At birth, we all start out with beautiful skin. No wrinkles, spots, large pores, but then what happens? Sun, smoking and poor diets begin to affect the quality of our skin.

For example, look at the inside of your upper arm, which receives little sun and compare it to your outer arm or forearm. See a big difference? It’s all about sun exposure.

More sun abuse results in more wrinkles, spots, discoloration and the like. But, with the advent of sun blocks and skin care regimens available today, it is now possible to maintain healthy, young-looking skin forever.

For younger generations, parents who encourage application of sun blocks have already given you a head start, but continued use of sun blocks is not the only answer. A good skin care routine will help prevent further damage as aging continues and other environmental factors occur.

Regarding smoking, identical twins have been photographed in the age range of 50s to 60s, and the smokers look 10 years older than their twin, with more sagging and wrinkles.

Even if one cannot afford non-surgical options, such as lasers, peels, or surgical options such as eyelid, face and neck lifts, a good at home skin care system can still provide the benefit of healthy, young looking skin. Some cosmeceuticals can actually tighten the skin, delaying the necessity of minimally invasive, non-surgical or even surgical procedures.

With the myriad of skin systems touting claims of “anti-aging,” how does one know which products really do work and which are a waste of money?

First, the system should be “cosmeceutical.” What does this mean? Cosmeceutical grade systems are a combination of ingredients that can be as effective as prescription strength and have demonstrated that they actually do live up to their claims.

For effectiveness, products should be anti-inflammatory; repair and regenerate the cells producing your skin; repair DNA; reduce the glycation debris that attaches to your collagen and elastin fibers making your skin sag; and have whole food nutrients that your skin needs to remain and become younger in appearance.

In addition, the product should have a “delivery system” that allows the ingredients to actually penetrate the skin to repair the cells that produce the skin, instead of just affecting the very top layer. Since the top layer of skin continues to slough throughout one’s life, it makes sense that simply treating the top layers with peels and lasers is “Band-Aid” therapy.

Only by repairing cells can we produce long-lasting healthy skin. Various peels and lasers certainly jump start skin rejuvenation, but they do not repair environmentally damaged cells.

Additionally, I recommend micro-needling with growth factors, hydrating serums and other products to maintain healthy skin. We continue to grow older, so a program should be established for those who want to look their best.

How does one choose an effective skin care system? Generally, those sold at physician’s offices are cosmeceuticals. An appointment with a qualified aesthetician or physician would be a good first step.

E. Ronald Finger, MD, plastic surgeon and medical director for New Youth Skin Care and Laser Center, formulated the skin care line New Youth Cosmeceuticals.