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You may be wondering how to prevent wrinkles as you start noticing those first fine lines appear. But to some extent, wrinkles are unavoidable.
As you get older, your body slows down its production of two proteins that play an important role when it comes to the appearance of your skin. These vital proteins are collagen and elastin. Collagen makes up a large part of the dermis (the lower layer of skin just below the skin’s surface), and it is also found in tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and the lungs. It provides support and firmness to your body tissues. Collagen works in partnership with the second protein, which keeps your skin flexible enough to “bounce back” if and when it is stretched by muscle movements.
External factors also play a part in how rapidly your skin ages. The sun is a major player—its ultraviolet (UV) rays damage collagen and elastin, in a process called photo-aging. With repeated exposure to the sun over time, your skin loses its ability to repair itself and can become leathery, loose, and wrinkled. If you smoke, you risk speeding up this process. Plus, if you tend to squint to avoid the smoke from a cigarette going into your eyes, you run the risk of exacerbating “crows’ feet” lines around your eyes. And pursing your lips to grip a cigarette contributes to lines around your lips.
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How to Prevent Wrinkles Step 1: Take Sun Protection Seriously
While you can’t stop the natural skin aging process, you can mitigate the effects of sun exposure by taking sun protection seriously. If possible, stay out of the sun when it is at its strongest (from 10 a.m. to about 3 p.m.), and wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen on your face (and any other exposed areas of skin) year-round.
Sunscreen provides a barrier that absorbs or reflects the sun’s UV rays, protecting your skin from sunburn and also helping to prevent the premature aging that can cause obvious wrinkles even in your 30s and 40s. And don’t skip the sunscreen just because it’s cool and cloudy; UV radiation is independent of the temperature, and clouds block as little as 20 percent of the sun’s UV rays.
Choose your sunscreen carefully. Some are designed for use on the face, and may incorporate emollients and other anti-aging ingredients, but a basic sunscreen will do just as well as long as it isn’t too thick. Something you do want to take note of is the sun protection factor (SPF) of your chosen product, since this indicates how long it would take for you to sustain a sunburn while wearing the sunscreen as opposed to going out in the sun with no sunscreen on. A sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 (the minimum recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology) multiplies the latter by 30. So if your skin burns in 10 minutes while unprotected, using SPF 30 sunscreen should protect you from burning for 300 minutes as long as the sunscreen doesn’t rub or wash off.
How to Prevent Wrinkles Step 2: Quit Smoking
Giving up the habit of smoking also is important for your skin health—and for your general health as you age, since it raises your risk for several cancers as well as cardiovascular disease, among other health conditions.
Smoking narrows the blood vessels in the outer layers of the skin, which reduces the supply of oxygen-rich blood and vitamins to your skin—plus, the chemicals in tobacco smoke damage collagen and elastin. Research suggests that compared to nonsmokers, moderate smokers are twice as likely to develop premature wrinkles, and heavy smokers are three times as likely to get them. (See our post “How to Quit Smoking: 6 Steps to Success.”)
How to Prevent Wrinkles Step 3: Eat a Skin-Friendly Diet
While there isn’t a specific diet that can prevent wrinkles, you should boost your intake of the nutrients to improve skin health. Healthy skin is better able to stand up to environmental challenges that may otherwise leave it looking gray and tired. Sunlight depletes the level of antioxidants in your skin, but you can replenish them by packing your diet with plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables (aim for five cups per day).
Make sure you also get sufficient vitamin A, since it aids skin cell regeneration—you’ll find it in sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, eggs, milk, and herring.
And add omega-6 fatty acids to the mix—these promote moisture retention in the skin. Good sources include safflower and soybean oils, walnuts, flaxseed, and sunflower seeds. For more on how eating the right foods can prevent wrinkles, check out “14 Foods that Prevent Wrinkles and Improve Skin.”
How to Prevent Wrinkles Step 4: Avoid Dehydration
Lack of moisture can dry out your skin, making lines and wrinkles more prominent. Drink several glasses of water each day, along waith other beverages and foods that have a high water content (for example, cucumbers, celery, melon, tomatoes, and leafy greens). To read more about the signs and symptoms of dehydration, check out “Do You Have Chronic Dehydration?” See also our post “Confused About How Much Water to Drink? A Myth-vs.-Reality Check.”
How to Prevent Wrinkles Step 5: Use Anti-Aging Skin Creams
A wide range of skin products claim to be able to turn back the clock. While many of the active ingredients included in these creams and lotions haven’t undergone any comprehensive scientific research, topical retinoids are likely to make a difference. Two of them—tretinoin and tazarotene—have been through rigorous testing and were approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. They are available only by prescription, but some over-the-counter creams also contain retinoids (which may be listed as retinol, retinyl, or retinoic acid) in a lower strength.
Other active ingredients that may help include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and peptides. AHAs slough off dead cells from the surface of your skin, improving its appearance in the process, while peptoids may stimulate the body’s production of collagen.
SOURCES & RESOURCES
For related reading, please visit these posts:
- Vitamins for Skin Health
- Nutritional Sunscreen: 5 Foods that Protect Your Skin From Sun Damage
- Don’t Turn Your Back on Melanoma Symptoms
See also the American Academy of Dermatology Association’s website.
How to Prevent Wrinkles Step 6: Consider Injectables
If you aren’t satisfied with the results you see from using topical anti-aging treatments, there are other options. The most well-known is botulinum neurotoxin (Botox, Dysport, Xeomin). This is derived from the bacteria that causes botulism, and has a numbing effect—so when injected in minute amounts into specific muscles, it prevents them contracting. Regular botulinum neurotoxin treatments can prevent new lines from forming and reduce the appearance of existing lines.
Deeper lines and creases, particularly those running from the sides of the nose to the corners of the mouth (called nasolabial folds), respond well to dermal fillers, which are injected under the skin to plump up sagging areas. Options include Juvederm, Restylane, and Perlane. Keep in mind though that none of them are permanent, so if you decide to use them be prepared for maintenance treatments.