There's no getting around it: As we age, our skin naturally ages with us. But there are certain things that can make your skin look older than it should. Here are the top seven things that will age your skin fast—along with the skin care strategies that counter these aging forces and support optimal skin health.
1. The sun. You may love the warmth of the rays on a sunny day, but your skin is absorbing ultraviolet radiation. Even on cloudy, overcast days, the sun is a powerful source of ultraviolet radiation that attacks and breaks down the skin, destroying skin health. You may get a tan, but you are left with damaged, wrinkled, dried skin that has lost considerable collagen (the connective tissue that gives skin that youthful glow). What to do? Wear sunscreen, even in winter, and no tanning beds—ever.
2. Smoking. If the threats of lung cancer and heart disease are not enough incentive for you to kick the habit, consider that smoking breaks down your skin’s collagen fast, leading to that sunken, wrinkled look. And once collagen is gone, it is hard to restore. So, for your skin health—and overall health—quit for good.
3. Sugar. We all know that sugar can mess with blood glucose levels and pack on unnecessary calories, but did you know that sugar feeds inflammation that can affect skin health? Most of us have some level of chronic inflammation going on internally in our body. This inflammation can cause pain (ever notice that too much sugar can give you a headache?) and can tear down collagen, which reduces skin firmness. So become an avid reader of food labels and avoid those products with added sugars or made with high fructose corn syrup.
4. Alcohol. Alcohol is a busy multitasker when it comes to aging skin. Alcoholic beverages cause dehydration, which reduces skin health. The toxins that cause hangovers also damage the skin’s collagen. And heavy drinking leads to liver damage, which itself will cause the skin to dry out and yellow. Moreover, drinking can cause you to lose your good judgment, which means you might start making other unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as overeating or going out without your sunscreen.
5. Coffee. Coffee is not bad for you, but it has a dehydrating effect on the body. Healthy, beautiful skin is well hydrated—meaning you need to drink a lot of water. So, if you can’t do without your coffee, just make sure you add extra water to your diet to offset the java. Figure for every eight ounces of coffee you drink that you drink eight more ounces of water.
6. Sleep deficits. Go without enough sleep for a few days and you’ll see the “evidence” in the skin around your eyes. Make sleep an important part of your skin care regimen and be sure you get enough rest, all of the time. Young people can burn the midnight oil without too much visible wear and tear, but the older we get, the more our late hours show!
7. No skin care routine. People with the nicest-looking skin are generally either 14 years old or they have the best skin care routines. Fortunately, the best skin care regimens do not have to be time consuming or expensive. Make sure your skin is clean. Exfoliate regularly but gently. Apply lots of moisturizer, and periodically apply a thin layer of oil on your skin before bedtime.