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Ageing skin: Do you look older than you should?

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Wrinkles and other signs of skin ageing can be influenced by habits and behaviours during a person's life. Avoiding some risk factors for premature skin ageing can help keep skin looking younger for longer.

Sun exposure

A "healthy" tan is anything but. Tanning is a sign of skin damage, evidence that the sun's ultraviolet rays have penetrated and damaged the skin's support structure. Most wrinkles are caused by sun exposure throughout life - and it's never too late to halt the process.

What you can do: Wear sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 (with UVA and UVB protection). The hands and face are particularly vulnerable to sun damage, due to their frequent exposure. Make sunscreen application part of your out-the-door routine.


Beyond question, smoking is bad for your skin. Smoking accelerates the ageing process, wrinkling skin and making you look old beyond your years.
Early wrinkling is visible under a microscope in smokers as young as 20. The more years and packs smoked, the more likely wrinkles will occur. Wrinkles are also more likely to be deeper in smokers. Tobacco smoke gives skin an unhealthy colour and coarse texture, as well.

What you can do: Stop smoking!

How facial muscle contractions cause wrinkles

Wrinkles at the corners of the eyes (crow's feet) or between the eyebrows (frown lines) are thought to be caused by small muscle contractions. Over a lifetime, habitual facial expressions like frowning, smiling or squinting leave their mark on our skin.

What you can do: Wear sunglasses or corrective lenses to avoid squinting from the sun or shortsightedness. If the furrowed-brow glare is a regular part of your facial repertoire, trade it in for a more Zen-monk-like gaze.

How sleeping positions may cause wrinkles

The way you sleep may actually cause wrinkles. No matter how soft your pillow, if you sleep on your side or front, it puts pressure on your face each night. Over years, this can etch lines into your chin, cheeks or forehead. Your personal pattern of sleep lines depends on how you tend to rest your face on the pillow.

What you can do: Sleep on your back. People who don't sleep with their face on a pillow do not tend to develop sleep lines.

Yo-yo dieting

Some experts believe that years of repeated yo-yo dieting - losing and gaining back large amounts of weight - can damage the skin. Repeated stretching of the skin may damage the elastic structure that gives skin its youthful, firm tone.

What you can do: If you've decided to lose weight, do it at a reasonable pace. Most experts recommend losing a pound or two a week. Avoid binge eating, which leads to rapid weight gain that could stretch the skin.

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