Worshipping the sun wreaks havoc on skin. So does smoking. But what else are you doing to sabotage your looks? Check out these 12 bad habits that cause premature aging, and learn how to reverse wrinkles.
It’s impossible to look young forever, but you can prevent time from marching across your face.
Don’t let these 12 beauty blunders age you. Just a few easy fixes can keep your skin looking fresher than Mother Nature intended:
1. You’re too skinny.
Yup, there is a downside to being too thin!
“Loss of facial fat causes sagging and a gaunt, aged appearance,” says dermatologist Mary P. Lupo, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University in New Orleans.
Yo-yo dieting also causes premature aging. The repeated weight gain and loss stretches your skin and makes it loose.
Skin solution: Maintain a healthy weight with proper diet and exercise. And be sure to feed your face too.
“Research shows there are foods that will enhance your appearance from the inside out,” says nutritionist Lisa Drayer, R.D., author of The Beauty Diet (McGraw-Hill).
• Omega-3 fatty acids like wild salmon and walnuts that fight wrinkle-causing inflammation
• Vitamin C like citrus fruits, kiwis and spinach that enhance collagen production
• Lycopene in tomato sauce and pink grapefruits that protect against sun damage
2. Rubbing your eyes.
“Pulling, tugging and rubbing on delicate skin around the eyes can cause darkness,” says dermatologist Jeannine Downie, M.D., co-author of Beautiful Skin of Color (HarperCollins) and director of Image Dermatology in Montclair, N.J.
Because pigment changes as you age, this can add years to your appearance.
Skin solution: If you can’t stop rubbing your eyes, see an allergist to diagnose and treat symptoms.
Also, when applying makeup or putting in contact lenses, be gentle with skin around your eyes. It will help prevent pigment problems and premature aging.
3. Cheating on sleep.
Sleep is essential for your energy, concentration and complexion.
“At night, skin goes into a renewal state,” says Jeannette Graf, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Medical Center.
“Not only does it repair itself, but there’s also a difference in its pH and circulation so anti-aging products penetrate better.”
Plus, puffy, dark circles don’t look youthful.
Skin solution: To get enough sleep and prevent premature aging, follow these tips:
• Count back 7-8 hours from when you need to get up in the morning – then stick to that bedtime.
• Make your bedroom dark, cool and quiet.
• Turn off the TV and computer at least half an hour before bed; their lights can reduce your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
• Create a mellow nighttime ritual, such as sipping a cup of tea, rubbing lavender oil on your feet or listening to relaxing tunes.
4. Sleeping on your side.
The fetal position may be comfy, but it’s bad for your skin. So is snoozing on your stomach.
“Pressing your face into the pillow eight hours a night for years can break down skin and cause wrinkles,” Lupo says.
Skin solution: Train yourself to sleep on your back and flip over if you wake up on your side or stomach.
“This decreases swelling of the face that stretches skin over time,” Lupo says.
5. Sipping out of a straw.
Do you drink dark sodas, tea and coffee through a straw to prevent staining your pearly whites or to avoid putting your mouth on a can or bottle?
It’s causing fine lines around your mouth, a sign of premature aging.
“Over the long-term, pursing your lips to sip out of a straw [or suck on a cigarette] causes extra wrinkles around the mouth,” says skin care expert Renée Rouleau, creator of skin products and an esthetician to celebrities, including Lisa Rinna and Melissa Rycroft.
Skin solution: “Avoid drinking through straws and leave the pursing for kissing!” she says.
6. Using wrinkle-fighters in the wrong product
It’s OK to use products with anti-aging agents, such as retinol, peptides and antioxidants, to improve the skin’s appearance, but not in a cleanser. It’s a money-waster.
“Many cleansers have anti-aging ingredients, but they’re typically not in high enough concentrations or in contact with your skin long enough to provide significant results,” says Dee Ann Glaser, M.D, professor of dermatology at St. Louis University.
Skin solution: Use a plain, gentle cleanser, like Neutrogena Night Calming Nourishing Cream Cleanser. It’ll probably cost less than one with wrinkle-smoothing ingredients. Then slather on an anti-aging lotion, serum or cream, which stays on skin long enough to penetrate and yield results.
7. Stressing out 24/7
If you’re chronically worried (or sleep deprived), your body is pumping out stress hormones non-stop which can cause premature aging.
“Cortisol, the major stress hormone, breaks down collagen, which leads to sagging skin and wrinkles and causes inflammation,” says Amy Wechsler, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist and psychiatrist.
Also, when your body is in a fight-or-flight state, most nutrients and oxygen go to the major organs, not skin. And chronic stress and anxiety can lead to frown lines and a furrowed brow.
Skin solution: Figure out what helps you relax – a chick flick, coffee with a friend, yoga class – and do it regularly.
Exercise is another great stress-reliever: It boosts blood flow, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the skin and giving your complexion a rosy glow.
If all else fails, deep breathing and quiet time can help.
8. Relying on makeup for sunscreen.
Lots of makeup claims to have sunscreens that block harmful rays, but it’s probably not enough to ward off skin damage and premature aging.
“Most makeup protects against UVB rays, but don’t block UVA rays, which cause fine lines, brown spots, enlarged pores and crepey-ness,” Glaser says. Plus, you need to slather on a lot of cosmetics to get the sunscreen benefit.
Skin solution: Instead, apply a moisturizer that protects against UVA and UVB rays (it’ll say that on the label) and then apply your makeup.
Studies show that when we apply sunscreen, we skip spots, Glaser says.
“So if you put on lotion and then makeup, you’re more likely to cover those missed areas,” she says.
9. Focusing only on wrinkles.
Lines aren’t the only age giveaways. Dark spots and areas of pigmentation can give your complexion a dull, old appearance.
In fact, “discolorations, like age spots and uneven pigmentation, can make women look at least 10 years older than they are,” says Downie, the Montclair, N.J., dermatologist.
Skin solution: Exfoliate skin – this removes the dead, top layer of cells that contain some pigment – and use a product to lighten dark patches.
Some over-the-counter products may contain ingredients like licorice root, vitamin c, vitamin K, soy and hydroquinone. Stronger products are available by prescription.
Also, don’t forget your sunscreen. UV rays not only cause more spots but also darken those you already have.
10. Ignoring your neck and hands.
Our poor necks and hands rarely get attention, which may be why they’re the first to give away our age.
In fact, a 2006 study in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that women whose hands had spots and wrinkles were thought to be older than peers with spot-free hands.
Skin solution: Apply anti-aging facial cream on your neck and on the backs of hands to prevent premature aging. And don’t forget to cover both areas with sunscreen every day.
11. Forgetting sunglasses.
“Repetitive movements like squinting, laughing and frowning etch lines and wrinkles into your face over the long term,” Downie says.
Plus, sun exposure breaks down collagen in the already thin skin around your eyes and can cause pigmentation.
Skin solution: Even in winter, slip on sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection – look for “UV coated” on the label.
12. Using soap.
Your grandparents may swear by the simple cleanser, but soap often contains harsh detergents that strip skin of natural oils.
“Though dry skin doesn’t cause wrinkles, it makes them more noticeable,” says St. Louis University’s Glaser. “And dry skin [can’t] protect itself from allergens and irritants like bacteria and viruses.”
Hydrated skin is dewy and plumper, so lines are less obvious.
Skin solution: Wash up with a soap-free cleanser then apply moisturizer to damp skin. Also, drink water – try for eight 8-ounce glasses a day – to keep your skin hydrated from the inside out.