hair," Jo adds.


Premature wrinkles, fine lines, pigmentation

Non-genetic factors such as sun damage and smoking can result in up to 40 percent of age-related wrinkles and facial pigmentation, according to a US study.

"As we age we make less hydriodic acid and the elastin doesn't 'bounce' back as well. Botox and fillers can help reverse that change." Treating the skin's texture with glycolic acid 'lunchtime' peels can give you smoother, softer, fresher skin, adds dermatologist Robert Rosen.

But for sun spots and dark pigmentation, laser treatments are more effective. "And if you smoke, quit - it accelerates the ageing process, creating that 'cat's bum' around your mouth, which is very hard to repair," says Robert.

Karen also advocates dietary changes, "Omega-3 supplements can be wonderful in reversing that dryness and smoothing out fine lines. Taking up to 6g of omega-3s daily can probably knock one or two years off you, which isn't a huge difference, but is a noticeable one."

Maintain a healthy weight

Address it by working towards a healthy weight with diet and exercise. It's not always about the figure on the scale, says personal trainer Dean Piazza. "It's about the figure facing you in the mirror and in photos that's important."

Maintain it by striking a balance. Women under 40 who carry excess kilos can look older, because the weight can obscure a smooth jawline and cause skin to sag. However, if you're over 40, it's actually better to carry a few extra kilos. "Women, especially those in their 40s who exercise too much, don't eat enough and have low body-fat levels look a lot older than they are. A bit of extra fat fills in your fine lines and wrinkles and plumps up your cheeks," says Dean.

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Beautiful brows

Years of over-plucking, waxing and medical conditions can affect your eyebrows' hair follicles. Our brows naturally thin as we age, but even so, well-shaped brows are within reach. Giving over-plucked brows time to grow back, says Svetlana Burckhardt of Sydney's Eyebrow Experts. "It varies depending on your cycle of growth, but don't touch them for two months plus." Then, says Svetlana, let a professional tame them.

For brows that don't grow back, eyebrow prosthetics or cosmetic tattooing are other options, or - for those who can afford it - eyebrow implants, where hair follicles from the back of your head are implanted into your brows.

"Vitamin deficiency can make you lose hair all over so take a multivitamin daily," says Svetlana. Pay a pro for touch-ups, adds Charla, "Get a referral from a friend whose brows you love."

Receding gums

Looking a little long in the tooth? Receding gums do occur with age, but can also be accelerated by gum disease, a bad flossing technique or scrubbing your teeth too vigorously, says Dr Angelo. "Corrective procedures such as gum repositioning and grafts as well as porcelain veneers can address cosmetic issues and can vary in cost from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, but they can reverse the ageing impact by making your smile appear 10 or more years younger."

Saggy skin and bags

A change in face shape can also come with age, says Robert. "The fat pads may drop, leading to filling up of the lower cheeks and jowls and hollowing around eyes."

Fillers can help, but for a less radical treatment, try an 'acupuncture facelift', which relaxes facial muscles causing fine lines and temporarily 'lifts' skin, says cosmetic acupuncturist Olivia Shurdova. "It also improves circulation and makes your skin look more supple, refreshed and glowing."

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Make it last by using retinol products, which help build new collagen. You should also lay off the sugar, says Karen - it leads to glycation, in which sugar in your system attaches to proteins, forming new molecules which damage the collagen and elastin in your skin.

"Also, avoid drinking more than two cups of tea or coffee a day - it can give you dark circles under your eyes, which is quite ageing," Karen says. "I find people who totally give up caffeine find the dark circles greatly reduced."

Keep it up by visiting your dentist every six to 12 months and practising good oral hygiene. Be mindful of covering the entire tooth surface when cleaning. Use a circular brushing stroke over individual teeth with the brush head angled slightly towards the gum line where plaque accumulates. When you floss, try and wrap the floss around the tooth contours, rather than just straight up and down - and make flossing part of your daily routine - it's as important as washing your hair or moisturising your skin.


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