Skincare Through the Ages

Skincare trends come and go. What is considered beautiful at one point in time may be seen as unattractive or even harmful at another (tanning, anyone?). Here’s a look at some of the most popular skincare and anti-aging trends in the U.S. and how they’ve evolved over time:

Pale skin: A fair, smooth complexion was once considered a sign of wealth and beauty. It has been prized as far back as ancient Egyptian times, with high-ranking Egyptian women using powders, lotions and pigments to make skin appear pale and clear, according to Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at NYU Langone School of Medicine, in a presentation shared with the Skin Cancer Foundation. “Historically, pale skin has indicated high status,” said Dr. Sarnoff. “A tan signified that you had to work outdoors as a manual laborer, while pale skin announced that you could afford to stay out of the sun and spend time and money cultivating your appearance.” Fast forward to today: Bright, clear, radiant skin of all shades is in. Read on to see how to get it …

Rosy cheeks: In the 1920s, women (scandalously!) used rouge to create flushed, rosy cheeks, contrasted by powdered pale skin, to convey youth and good health. That perception holds true today: More recent research shows people with a rosy complexion are perceived as healthier and more attractive.

Clear, pimple-free skin: The quest for clear skin has been around for centuries, with remedies that have ranged from sulfur to sunshine. Acne finally met its match in the 1920s with benzoyl peroxide, which kills P. acnes bacteria and exfoliates clogged pores, banishing blemishes. The effective ingredient is still used in acne treatments to this day.

Tan skin: You can “thank” both doctors who prescribed sunbathing to treat illnesses like tuberculosis as well as fashion icon Coco Chanel for popularizing tanning in the 1920s — a total about-face from centuries spent trying to make skin appear pale by using powders and avoiding sunshine. But the tanning trend truly took off in the ‘60s: “From the 1960s on, a tan announced that you had the leisure to bronze your skin and the money to travel to places where one could be acquired,” wrote Dr. Sarnoff. “A tan also suggested enthusiasm for outdoor activities, and, by implication, physical fitness and good health.” Tanning both indoors and outdoors is still hugely popular, despite the fact that it puts you at risk for skin cancer and accelerates wrinkles, age spots and saggy skin.

Smooth, wrinkle-free skin. Our ongoing obsession with younger-looking skin led to the development of several powerful anti-aging treatments that are still skincare staples, such as Retin-A. Retin-A received FDA approval in 1971 for acne, but was quickly found to do so much more namely, banish wrinkles and brown spots. Prescription retinoids and their over-the-counter cousin retinols, such as StriVectin Advanced Retinol Night Treatment ($109), stimulate collagen production, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and improving skin tone.

Sun-protected skin. In the 2000s, there started to be a greater awareness of just how damaging the sun’s UV rays actually are. In fact, 90% of all skin cancers and up to 90% of the signs of aging (such as wrinkles, brown spots, and leathery skin) are associated with exposure to UV radiation, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. People are getting smarter about sun protection, using a daily sunblock or moisturizers with SPF 15 or higher, wearing UV-blocking sunglasses, hats and clothing, and applying self-tanners for a safe faux glow.

Bright, healthy skin. Today, radiant, healthy skin is king, and there are many ways to achieve it: Eating a balanced diet, exercising to promote blood flow, and being smart about sun protection are all good ways to make your skin look bright. There are also more products and procedures at your disposal than ever before to achieve a glowing complexion, such as glycolic acid peels (which sloughs off dead skin cells); face oils; and skin brightening treatments like StriVectin Instant Revitalizing Mask, which help to break up pigmentation to reveal radiant skin underneath.

This post is sponsored by StriVectin.

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