Skincare: The Aging Process + What You Can Do!

ponds anti aging1

I’m really excited for today’s post. Remember how I told you about my year-long partnership with Pond’s? Well, one of the reasons I was so excited about it was that I’d have access to The Pond’s Institute… their global network of over 700 skincare scientists. It’s kind of like having a slew of researchers on call to answer all of my (many!) skincare questions. For today’s post, I wanted to better understand skin’s natural aging process… and the things that we are able to do about it. And so I reached out to my friends at the The Pond’s Institute. I was blown away by the amount of information I got back. No fluff, big claims, or empty promises that a single product will fix all of your woes… just facts, figures, and a really holistic picture of what we can do to make the most of what we’ve got. I really hope this is as interesting for you as it was for me… The nerd in me really loved learning all of this!

Aging is caused by about 50% genetics and 50% lifestyle/environmental based factors. There isn’t much you can do about the genetic part, but there are a lot of things you can do to control the other stuff. The Pond’s Institute breaks down the preventable stuff pretty simply. First there’s your lifestyle (the choices you make on a daily basis)… and second, your environment (the radiation + pollution we come in contact with every day).

We’ll begin with lifestyle. The way that we live plays a big impact on how we look… the three main factors being diet, stress, and sleep.

ONE // DIET: Besides taking a toll on your waistline, an unhealthy diet can also accelerate the natural skin aging process. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but sugar is pretty much the devil…. but not just because it can make you fat. An excess amount can damage proteins, which leads to wrinkles and sagging. Studies from The Pond’s Institute actually show that the faces of women following a healthy diet appeared to be 1.8 years younger than their actual age! Besides avoiding sugar and eating clean, it’s also important to make sure that you are getting enough Vitamin C and E. These two vitamins are considered “skin nutrients” and can also help to slow down the skin aging process.

TWO // STRESS: This one is something I still have a hard time with. Besides the side effects of stress (overeating, smoking, drinking), being stressed out throws your hormones out of whack. The loss of hormone equilibrium can activate cytokine and melanin over production, which leads to skin darkening and aging. Also, high-anxiety levels have a significant correlation with deep wrinkles around the eye. There’s no proof, but the correlation is there. So what to do about this? Find an outlet. For me, running is my number one stress-release, but other exercise helps too. I’ve also been taking meditation classes at MNDFL in Greenwich Village. Friends of mine swear by the Headspace app. And I’m working on better time management.

THREE // SLEEP: Are you sleeping enough? This is a really big one. A lack of sleep results in the over-secretion of cortisol (a stress hormone). This results in dark circles and a lackluster complexion. I wrote a post about sleeping more (here!) but leading a more active lifestyle can help relieve stress and help you fall asleep faster. Also… something I didn’t know until the Pond’s team told me… staying hydrated is correlated with a healthy sleep pattern… and healthy skin, too… so drink up!

Besides all of those things you can control (within your own lifestyle), there is also your environment… and the elements. This is the most infuriating one for me… you can be getting all the sleep in the world and eating perfectly, but if you don’t properly protect your skin from environmental factors, all bets are off.

ONE // OUTDOOR RADIATION. By now, everyone knows that the sun is bad for your skin. UV exposure can lead to premature aging. UVA rays can immediately cause sunburn and pigmentation, but in the long-term they can penetrate deeper into skin, accelerating the skin aging process. UVB rays, on the other hand, are sneakier. These have a delayed effect on the skin. Just seven minutes of exposure to mid-noon sun will induce immediate tanning. A few things I didn’t know:

  1. UV rays penetrate 30 feet into water.
  2. Pavements can reflect up to 45% of UV rays.
  3. Clothing only blocks out about 40% of UV rays.

For these reasons, it’s imperative to use a sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF every single day. No exceptions. Get the tops of your hands, too… we often overlook our hands which is why they end up looking older than the rest of our body!

TWO // INDOOR RADIATION. Indoor radiation is something I’ve really only just learned about from working with Pond’s. This terrifies me, to be honest. I always figured as long as I was inside (or away from a sunny window) I would be fine. That’s not exactly the case. Indoor light from our devices (computer screens, cell phones, tablets, and even office lights) can penetrate deeply into the skin and cause damage. It’s not quite as strong (four days in front of your laptop is about the same as 20 minutes in the noon sun. So again, a moisturizer with SPF is necessary… even when you are inside!

THREE // INDOOR AND OUTDOOR POLLUTION. Environmental pollution can cause inflammation, disrupt the skin’s natural barrier, and damage the collagen that maintains our skin’s natural elasticity… all of these things causing premature wrinkling and aging. The biggest culprits (outdoors) are UV radiation, car exhausts, dust from construction. Just thinking about all of the things I walk by running around the city on a daily basis is starting to make my head spin here.

Other pollutants include cooking fumes (yes seriously!), chemical odors, and secondhand smoke (gross). On top of that, chronic exposure to repetitive exposure to sources of heat (the stove, a heated car seat, even your laptop) may cause the skin to wrinkle or darken. These pollutants activate melanocytes, producing excess melanin. Excess melanin then causes dark spots and uneven skin tone. Furthermore, these pollutants can generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) in skin, which induce inflammation and damage barrier function. To combat all of this, you need to look at your skincare routine holistically… Deep cleansing is important, as is protection. I’ve been a fan of deep-cleansing for ages now and love a good double cleanse. A moisturizer with SPF is also very important. Dark spots can be helped with a spot corrector. Pond’s recommends their Rejuveness Anti-Wrinkle Cream as it can help to reduce the occurrence of wrinkles and fine lines with continued use. It’s loaded with AHAs + Collagen… AHAs exfoliate to reveal brighter skin, while collagen plumps the skin.

There you have it. The more you know, the more you can do!

Created in partnership with Pond’s.

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Leave a Comment


  1. Ivana @ The Charming Avenue:

    This is such an amazing and informative post! I learned so much, especially the bit about the indoor radiation – that’s something I’ve never thought of before! I also need to start working on a better stress management – the stress from running your business never really goes away, I just need to learn to handle it better. Thanks so much for this great read, Grace!

    5.4.16 Reply
  2. Annie Reeves:

    This is SO fascinating – saving this for reference, but I really, really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for keeping us informed 🙂

    5.4.16 Reply
  3. Thuy:

    This was super insightful. I like when you nerd out, Grace. Do you. The indoor radiation was crazy to me.

    5.4.16 Reply
  4. Lauren:

    I totally agree regarding hydration! I started drinking a gallon a water a day in April and noticed a major difference in my skin. This has some great information, thanks Grace!

    5.4.16 Reply
  5. Elisa:

    Wow – so much great information… thank you!!!

    5.4.16 Reply
  6. Amanda S.:

    What an incredible post – I learned so much! I had no idea about indoor radiation.. yikes. Sunscreen, always!

    5.4.16 Reply
  7. kate:

    l-o-v-e!!!! so informative.

    5.4.16 Reply
  8. Cy:

    Grace, this is a great post! I look a lot younger than I am ,so people are always asking me what I use and advice. Sun protection is number one. I never think about the indoor stuff, so thanks for that. I’m always telling( my younger) sister to use sunscreen year round. Drinking of course is pure sugar, so we know that. Smoking is the worst!! My dad ( a retired plastic surgeon and no, I’ve not had any work done myself) always had his patients stop smoking after surgery. It completely sufigates the skin, it cannot breath! I could tell you horror stories( and have to get my friends to stop smoking!) We also have thinner skin than men, so it’s more noticeable. I have good genes, yes, but sunscreen daily and not smoking have kept me looking really young. Thanks for the great article , I’m nerdy too. It keeps us informed. 🙂

    5.4.16 Reply
  9. Hillary:

    Such an informative post, Grace! I feel like we must all live in a box with so many environmental factors. You should consider doing another sciency/info post on packaging. I’ve read a lot of articles on considering the products’ packaging before buying. For example, a Vitamin C serum is oxidized when exposed to light, so you shouldn’t buy it in a clear bottle and should get it in pump form only. I’ve also read that jar creams aren’t great because they’re exposed to air a lot, which can decrease the effectiveness…but I’ve heard good reviews about a lot of jar products, so I’m curious as to how true this is.

    5.4.16 Reply
  10. Jackie:

    Do you have a good natural daily moisturizer with SPF? I’ve heard that chemical sunscreens are harmful, but all the natural ones I’ve tried are super greasy and make my face shiny. So frustrating!

    5.4.16 Reply
    • graceatwood:

      You know, it’s really hard!!! It’s also funny, as when I went to Gwyneth Paltrow’s skincare launch an editor asked about sunscreen and she lamented the same thing… she wants to find one (and ultimately add one to her line) but the natural ones just aren’t there yet!!!

      For day cream, I generally always use Sisley’s All Day All Year if I’m going to be outside or in front of my screen – it’s not natural but it makes my skin feel amazing and contains UV filters.

      When I’m out in the sun, it’s always this from Coola.

      For face, I also like this from Supergoop.

      And while we’re talking about Gwyneth – she has a few here in her shop and I’m sure they are good but I can’t personally vouch for them.

      Natural products are tricky. I try to use 100% natural on my body (the Coola spray is epic!!!) and coconut oil is a great everyday moisturizer. For face I’m pickier. I want science. Hence my love of brands like Pond’s and Sisley which have a lot of technology. I like the Supergoop, but it also isn’t 100% natural. I think it’s going to be hard for a while to find a 100% natural sunscreen that really works. Oy.

      Okay I am rambling now but I hope this was helpful!!!

      5.4.16 Reply
      • Jackie (York Avenue):

        Wow thanks for the answer Grace! I really appreciate it. Good point about face versus body, and good to know I’m not the only one who’s waiting on good natural sunscreens!

        5.10.16 Reply
  11. Meghan:

    Loved this post (you know me and my skincare obsession…) In addition to scheduling Shadowbox soon, I want to join you for a MNDFL class soon!

    5.4.16 Reply
  12. Cy:

    Grace, I saw your comment about natural sunscreens, a really good one without harmful chemical imported from France is LaRoche Posay. You MUST get the one made in France. I order mine online from Zitomer pharmacy there in NYC. It’s the only place I can find it in the US. The one most commonly found is formulated for the US. My friend and I did a lot of research about the different formulas. She brought some back from Europe. Europe doesn’t put junk in most of their skincare. It is expensive but, is great stuff. I like the 50+ fluid and the spray. The formulas have to do with the FDA regulations, as I’m sure you know.

    5.5.16 Reply
  13. Rose:

    So happy when I see people talk about MNDFL—a friend of mine co-founded it! I have yet to take a class, though—maybe I need to join you sometime 😉

    Also, I see other people talking about sunscreen in the comments…I was a life guard for 10 years so I take my sunscreen seriously! My current favorite for daily use on my face is Supergoop’s City Sunscreen serum. It absorbs really well and it’s easy to apply makeup on top—it’s not all natural, but it doesn’t have oxybenzone. Not all chemicals are bad for you, so not everything needs to be all natural, all the time; I think it’s just a matter of finding what works for you!

    5.6.16 Reply
    • graceatwood:

      That is so cool! Good for your friend!

      I love Supergoop and completely agree – it really sinks right in!!!

      5.6.16 Reply
  14. rachel:

    This was really interesting + helpful Grace!

    Is a toner important or worth splurging on? I always use face cream with SPF but never know if I should be using a toner before I put my face lotion on.

    5.6.16 Reply
  15. rachel:

    Toner was the wrong word – woops! I meant anti – aging serum 🙂

    I currently use ‘time in a bottle’ daily age-defying serum. My bottle is almost empty and I’m wondering if its worth the investment

    5.6.16 Reply
    • graceatwood:

      Oooh – I was going to say… I don’t particularly think that toner is necessary, unless you have very oily skin. But yes, I do think that serum is important. The thing with serum is that (the good ones, at least!) contain tons of nutrients and anti-oxidants that penetrate deeply into the skin. Top it off with moisturizer, and that locks all of those amazing ingredients in, allowing them to do their best work. I am not familiar with Time in the Bottle but my all time favorite serum is Vintner’s Daughter. It’s expensive though and you don’t have to spend a ton of money on them. BareMinerals’ has a great new serum that I love (and I think it’s around $30) and a lot of drugstore brands have amazing serums!!! Hope this is helpful! xx

      5.6.16 Reply
  16. rachel:

    Toner was the wrong word – woops! I meant anti – aging serum 🙂

    I currently use ‘time in a bottle’ daily age-defying serum. My bottle is almost empty and I’m wondering if its worth the investment

    5.6.16 Reply
  17. Erin, Attention To Darling Blog:

    So interesting! I was excited to read more about this when you mentioned your partnership at The Southern C Summit. Thanks for sharing, crazy how some of these things that you never would have thought of can affect you!

    Erin, Attention to Darling Blog

    5.8.16 Reply
  18. Lisa Marie Stella:

    Omg in reading this my mouth literally dropped from astonishment. Never ever would I have thought some of these.
    Thank you for the awareness.

    6.9.16 Reply
  19. Cindi:

    I Love Ponds products!! My grandmother and mother both used ponds products and had beautiful skin! I’m I’m excited to try this new ponds anti wrinkle cream!! Thank you so much!!

    6.9.16 Reply