I was told by my aesthetician that both surgical (facelift, etc.) and minimally invasive procedures (injectables and laser sculpting) are very popular even during COVID. With the work-from home and mask mandates, one can get a lot done to the face and body without leaving the office or even having it visible to others – which is all good if you have a lot of time and money to devote to these treatments. In this two-part blog, I will share some easy and inexpensive habits to incorporate into your daily routine to keep your youthful glow regardless of your age. First, I will start off with WHAT NOT TO DO.

Stop Smoking

If you are a smoker, this habit will put you on a fast path to skin aging as the toxins in cigarettes damage collagen and elastin, which are what keeps skin firm and wrinkle-resistant. Smoking also causes vascular constriction, inhibits blood flow and delays oxygen delivery to the skin cells. This study shows the negative association of aging and smoking.

Use Clean Skin Care Products

Our skin is the body’s biggest organ and it absorbs what we apply to it. Over half of US consumers use skin care products daily and many of us are unaware of what’s in them. I like this mantra: “If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin”. Most of us, including me, are unknowingly using skin care products with potentially toxic chemicals.

As if that wasn’t depressing enough, the cosmetics and skin care industry is not well regulated in the US. Unlike Europe where over a 1,000 chemicals are banned in skin care products, less than a dozen are excluded in this country. So, short of buying European products that are manufactured there, it’s mainly up to the consumer to decipher the alphabet soup of the various chemical compounds in the products we use. The non-profit organization, Environmental Working Group published a list of ingredients in skin care products to AVOID.

Part of an anti-aging regimen starts with CLEAN skin care so here goes the DO NOT list:

  • Coal Tar: carbo-cort, KC 261, naphtha distillate, benzin B70, petroleum benzin
    A byproduct from coal processing and found to promote and initiate tumor activity. Europe has banned many of these ingredients but it is still found in dandruff and psoriasis shampoos sold in the US.

  • Formaldehyde: Preservative classified as a known human carcinogen – less common in cosmetics but still used in hair straighteners.

  • Formaldehyde releasers (Bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea and quaternium-15): Used in cosmetics to slowly form formaldehyde to kill growing bacteria. Although these products can trigger allergic skin reactions, they are widely used in the US. Here is an example of just one of them.

  • Fragrance: Fragrance can be any mixture of compounds that can be hormone disruptors and allergens. Look for products that disclose their fragrance ingredients.

  • PEGs and Ceteareth which can be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane: These compounds found in cleaning and conditioning agents are often contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, which readily penetrates the skin and has been classified by the EPA as a likely human carcinogen. You won’t find 1,4 dioxane in the label so it’s best to avoid any products with possible contamination of 1,4 dioxane.

  • Phthalates: dibutyl phthalate (DBP), di-2-Ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), diethyl phthalate (DEP): Commonly used plasticizer that has been implicated in endocrine-disrupting properties (leading to cancer), insulin resistance and negatively impacting the reproductive system. Any product with ‘fragrance’ will most likely contain phthalates.

  • Triclosan, triclocarban: Antimicrobial agent used in everyday products from toothpaste to soaps and linked to endocrine disruption and impacting thyroid function. Over-use may promote the onset of bacterial resistance.

  • Vitamin A compounds (retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinyl acetate): Widely used in sunscreens, skin creams and makeup and also commonly prescribed for aging skin. Our bodies need vitamin A but when applied to sun-exposed skin, it can amp up skin sensitivity. In addition, sunlight breaks down vitamin A to product free radicals that can damage the skin DNA, so unless you are living in a cave, it’s best to avoid them.

Here’s EWG’s guide on top tips for safer products.


Does this leave your head spinning on what to buy? Have no fear – check out EWG’s database on CLEAN products that are EWG verified. You can search by type of product (for example, CC cream) and a list of products by EWG rating will show up.

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