Modern healthcare, as well as a growing interest in organic living and holistic health, have us romping into our golden years rather than crawling into a rocking chair. The result is a growing population expected to live longer than any generation before.

How we live these years to come is dependent on how we live our lives today. Hiking, biking, swimming, massage, bodywork, facials, and good overall skincare can be instrumental in helping us look better and feel better as we gracefully age. Just as massage and bodywork can keep the body feeling young and energized, proper skin-care is the avenue used to ward off the signs of aging. The three biggest offenders that age skin the most are sun damage, smoking, and not cleansing your skin at night.

Following are some healthful aging-well tips from this former dermatology nurse and current master esthetician.

Protect your skin: Tanned skin may look healthy and golden and be associated with health and vitality, but the truth is, tanned skin is a benchmark of damaged skin. (Only a small amount of sunlight is required for the body to make vitamin D). Many of us grew up in a time where we slathered on baby oil mixed with iodine to enhance our efforts at glowing skin. Parents didn’t sunscreen their children in those days. We now know that UVA and UVB rays are not only harmful but can be deadly.

Skin cancer rates have been on the rise over the past 30 years. Of the nearly 2 million new cases per year, 90,000 will be malignant melanoma, the most serious and aggressive of skin cancers. UVB rays are associated with a sunburn while UVA rays penetrate deeper and cause more damage. Melanoma is believed to be the result of excessive UVA exposure. All radiation has a damaging effect on the immune system, causing premature aging, wrinkling, and gives the skin a leathery appearance.

Skin aging, melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, actinic keratosis, as well as hyperpigmentation all began before we were 18 years old!

Eighty percent of sun damage occurs before the age of 18. It’s cumulative. In my skincare salon, I’ve referred five clients in eight years with suspect lesions to a dermatologist. All five were operable cancer. I hope everyone reading this article will get screened regularly, by a physician.

Do not forget your eyes. Sunglasses should provide 100 percent UV protection.

Choosing the right sunscreen is equally important. Not all sunscreens are photostable or appropriate for babies, children or pregnancy. There are significant health concerns as well as environmental hazards with many ingredients in popular sunscreen brands. Evaluate all ingredients for safety and effectiveness. Absolutely avoid: Avobenzone, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone.

A barrier sunscreen is more effective and safer than a chemical sunscreen — and don’t forget the hat. The American Cancer Society and dermatologists agree that an SPF 30 is adequate. If using a cream of any sort it must be reapplied every two hours. If you think your liquid make-up with added SPF is adequate, it’s not, especially if it’s less than 30, also must be reapplied every 2 hours while in the sun.

Moisturize well with a targeted product for your skin type. When you cleanse at night use anything but a bar soap which is much too harsh for fragile skin. Treat your skin well for the best of your life.

Karen Keady is a master esthetician and owner of Essentials Skincare in Sisters.