As much as we love the perks of getting older — maturity, wisdom and being comfortable in our own skin — we don’t want our skin to become dull and wrinkly. And while none of us can reverse the one-way ride that is the aging process, we can definitely slow it down.
But how much of aging is in the hands of fate and genetics? According to dermatologist Doris Day, “Only about 10 percent of how your skin ages is genetic, so you have a lot of control.”
For the 90 percent of aging we can control, here are five skin care mistakes that are aging you.
1. NOT WEARING SUNSCREEN
It’s a beauty tip that is so over-emphasized we almost take it for granted. But the proof is in the pudding — or, shall we say, in the protection.
“90 percent of wrinkles are from the sun, so SPF is the best anti-ager,” Day says.
Even if we’re only outdoors for a short amount of time each day, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of the sun. At over 27 million degrees and a size that’s approximately 109 times larger than the earth, it’s understandable that the sun plays a major role in aging.
This is good news for those of us who can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on special anti-aging treatments. A simple SPF can keep us looking younger without putting a hole in our wallets.
2. BEING TOO ROUGH ON YOUR SKIN
Our facial skin is fragile, particularly the area around our eyes. Repeated pulling and tugging during makeup application or cleansing routines can take a toll and cause fine lines.
“Try not to pull on your eyes when applying liner, as this can cause premature wrinkles and sagging of skin,” says Lori Leib, Creative Director of Bodyography Professional Cosmetics. “Instead, train yourself to apply liner with a steady hand, or switch from pencil to gel liner as it applies a lot smoother. A rough hand can cause redness and premature wrinkles.”
Over-exfoliating (more than three times per week) is also damaging to the skin. “You’re actually removing the protective barrier that your skin has,” says Dr. Ben Johnson, founder of Osmosis Pur Medical Skincare. “Once removed, your skin is exposed to environmental toxins and sun damage, causing aging.”
3. POOR EXERCISE AND SLEEP HABITS
It goes without saying that smoking is a serious no-no when it comes to wrinkle prevention, but you might be surprised to learn that a sedentary lifestyle can add years to your face, too.
“Exercising is one of the best things you can do for healthy skin,” says Ellen Marmur, MD. “When exercise turns you pink, you’re dilating all the blood vessels in your skin and washing the area with nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood.”
Another way we unintentionally accelerate the aging process is by not getting enough sleep. Studies have shown that sleep quality has a direct effect on skin quality, and that not getting enough sleep increases the signs of aging.
4. POOR DIET
We can’t escape it: We are what we eat. If we’re constantly filling out bodies with junk food, our skin just isn’t going to be as lovely as it would be if we were eating a diet rich in essential nutrients.
But can a healthy diet actually delay aging? Nutritionist and dietician, Nicolette Pace, believes it can. “Some studies indicate that it is indeed possible to delay aging and get an improvement in skin condition by improving your diet.”
Ingredients that most benefit our skin include antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, beta carotene, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. This translates to foods such as berries, tomatoes, fish, yogurt, nuts, avocados and honey. Be sure to add these items to your next grocery list!
5. NOT REMOVING MAKEUP AT NIGHT
We’ve all come home from a long, busy day and heard our bed calling to us so loudly that the most we could do was change our clothes and collapse into bed… but wait, not so fast!
Going to bed with makeup on doesn’t allow the skin to breathe, causing pores to become clogged and larger over time. To put it more scientifically: “During the day you accumulate a lot of oxidative stress,” says dermatologist Dr. Gilbert. “When you sleep in your makeup, you are not giving your skin a chance to recover from those insults, which can lead to premature aging.”
Or take it from another expert, Dr. Eric Schweiger, founder of the Clear Clinic: “Free radicals from the environment (often in the form of pollution) remain on the skin when you do not clean your face properly at night. Free radicals cause collagen breakdown over time, which results in the development of fine lines and prematurely aged skin.”