Style & Beauty

Expert Solutions for Firmer Skin

If you’re longing for firmer, younger-looking skin, there are lots of solutions to help you achieve it; here’s expert advice to help you tighten up both face and body

By Joanie Pietracupa and Lola Augustine Brown

After we pass 50, it’s a fact of life that certain parts of the body start to head south and we lose the perkiness we had.

Two parts of the skin are responsible for loss of firmness, according to Peter Matravers, chief scientific officer for Arbonne: the epidermis, which is the outer layer of skin, and the basal layer of the dermis.

“The epidermis loses moisture—due to natural aging and photo-aging—and that results in crevices, ridges, and wrinkles. With this, the integrity of the collagen support system under the skin diminishes, causing sagging at the surface level,” Matravers says. “The other major sagging is at the dermis level, where the intercellular supportive structures are no longer supportive.”

Imagine the epidermis as the roof and the basal layer as the foundation of the skin, Matravers suggests: “As we get older, both the roof and foundation are shifting.”

In addition, a variety of external factors and behaviours contribute to this breakdown of the support structures in skin and accelerate the process of premature aging, says Ingrid Pernet, director of scientific communication and training at Nuxe. “This is particularly true of UV rays, stress, pollution, smoking, junk food, and lack of exercise or sleep,” she says. These are, of course, things that we can take action against.

“A healthy lifestyle is an essential part of aging beautifully,” Pernet says. “First of all, you have to pay attention to your diet : focus on fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and antioxidants and avoid excess sugar. Second, you need regular physical activity to strengthen muscle tone and improve circulation.”

For a Firmer Face

Your first line of defence against sagging is to use facial products designed to target that issue.

“This is a billion-dollar industry,” Matravers says, “and science is constantly looking for ways to get the right active ingredients to the right place at the right time, which is a whole new category of skin care.”

Matravers says the first step is a combination of a day cream that will protect against sun damage and a rich moisturizing night cream.

“Look for a night cream that contains polypeptides—these are the most potent antiwrinkle magic,” he says. “Polypeptides are proteins that signal our bodies to rejuvenate collagen, which is the support system of the skin.”

Other ingredients to look for in skin-firming products are retinoids and amino acids, both of which help rebuild connective tissue and fight sagging. Any of these products should also contain excellent moisturizers, which you need to plump up the skin and help diminish the appearance of fine lines.

Pernet advises adding a concentrated serum to your regimen; wait a few minutes after applying it before adding your moisturizer. She also suggests massaging in creams and serums using an upward motion, morning and evening.

“It takes three to six months to get optimal results,” Pernet warns, so don’t expect miracles overnight.

You can, however, get a quick fix through clever makeup application. “After applying a corrective base and foundation to adjust the texture and colour of the skin, apply a matte powder slightly darker than your skin tone on the jawbone and under the cheekbones, where a natural shadow defines these parts of the face,” says David Vincent, international makeup artist for Lise Watier. “Then illuminate the top of the centre of the forehead and the cheekbones, nose ridge, and chin using a lighter cream or an illuminator. Finish with a touch of pink blush to enhance the complexion and give it radiance.”

If you’re willing to spend a little more to address the issue, there are non-invasive treatments that can provide much faster and more dramatic results. Radio frequency skin-tightening techniques, including one called Thermage, are one example. “Thermage uses radio frequency to heat the deep layers of the dermis, creating new collagen and visibly strengthening the skin,” says Marilyne Gagné, president and founder of Dermapure beauty clinics, located in Quebec and British Columbia. In addition to radio frequency, Dermapure also employs techniques that use ultrasound technology. It may take several months to see the full benefit of these treatments.

For a Perkier Body

The breakdown of the support structures in our skin is responsible for drooping and sagging below the neck, too. Again, there are many products designed to help with this and they contain similar ingredients to help with cellular regeneration and deep moisturizing.

“In Canada, you have to deal with the dryness that our cold weather brings, and I find the best way to treat the skin is with rich oils,” Matravers says. “Slather your body in an oil-based moisturizer and you’ll feel like you’re wearing satin pyjamas for the next few days.”

Exfoliation will help with not only the skin’s appearance but also the absorption of any products that you buy, as these can’t penetrate dead skin cells. Use a good scrub in the shower twice a week to slough off dead cells and reveal better-looking skin. Then slather on a rich moisturizing cream and your body will look and feel much better immediately.

A tanned body looks smoother and firmer, but obviously the idea doesn’t go hand-in-hand with efforts to avoid sun damage. Vincent advises using a self-tanner or tinted oils on your body to nourish the skin and give it a satin finish.

“Well-hydrated skin with a uniform colour will certainly look smoother and more firm,” he says.

Photo: iStock/michaeljung.