In the fight against ageing we slather on expensive creams and book in for 'cutting-edge' facials. Some of us are injected, nipped and tucked. Rarely, though, do we examine the lifestyle factors that lead to ageing in the first place. Granted, gravity will take its toll eventually, but there is a way to slow down the ageing process that is significantly cheaper and more accessible than any 'miracle' products on the market: food.
"You are what you eat," assert the new guard of nutritionists, and our skin, hair and nails are living proof of this adage.
"Anti-ageing health comes down to the choices you make every day," explains nutritional therapist Elsa Jones. "To age well you need to live well. Diet, along with other lifestyle choices, plays a crucial role in preventing premature ageing and age-related illnesses."
"An all-round balanced diet is essential, but as we age there are particular foods which become even more important to our health."
Much of the ageing process is caused by free radicals. The skin protein collagen, which keeps the skin plump, is particularly susceptible to free radical damage.
"Free radicals cause cell damage and death, and break down collagen, the molecule necessary for skin strength and elasticity," explains Dublin dermatologist Claire Cushen.
Antioxidants (found in what have become known as superfoods) can stabilise free radicals and prevent the damage that they cause. What's more, certain foods can stimulate collagen production.
"Antioxidants help counteract free radicals produced in the skin from sun damage, smoking, stress and pollution," continues Cushen.
"Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E are one of the most important components required to help prevent skin ageing and have multiple other benefits, being linked to reducing high blood pressure, helping fight coronary heart disease and cancers.
"I give rather simple advice to my patients on the foods necessary for skin health. A varied diet rich in fruit, vegetables and oily fish will cover most bases!"
US-based dermatologist, Nicholas Perricone, the author of The Wrinkle Cure, has taken it one step further.
He believes that eating the right foods can radically change our skin and prevent further ageing.
"Wrinkled, sagging skin is not the inevitable result of growing older," he says. "It is a disease and you can fight it. You can look your best, feel your best, and enjoy beautiful skin and optimal health every day of your life."
After years of research, Perricone concluded that cellular inflammation is the cause of wrinkled skin and he believes that certain foods can trigger it -- sugars, pasta and breads -- while other foods -- oily fish, certain vegetables and green tea -- can alleviate it.
What's more, he says people who follow his eating plan will see a difference after just three days.
Madonna, Kim Cattrall and Courteney Cox are disciples of his programme. In fact, Madonna was reported to have said that she is embarking on a salmon retox to "knock 12 years off" her appearance.
These are the foods you need to eat if you want to do the same.
>OILY FISH Mackerel, sardines and salmon are packed full of Omega-3 fatty acids which will "give you the healthiest skin ever and make it glow" according to Dr Perricone. Most of us don't get enough Omega-3 and a deficiency of it can cause skin problems. Omega-3 can also inhibit the production of androgens, which are hormones that influence the production of sebum in the hair follicle and cause acne. It can also alleviate the symptoms of skin disorders such as dry and flaky skin, psoriasis and eczema.
>GREEN TEA Green tea contains powerful anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory components called catechins. What's more, it can assist in weight loss as it speeds up the metabolism. Dr Perricone predicts if you swap coffee for green tea you will lose seven or eight pounds in six weeks without doing anything else.
>DARK GREENS "The likes of spinach, rocket, kale and cabbage are powerful health promoters," says Elsa Jones. "Regular consumption of green leafy vegetables seems to be able to lessen our risk for many of the most common age-related diseases of the 21st century, including cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and some cancer. It's worth eating your greens!"
Broccoli is packed with antioxidants such as isothiocyanates and quercetin, which can heal the damage triggered by free radicals; while spinach is rich in lutein, which promotes skin elasticity and hydration.
>SOY "Soy products (soy milk and cheese) can help block enzymes that cause skin ageing and also help in the production of collagen," says dermatologist Clare Cushen.
Recent research indicates that soy can actually even the texture and tone of the skin and reduce the appearance of age and sunspots. The magical component is isoflavones, which aids in collagen production and improves skin elasticity.
>TOMATOES Tomatoes contain lycopene, a 'miracle nutrient' that is used in many anti-ageing products. It protects skin from UV rays. What's more, it can help prevent cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
>TURMERIC Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory that helps strengthen skin cells, protecting them from age-related damage.
>BERRIES Several varieties of berries such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are a source of the powerful antioxidants flavonoids.
>AVOCADO Avocados are packed with vitamin E, which improves the moisture and softness of skin and even reduces the appearance of scars.
>BEANS Several varieties of beans are high in anthocyanin, which combat free radical damage.
>GARLIC Garlic has several health benefits -- anti-ageing is just one of them. It is a natural blood circulation booster, which leads to rejuvenated-looking skin.