Statista reports that the global anti-aging market is expected to exceed $216 billion by 2021, which will represent an increase of more than $76 billion in just six years.
And in most of these instances, customers are looking to fight one of the primary signs of aging: wrinkles.
As it turns out, though, the most effective measures for reducing wrinkles involve preventing them from appearing in the first place. How? That’s exactly what we’ll outline in this step-by-step article.
What Causes Wrinkles?
How soon your skin starts to wrinkle is partially predetermined by genetics. As we age, the outer layer of skin, called the epidermis, thins. Thinning skin allows much-needed moisture to escape.
The second layer, the dermis, also begins to produce less collagen as we get older. Collagen is the protein that makes our skin elastic and smooth—less of it means that skin creases and sags more readily in response to daily wear and tear.
Finally, fat cells in the subcutaneous layer become smaller as you age. This also contributes to sagging and crinkling, as well as a general loss of volume.
» Related: What Causes Crepey Skin
But it's not just getting older that can affect collagen production and visible signs of aging. The environment also plays an important role: What did you do? How much sun was your skin exposed to? Did you repeatedly gain and lose weight? All of these things affect how much elasticity is in our skin.
We searched the Internet to find the best expert advice on what causes wrinkles and which habits and products will help you prevent them. The result is our big list of 19 proven ways to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
1. Wear Sunscreen
In our Sunscreen Buying Guide, we interviewed Dr. Kally Papantoniou, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic, laser, and surgical dermatology in New York City, who emphasized “sunscreen is an essential way to prevent skin cancer, protecting your skin from ultraviolet damage and also reducing the effects of photo-aging that occurs.”
Specifically, she recommends focusing on formulas with zinc or titanium oxide, since the physical UV blockers tend to be less irritating while providing broad-spectrum UV-A and UV-B protection.
» See Also: Best Face Sunscreen Buying Guide
2. Wear Sunglasses
The thin, flexible skin around your eyes allows for a great deal of expressiveness, but this feature also means the region is especially prone to premature aging. Specifically, the formation of crow’s feet.
The best way to protect this skin and reduce signs of aging? Since we can’t remain indoors all the time, in addition to sunscreen, be sure to wear UV-blocking sunglasses when you’re enjoying the beauty of the outdoors.
3. Stay Away from Smoking
There’s no avoiding it: Smoking causes wrinkles. How?
J. Taylor Hays, M.D. explains, “The nicotine in cigarettes causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the outermost layers of your skin, which impairs blood flow. With less blood flow, your skin doesn't get as much oxygen and important nutrients, such as vitamin A.”
» See Also: How to Stop Smoking Cigarettes Naturally
4. Take Steps to Manage Stress
When you’re stressed out, your body releases a powerful aging hormone called cortisol into your bloodstream. Cortisol causes thinning of the skin, which results in prominent blood vessels and premature wrinkling.
5. Don’t Skimp on Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3, help nourish skin and keep it plump and youthful. As a result, Scott Gerrish, MD, interviewed for an Everyday Health article, recommends eating “fresh caught Atlantic salmon three times a week or another fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as herring, mackerel, trout, or tuna.”
Related: Do Omega-3 Supplements Affect Aging?
6. Eat Your Antioxidants
Instead of paying extra for expensive creams that promise to deliver antioxidant action, get the real deal by adding antioxidant-rich foods to your diet.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants to fight skin-damaging free radicals, which can help reverse existing damage and promote a healthy glow.
7. Add Some Spice
The Mayo Clinic reports there’s some clinical evidence that spices like cumin, paprika, saffron, turmeric, basil, dill, oregano, and rosemary can deliver many health benefits—even some related to cardiovascular health and cancer.
Like many fruits and vegetables, they also contain high levels of antioxidants that can fight free radical damage—a leading cause of aged skin.
8. Cut Down on Alcohol
You probably already know that consuming alcohol dehydrates the body. But, researchers have also found drinking damages the part of cells linked to premature aging and cancer.
On top of cell damage and dehydration, drinking before bed can decrease your chances of getting enough rest, while also raising cortisol levels.
That’s because alcohol causes your throat muscles to relax, leading to irregular breathing. This can prevent you from achieving continuous deep and REM sleep, which leads to increased stress levels.
9. Stay Hydrated
Drinking plenty of water doesn’t just keep your body functioning properly—it delivers essential moisture in your skin, which in turn maintains its softness and suppleness.
On the other hand, if you don’t get your fill of daily water, this can leave your skin dry and more prone to wrinkle formation. This dryness can also accentuate your existing wrinkles.
When it comes to how much water to drink, we've been conditioned to believe that eight glasses a day is a one-size-fits-all guideline. But in reality, there is no magic number. Here’s how to stay on top of your water needs:
- Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up.
- Keep water next to your bed when you go to sleep at night.
- Keep water at your desk at work.
- Put a sticky note on your computer to remind you to drink up.
- Carry a water bottle with you in your bag.
- Drink before, during, and after exercise. If exercising for longer than 60 minutes, consider a sports drink.
10. Avoid Yo-Yo Dieting
Another reason to aim for a balanced diet instead of lightning-fast weight loss is the effect yo-yo dieting can have on your skin.
Much like a rubber band, your skin can only stretch and contract so many times before its ability to spring back into shape decreases, leading to wrinkles and premature sagging.
11. Don’t Neglect Your Eyes
Do you tend to squint reading, in an attempt to adjust your eyes to the text? Since this expression causes the muscles in your forehead to contract, repeatedly doing so over time can exacerbate the appearance of the creases in between your eyes, which are known as frown lines.
The good news is that a solution might be as easy as undergoing an eye exam since the proper eyewear can reduce squinting and soften the appearance of existing lines.
12. Maintain Good Circulation
Regular exercise gets your cardiovascular system going, which is great for obtaining much-needed nutrients and oxygen for your skin.
And while cardio is great for your skin and heart health, don’t forget to add in weight strengthening exercises to maintain the muscles that provide underlying support for your skin.
13. Look After Your Teeth
Your teeth, along with your jaw bone, form the scaffolding that holds your face skin in place.
While dentures are a helpful substitute, nothing can replace the structure formed by a healthy mouthful of pearly whites.
14. Wash Off Your Makeup
Celebrity dermatologist Dr. Annie Chiu advises “dirt and makeup trapped against your skin cause environmentally-induced oxidative damage. This leads to a breakdown of the skin barrier and prematurely ages your face.”
As a perhaps extreme example of this, the Daily Mail’s Anna Pursglove agreed to stop washing off her makeup for 30 consecutive days back in 2013.
After undergoing 3D cosmetic imaging to measure factors like “pigmentation, broken veins, enlarged pores, and wrinkles,” experts concluded that her “skin was biologically approximately a decade older than before” she began.
15. Moisturize Regularly
Leaving moisturizer out of your routine today could lead to deeper wrinkles later on. That’s because when the skin becomes dry, its barriers can be compromised.
This can lead to a chronic low-grade inflammation that occurs in the skin. And low levels of ongoing inflammation ultimately result in a breakdown of collagen and accelerated aging.
» See More: Making the Most Out of Your Moisturizer
16. Avoid Facial Exercises
When researching this article, we found a wide range of natural anti-aging regimens that suggest facial exercises. However, experts like George A. Beraka, MD, a retired Manhattan plastic surgeon, disagree and say that “facial exercises should never be done to your skin.”
Why? “Because the muscles of the face are the only muscles in the body that are attached to the skin. Meaning that when you "exercise" your facial muscles, you are actually dragging the skin around, causing further wrinkling and stretching,” he explains.
17. Sleep However You’re Most Comfortable
Many anti-aging guides on sites like WebMD will suggest that you start sleeping exclusively on your back. According to Dr. Scott Gerrish, this is because “sleeping with your face pressed against the pillow can cause sleep lines, which can turn into wrinkles. Satin pillowcases can also help in the anti-wrinkle fight.”
However, modern humans, due to smaller than normal jaws, are unable to breathe well during sleep when supine due to the tongue falling back (due to gravity) and especially in a deep sleep when our muscles relax. In fact, the more crowded your mouth is or, the more trouble you have breathing, the more likely you’re going to be a natural side or stomach sleeper.
Anything that prevents you from your normal preferred position will increase the number of obstructions and arousals, leading to less efficient sleep. Less efficient sleep leads to higher levels of stress and cortisol, leading to more wrinkles.
So, if you can’t stand to sleep on your back just to a avoid wrinkles, consider purchasing a satin pillowcase. The slippery fabric allows skin to move across it without creasing, decreasing nightly damage.
» For Further Reading: How Sleep Apnea Can Negatively Affect Your Appearance
18. Try Retin-A or Renova
Retinol products—serums, day creams, or night creams—contain vitamin A derivatives that can help stimulate cell turnover to help plump creases.
The most effective retinoids are prescription; Retin-A—and its gentler counterpart, Renova, if you have dry skin—has been proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, as well as thicken thinning skin.
If you’re unable to purchase prescription Retin-A, alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic or lactic acid, help prevent and treat wrinkles by loosening the keratin bonds that keep dry, dead skin cells sticking around your epidermis.
However, be aware that both vitamin A creams such as Retin-A and alpha hydroxy acids are photosensitive, meaning that you'll need to take extra care with sunscreen as regular use will make your skin more sensitive to UV rays.
19. Add Topical Vitamin C
Clinical evidence exists that applying high-quality vitamin C containing products to your skin daily can provide a variety of potential anti-aging benefits, including reducing the appearance of brown spots, increasing the production of collagen, decreasing swelling, and reducing the appearance of acne-related red marks.
Final Thoughts: To Be Completely Wrinkle-Free Comes at a Cost
The pursuit of a wrinkle-free face isn’t for the love of smooth skin, itself. Instead, our ongoing quest for preventative steps or fixes that will allow us to look a little younger for a little longer is part of a greater goal of looking—and feeling—attractive.
This is where many articles on the topic of wrinkle prevention turn knowingly to their readers and say something along the lines of “The only way to really guarantee aging gracefully is to accept the changes that passing time brings to your complexion.” Conforming with the cliche, an article by WebMD goes a step further and suggests rebranding your wrinkles as ‘laughter lines.’
Since self-acceptance is so much less expensive than cosmetic surgery, why aren’t we all rushing to take the higher road?
Because we want to feel attractive, of course! And ‘attractive’ is strongly tied with appearing youthful in our culture.
But, before you reach for the Botox, know this: Scientists who have long-studied the importance of facial symmetry in perceived attractiveness are learning something new:
“We have found that facial expressions are nearly as important as physical features in determining attractiveness,” Michael Cunningham. Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Louisville in Kentucky reports to Oprah.com. “When people are smiling, others are drawn to them much more than if they look cold.”
So, by all means, take steps to preserve the health and youthful glow of your skin. But, when the time comes, as Goldberg suggested, consider if Botox is right for you, remember that a face in repose will be judged for its wrinkles and architecture.
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