Tuesday 20 August 2019

The experts' guide to looking younger

You don't need to spend a fortune on fancy lotions to give yourself a boost. We asked four health, diet and fitness gurus for their simple tips for a youthful makeover

Health food expert and author Susan Jane White.
Health food expert and author Susan Jane White.
Dermatologist Dr Katherine Mulrooney
Nina Byrnes
Karl Henry

Orla Neligan

Life expectancy is soaring and the business of anti-ageing - estimated to be worth $191.7 billion worldwide by 2019 - is booming as we reach for serums, creams and even surgical procedures to help fight the years.

But, perhaps the 'elixirs' of youth are not always to be found in a jar or at the end of a knife. According to Ireland's leading health gurus, the answer might be in what we eat, how we exercise and how we manage life's daily stresses.


Dr Nina Byrnes

"When we think about anti-ageing, we often think of the cosmetic aspect but if your skin is ageing then every cell in your body is ageing," notes Dr Nina Byrnes, owner of Generation Health Clinics and medical expert on TV3's Doctor in the House series.

As a doctor, Byrnes is more concerned with the cells you cannot see. Everyone can potentially do something about a wrinkle but a crack in your artery is not visible and it's up to doctors to make people aware of what's going on inside your body.

According to Byrnes, ageing well is all about good health but staving off disease is a negative approach, the focus should be on feeling well.

"Statistically we are all living longer and we want quality in our years, it's not about living forever but being able to do the things you want to do for as long as possible," she says.

But being healthy often comes with the misconception that misery is tied around its neck. Some people assume they must denounce everything in favour of good health.

"I'm a huge promoter of moderation in all things. I don't want people to give up their coffee, glass of wine or odd treat but to think about making small changes in their health every day.

"Intrinsically, our bodies don't like change and will fight it, so a person who has not had a good diet for 30 years or never exercised shouldn't expect a metamorphosis overnight. The key is setting yourself small goals and it's never too late to start."


Karl Henry

There's a common misconception among people, predominantly women, that resistance or weight training will result in Hulk-like muscles. But the opposite is true, according to fitness guru and gym owner Karl Henry.

"Resistance training will give you lean tissue, more shape and tone and speeds up your metabolic rate which counteracts ageing."

As we get older our metabolic rate slows down, we lose strength, muscle tissue and gain more fat naturally. Lifting weights, even if it's a bottle of water, a sack of potatoes or a dumbbell, helps counteract the effects of ageing on the body.

"Resistance training is at the core of what we do and where we start with our clients," notes Henry, who is more concerned with getting that person off the couch than preparing people for Iron Man competitions.

"The more sedentary you are, the quicker you'll age so moving in any way is good."

But, he admits, it is good to sweat. "You have to work hard enough to sweat or you won't see the benefits."

The critical factor is not your age but the intensity and frequency of training; the harder you work the better the results. But remember to pace it.

"I don't believe in extremes; diets or intense exercise for a few weeks and then doing nothing will actually age you quicker. It's all about lifelong balance and trying something new.

"Life's too short to do the same thing over and over for long periods of time. Trying something new keeps you motivated." Time to book that Zumba class.


Dr Katherine Mulrooney

Together with her sister Jane, cosmetic doctor Katherine Mulrooney set up the Mulrooney Clinic after years suffering from chronic eczema. As specialists in ageing and problem skin, they take a holistic and "light-handed" approach to helping patients fight the clock, preferring clients to look "their age" as opposed to 25 years younger.

According to Katherine, the biggest felon when it comes to ageing is the sun. "Celtic skin is the most sensitive in the world and ages the quickest. What people don't realise is that 80pc of sun damage is done in the first 20 years of life."

A good sunscreen is paramount to reducing the effects of ageing and, if you wear it between the months of April to October, you can half the unwanted side effects of sun exposure.

Similarly many of the anti-ageing creams are overly aggressive, leaving skin irritable. Katherine recommends a simple skin-care regime and swears by seaweed.

"I grew up in Galway and spent much of my summers in the water. My skin condition always improved over the summer so my dad, a marine biologist, started harvesting seaweed to use on our skin.

"I eat it, use it in smoothies, put it on my skin - its effects are amazing.

"There is a noticeable jump in energy levels and my skin looks plump and hydrated after continued use."

For those who recoil at the very thought of chewing seaweed, there's Seavite, Jane and Katherine's range of seaweed products and a list of treatments from lasers to peels and fillers to help turn back the clock.

But, Katherine is quick to add, "treatments are one thing, but you have to put in the ground work yourself. A clean diet, being sun smart, sleeping and eating well, staying hydrated, stabilising your weight and sweating through exercise are all factors that play a major role in reducing the signs of ageing."


Susan Jane White

Ten years ago food writer Susan Jane White was a self-confessed sugar junkie, carrying "Kit Kats like cigarettes". The result was a debilitating illness caused from food intolerances. Her food future seemed bleak until she discovered the benefits of ditching processed foods in favour of wholesome ingredients without sacrificing the "good stuff", as she demonstrates in her new tome The Virtuous Tart, which she promises doesn't involve "lycra tights or cabbage soup" but plenty of sweet treats without the guilt.

"My lemon shizzle cake is all you need to turn back the clock," laughs Susan Jane White. Lemons are full of vitamin C, which is needed for building the skin's collagen and ground almonds contain vitamin E, which is proven to reduce wrinkles. Such is the positive benefits of almonds that she refers to their use in cooking as "botox baking".

Susan Jane is a shining example of the benefits of good eating and being adventurous. "Always think of food as your artillery, everything you eat is either adding to your health and your age or detracting from it.

"Diets are demeaning and demoralising, if they worked we'd all be thin (and dull)."

You can really enjoy food by making some small tweaks in your diet, she says. For example, add ground almonds and coconut sugar instead of normal flour and sugar when you're making brownies, you'll still get the sweet and nutritional hit but you'll also feed your face.

And as for that 'fat being bad for you' mantra: "Fat is your friend. We need good fats such as avocados, olive oil and nuts, to make hormones otherwise our systems are imbalanced."

Making these choices will service your body like a "first rate Formula 1 pit stop" and, as Susan Jane discovered, "smarter people pay the grocer not the doctor".

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Life