A few case studies have revealed evidence for several behaviors that are thought to expedite the onset of signs of aging. Check it out:
Culprit #1: Not washing your face
Evidence: A woman didn't wash her face for 30 days (left: before, right: after). A dermatologist estimated that it aged her skin by about 10 years.
Why? Aside from allowing for skin irritation and acne-forming oil and bacteria to develop on her skin, not washing her makeup off every night definitely contributed to the aging process. Your skin needs a certain amount of oxygen and moisture to repair and regenerate properly when you sleep, which is tough to do with makeup sitting on your skin. In addition, pollutants and free radicals in the air get on our skin from simply walking around outside every day. You need to cleanse your face to not only remove oil, germs, and makeup, but also to remove free radicals, which accelerate the skin aging process.
Solution: Wash your face each night before you go to bed. If you have oily/combination skin, try a gel-based cleanser like the Boscia Detoxifying Black Mask ($28 at Sephora). For normal or dryer skin types, try a creamier formula like the Jurlique Rose Moisture Plus with Antioxidant Complex Moisturizing Cleanser ($22 on amazon.com).
Culprit #2: Sun Exposure
Evidence: A 69-year-old man, who spent 28 years as a truck driver, had much more pronounced signs of aging on the left side of his face, which had been exposed to the sun as he was driving, than the right side of this face.
Why? The UV radiation that is emitted from the sun is extremely hot and so powerful that it can penetrate glass (like car windows). Our bodies in general were not made to be able to tolerate this heat for prolonged periods of time. For example, in addition to feeling tired or dehydrated, the sun can play a part in the formation of cataracts. While exposure to short-term, intense sunlight (like at the beach) can burn us, prolonged and consistent exposure to any sunlight can help in the formation of both sunspots and wrinkles.
Solution: Wear a heavy, physical sunblock like the Lavanila Laboratories The Healthy Sunscreen SPF 40 Face Cream ($28 at Sephora) during your days at the beach. Don't forget that the sun is out every day, so it's important to apply a moisturizer with SPF like the bareMinerals Advanced Protection SPF 20 Moisturizer ($30 at Sephora) every morning. And for those times, you end up exposing yourself to more sunlight than you intended (driving on a sunny day), whip the Murad Essential-C Sun Balm Broad Spectrum SPF 35 ($25 at Sephora) out of purse and quickly glide the stick formula over your skin.
Culprit #3: Not Moisturizing Adequately
Evidence: A woman's wrinkles diminished and skin tone evened around the eye area after using an eye cream for a few weeks (absolutely no retouching involved!).
Why? First, your skin needs hydration to retain a natural moisture balance that allows it to appear healthy and undergo processes such as cell regeneration. So when you moisturize, you are allowing your skin to function at its best. Moisturizing also makes your skin more supple and elastic, which can make it more resilient to stretching when you rub it, laugh, etc. Specifically, the skin around the eye area is particularly fragile and thin, so wrinkles can really easily develop there. Lines around the eye and lip can get further exaggerated as we laugh and smile. Eye and lip creams, in particular, can provide a better level of hydration and richer nutrients to prevent wrinkles in this area.
Culprit #4: Smoking
Evidence: The picture below shows identical twin sisters. The one of the left is a non-smoker, and the one of the right has been smoking for 29 years.
Why? As many of us know, smoking is detrimental to your overall health. The damage that it does to your organs and systems will be reflected in your skin through sagging around the eyes and nose and discoloration of certain areas of the face. In addition, facial gestures during smoking can lead to wrinkles around the mouth and chin areas faster than you would hope.
Solution: Stop smoking!
Culprit #5: Dehydration
Evidence: A woman, who was drinking less than the recommended water intake, began to drink 3 liters of water per day. Just 4 weeks later, her skin looked noticeably healthier and more youthful.
Why? Afterall, our bodies are composed of about 70% water, which is vital to our functioning. In terms of skincare, water helps flush out toxins that make us more prone to blemishes. The natural glow and reduced appearance of wrinkles in the right-hand photo can be explained by the fact that water helps maintain the moisture balance that keeps skin soft, making our skin more supple and elastic.
Solution: It is recommended that we drink at least 8 cups of water per day. Many of us don't actually keep track of how much water we're drinking. So to make sure that you're drinking enough, set aside at least 4 pint-sized water bottles each morning to finish by the end of the day.
In addition, there are a few correlates with aging that haven't been proved with concrete photos like the ones mentioned above. However, there are scientific explanations for them.
Culprit #6: Poor Diet
Explanation: Like the rest of your organs, your skin needs vitamins and nutrients. The foods that are good for your skin are the foods that are good for you in general. Eating tons of fruits and vegetables will help protect your skin and the rest of your body with antioxidants. Specifically, foods like oranges that contain vitamin C can promote skin cell turnover, and foods like turmeric, a part of the ginger family, work to brighten your complexion. Working to incorporate them into your diet as well as into your skincare products can bring on a multi-pronged attacked against aging.
Solution: Sometimes, it can be hard or unappealing to eat these foods in place of others or as snacks in addition to regular meals. The easiest way to work skin-healthy ingredients into your diet is by subtly adding them to your meals. If you're cooking pasta, simply throw in some extra green veggies, add some turmeric powder to your sauce, or squeeze a citrus fruit into your drink.
Culprit #7: Lack of Exercise
Explanation: Mild to moderate aerobic exercise (super rigorous exercise can put a lot of pressure on your skin) can help prevent wrinkle formation by helping maintain a healthy balance of moisture and oil to keep your skin supple and elastic. It also promotes circulation and stimulates new cell growth, which give your complexion a nice, natural glow. Sweating while you work out can help flush your skin of toxins...just remember to cleanse afterwards to prevent acne and odor.
Solution: Exercise doesn't have to mean buying a gym membership or finding an extra hour in the day to jog. Simply take the long walking route to work in the morning or swap the elevator for the stairs :)
Culprit #8: Not Enough Sleep
Explanation: In general, the PM is a night for your body to regroup and recharge for the next day. As a part of this process, your skin is regenerating skin and drying to recover from the damage of the day. If you're not getting efficient and enough sleep, you're denying your skin this opportunity.
Solution: It's definitely hard to squeeze more hours of sleep in with our busy schedules. So, instead try to work on getting quality sleep. Soothing pre-bed routines such as a taking warm bath, drinking herbal tea, or reading a good book can help calm the mind and prepare your body for optimal sleep mode. Also, remember to avoid caffeine in the evenings and staring a at computer screen too late at night (the stimulating lights keep you awake).
Lastly, there is one proposed correlation with aging that has received rather mixed results:
Culprit #9: Pulling
Theory: Some people speculate that consistent stretching on the skin can promote wrinkles. For example, we often hear that it is best to sleep on your back with a silk pillowcase to prevent crease lines and tugging that occurs when your face is on a pillow. There really hasn't been any "evidence" or scientific explanation for this assertion (because it's pretty tough to measure), though many hypothesize that the link exists. In my opinion, it makes sense that constant pulling can stretch the skin, and it's better to avoid it just in case.
Solution: Only use gentle, upward motions when massaging your face or applying products. In addition, use your ring finger to apply cream around delicate areas like the eyes and lips. Your ring finger gives you the least amount of control, so you exert less pressure on it when you smooth cream into your skin. As for pillow wrinkles, you can try a silk pillowcase. The Pond's Institute even recently came out with an Illuminage Skin Rejuvenating Pillowcase with Copper Oxide ($60 at Bergdorf Goodman). Copper is a mineral that helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles and is embedded in the fibers of this
pillowcase. Not to mention that it's super soft too. If anyone tries it, let me know what you think!
The takeaways? There are multiple factors that contribute to aging, though we don't necessarily know which ones contribute more. The best way to prevent wrinkles and sunspots is to approach the aging process holistically, paying extra attention to "proven" causes of aging like sun exposure and proper skincare. Just remember that fighting aging is about good wrinkle creams AND good general health behaviors.
**All product recommendations are healthy!