Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered when all those spots and wrinkles showed up? Aging is something to be celebrated. But if your face is starting to look much older than your actual age, there might be some lifestyle factors at play that are speeding uptime. Here are nine reasons your face looks older than you are.
1. A lack of sun protection
Although the sun is a significant source of vitamin D, too much exposure doesn’t treat the skin too kindly. “Protecting your face from the sun is the single best way of keeping it youthful,” according to Harvard Medical School. “Much of the damage comes from the UVA part of the light spectrum, so you need to put on sunscreen that protects against it and UVB light, which causes sunburn.” The American Academy of Dermatology suggests protecting your skin with clothing, such as a wide-brim hat, and seeking shade whenever you can. Plus, apply daily a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30.
2. Poor skin care
Besides forgetting sunscreen, there are several other areas of your skincare routine that might be contributing to premature aging. For instance, if you really scour your face to clean it — or use harsh or drying skincare products — you might want to take things more gently. “Scrubbing your skin clean can irritate your skin,” the American Academy of Dermatology says. “Irritating your skin accelerates skin aging.” Plus, if you have dry skin — a common issue, especially among older adults — it’s important to soothe your skin with moisturizers and other products. This can temporarily make wrinkles less noticeable, as well as limit further damage.
3. Your sleep position
Over time, those lines from your pillow can start to become permanent. “Sleep creases are commonly seen on the side of the forehead, starting above the eyebrows to the hairline near the temples, as well as on the middle of the cheeks,” according to Cleveland Clinic. “They result from the way the head is positioned on the pillow and may become more visible after the skin starts losing its elasticity.” If you’re a stomach or side sleeper, try switching to your back to avoid these creases. But if you can’t adjust your sleep position, consider changing your pillowcase to a smoother fabric that won’t tug and scrunch your face as much.
4. Repetitive facial movements
If you spend your days furrowing your brow as you work on your computer or squinting as you drive in the sunlight, you probably can expect to see some wrinkles forming in those spots on your face. As people reach their 30s and 40s, the skin begins to lose elasticity. So it’s easier for any repetitive facial movements to leave their marks. “Lines may appear horizontally on the forehead, vertically on the skin above the top of the nose (the space between the eyes), or as small curved lines on the temples, upper cheeks and around the mouth,” Cleveland Clinic says. Whenever you can, try to catch yourself holding tension in your face — unless, of course, you’re laughing or smiling. Those reactions are worth the wrinkles.
5. Your diet
It’s true: You are what you eat. And there’s a good chance you’d be able to tell the difference between a person who frequently eats unhealthy, processed foods versus someone who eats a nutrient-rich diet just by looking at their faces. “Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables may help prevent damage that leads to premature skin aging,” according to the American Academy of Dermatology. “Findings from research studies also suggest that a diet containing lots of sugar or other refined carbohydrates can accelerate aging.” And if you really want to give your skin a boost, try incorporating some more hydrating foods into your diet that your body will drink right up.
6. Smoking & drinking alcohol
There are many reasons to steer clear of smoking and drinking alcohol in excess. And avoiding prematurely aging skin is one of them. “People who smoke tend to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers of the same age, complexion, and history of sun exposure,” according to Cleveland Clinic. There isn’t a clear reason for this, but it might have something to do with how smoking affects blood flow throughout the skin. Similarly, drinking alcohol dehydrates the skin, which temporarily can make it appear less radiant. And repetitive use can contribute to skin damage over time.
7. A lack of exercise
In addition to a nutritious diet, getting enough physical activity also can help bring a healthy glow to your skin. “Findings from a few studies suggest that moderate exercise can improve circulation and boost the immune system,” according to the American Academy of Dermatology. “This, in turn, may give the skin a more youthful appearance.” But it’s also important to remember that perspiration can be irritating to the skin. So whenever you work up a sweat, it’s ideal to wash your skin — especially your face — as soon as possible with a gentle cleanser.
Besides causing health issues, such as cancer and respiratory diseases, air pollution can prematurely age your skin. One study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found air pollution can contribute to skin inflammation and aging by causing oxidative stress and impairing collagen synthesis. “Although human skin acts as a biological shield against pro-oxidative chemicals and physical air pollutants, prolonged or repetitive exposure to high levels of these pollutants may have profound negative effects on the skin,” according to a review of air pollution’s effects on the skin. And for some people, pollution also might cause or exacerbate certain conditions, including psoriasis, acne, dermatitis, and eczema.
9. Your cellphone
We know the blue light from our cellphones and other devices with screens can disrupt sleep. And impaired sleep itself can cause premature aging. But recent research also has indicated that blue light might damage skin. One study saw blue light exposure led to more hyperpigmentation than skin that had been exposed to UVB rays. And another study found blue light-induced oxidative stress in the skin — though it was measured at the intensity found in sunlight and not the lower levels of electronics. Further research still must be done to know any definitive effects of such devices. Still, if you spend a lot of time squinting to read your cellphone or another device, you might get some tired-looking eyes and premature wrinkles. And that’s as good a reason as any to unplug for a bit.