How They Affect Your Skin
The skin is the largest organ of the human body and it serves as a barrier against temperature changes, micro-organisms, chemicals, radiation, and physical force. Despite all of those impressive characteristics, we don’t always take the best care of our skin. Hey, we get it. Sometimes you’re just too tired to remove your makeup, you forget to put on sunscreen, and the healthiest thing you ate the entire season was pumpkin pie.
There’s nothing wrong with falling off the wagon every once in a while, but if bad habits become regular, they can leadi to poor skin conditions and premature aging. We’re talking about fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and loss of elasticity.
While there’s not much you can do about intrinsic aging that comes with fluctuating hormones, glycation, oxidative stress, genetics, and the harmful effects of free radicals, the good news is you can make some improvements to your lifestyle to slow down the extrinsic aging process. Let’s do this!
Not Wearing SPF
Considering the sun is by far the number one reason why we get wrinkles, it’s pretty frightening that only 11 percent of Americans wear sunscreen on a daily basis and 46 percent forgo it altogether! Reality check: The sun’s UV rays directly damage the groundwork of collagen and elastin, which means you're practically begging for wrinkles and a loss of elasticity — not to mention, sun damage.
- Quick Fix: Simply add a sunscreen with an SPF of a minimum of 30 that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Wear it every day — even in the winter and on cloudy days. Don’t forget your ears, neck, and hands. Ideally, it should be reapplied every few hours. If you’re a makeup wearer, consider mineral powders and sunscreens to satisfy this requirement. If you want color, there are an abundance of excellent self-tanners (and spray tan services) on the market today that no longer leave you looking like a candied yam.
Sleeping With Your Makeup On
We know what you’re thinking: Does makeup cause wrinkles? An occasional night hitting the sheets with a full face on won’t do much damage, but making a habit out of not removing your makeup can do some not-so pleasant things to your skin. You probably don’t think about it, but free radicals cling to makeup throughout the day, so if you’re not properly cleansing, these free radicals can break down your collagen, resulting in (you guessed it) fine lines and wrinkles.
- Quick Fix: If you tend to be a bit on the lazy side, keep your skincare routine simple. Set things out where you can easily find them and opt for multi-tasking products like a sleep mask so you can sneak in a little extra TLC without feeling as though you need to add another step to your regimen.
Focus on quality products over quantity. The best anti-aging products neutralize skin-damaging free radicals, correct the signs of age, protect against the sun, brighten and tone, and help the skin repair itself. Look for ingredients like vitamin C, flavonoids, niacinamide, coenzyme Q10, resveratrol, vitamin E, and retinoids. These topical vitamin-A based drugs reduce fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen production, improve skin texture, and help reduce sun spots.
Studies show that cigarette smoking increases many symptoms associated with the aging process, including premature aging. The nicotine in cigarettes narrows the blood vessels in the outermost layers of your skin, which in turn impairs blood flow to your skin. With less blood flow, your skin doesn't get as much oxygen and important nutrients, such as vitamin A, leading to a sallow complexion. There are 4,000-plus chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which cause damage to both collagen and elastin, resulting in premature wrinkles (not to mention, smoker’s lines) and sagging skin.
Not-So Quick Fix: When it comes to quitting smoking, there is no quick fix. According to the CDC, fewer than one in ten adult smokers succeed in quitting each year. Even so, smokers can and do manage to quit for good, so don’t let this statistic keep you from trying. Surround yourself with a good support system and don’t be embarrassed to rely on resources and help lines.
Sleeping in the Wrong Position
Unless you sleep like Dracula in his coffin, preventing wrinkles when sleeping isn’t easy. In fact, 47 percent of Americans sleep on their side in the fetal position. While it may be comfy, the repeated pressure when your face is squished into your pillow causes the collagen to break down, eventually leading to visible fine lines and wrinkles.
- Quick Fix: Invest in a back pillow or bolster to put under your knees (like at the spa) to make the position more comfortable. You can also try surrounding the sides of your body with pillows to discourage tossing and turning. Sleep apnea or snorer? See if a different mattress — or bed, such as the Sleep Number — makes the difference. Worst case scenario, there are special pillowcases that prevent wrinkle formation. Of course, if you’re pregnant, avoid sleeping on your back, especially in your second and third trimesters.
Eating a Poor Diet
When you eat well, you feel well — and look well, according to studies and health experts. Not only does a diet rich in fruits and vegetables improve one’s health, but it also protects the skin from free radical damage that causes fine lines, wrinkles, and a loss of elasticity. Time to cruise the internet for some clean eating recipes! On the flip side, sugar and processed foods (many of which contain sugar) have the opposite effect. Studies suggest that sugar results in glycation, a chemical reaction that’s deemed as one of the number one causes of aging skin. You don’t need to give up everything you love. Just enjoy those those tasty eats in moderation.
Alcohol is another skin killer because it causes puffiness, redness, and a loss of collagen. As with smoking, booze zaps the skin of vitamin A, which is essential for new cell growth and the production of collagen. Enjoy happy hour with your colleagues, your dad’s boozy punch on Christmas, and your pool-side colada on vacation, but in moderation, just like some foods.
- Quick Fix-ish: Like quitting smoking, changing your diet isn’t always an overnight success story, so take baby steps to tweak it so you’re not setting yourself up for failure. The basics of a healthy diet include a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables (especially those leafy greens), lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocados. Depending on what your diet looks like now, gradually introduce these changes. Of course, everything in moderation, so this is not to say you have to give up pizza, or holiday pumpkin pie (gasp!). Adopt the 90/10 mindset. Healthy eating 90 percent of the time, indulgences for the remaining 10 percent. Work with a dietician or nutritionist to help you find the best plan for you.