by Sharon Liao

What's Giving Away Your Age?

Women freak at the first sign of laugh lines or freckles that don't fade, but your face isn't the only place where telltale signs of aging take place. Find out what could be giving away the number of candles on your birthday cake -- and what you can do to stop them.

Get it off your chest

If your wardrobe isn't made exclusively of turtlenecks, your neckline and bust are exposed to just as much sun as your face. For that reason, wrinkles and age spots show up here just as commonly, says Dr. Babar Rao, dermatologist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J.

To make matters worse, we don't take the same precautions with our neckline as we do with our complexion, he says. The result: loose, wrinkly and leathery skin. To keep your neck and chest supple and blemish-free, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to your neck and chest daily.

Investing in a few more turtlenecks couldn't hurt, either. Rao says sunscreen is just the first step in sun protection; seek shade or cover up with clothes when possible. He also recommends using the same anti-aging regimen on your bustline as you do on your face. Moisturize in the morning and apply wrinkle reducers like retinol at night.

Lend a hand

Having a hard time guessing someone's age? Take a quick peek at their hands. According to Rao, the skin on our hands is thin to begin with. As we age, it loses pigment and collagen, which makes wrinkles more pronounced and skin look looser. Not only are hands exposed to the elements 24-7; hand-washing can suck the moisture right out of them. To counteract this effect, apply hand lotion every time you wash your hands. And, just as with your face and neck, always apply sunscreen to the back of your hands whenever you're outdoors.

Whiten up

A smile should be one of our most alluring features -- don't let discolored teeth or receding gums detract from it. Decades of eating, drinking and skipping out on dentist visits can take a toll on pearly whites -- leaving them yellow or gray.

According to Dr. Louis Dipede, dentist and assistant professor of prosthodontics at New Jersey Dental School in Newark, N.J., maintaining a youthful smile is as easy as keeping up with good oral hygiene. "The color change is often due to deposits on the tooth, like tartar and plaque," he says. Brushing, flossing and getting regular professional cleanings can help polish away yucky yellow deposits. Also, invest in an enamel-protecting toothpaste, which kills acid-forming bacteria, remineralizes teeth to rebuild enamel and forms a protective layer over the teeth to fend off new stains.

To restore some of that youthful white luster, try teeth-whitening products, which work well on yellow or brown teeth, says Dipede. The key to good results, he says, is consistency. Use a daily whitening product for at least two weeks, he says. This is how long it takes to break up and dissolve tooth stains. Though you may experience tooth sensitivity, this side effect is usually temporary, says Dipede.

Flash a youthful grin

To keep your gums from going the way of your hairline, be sure to brush and floss regularly. When plaque doesn't get lifted from the teeth, it can irritate the gums and cause inflammation, known as gingivitis, in as little as two weeks. Let it go longer than that, and the inflammation can spread deep into the gums and jawbone, leading to receding gums. "And that can't be repaired," says Dipede.

To protect your gums while brushing, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush very lightly in a circular motion for two minutes. Even still, says Dipede, "You're bound to miss a spot while brushing, and if tartar accumulates, you won't be able to remove it from the nooks and crannies." That's why he says you should never skip out on seeing your dentist.









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"What's Giving Away Your Age?"