Nobody likes seeing a new wrinkle.
Unfortunately, wrinkles are a part of aging—up to a point. Your habits can make your skin age prematurely, and the right approach can dramatically reduce the appearance of new wrinkles.
Here are a few things many of us are doing every day that can cause our skin to age more rapidly.
1. Not Using Sunscreen
If you only use sunscreen when you’re sitting in direct sunlight at the pool, you’re setting yourself up for some serious skin damage. Even just a few minutes of sun exposure leads to the breakdown of collagen within your skin. Collagen is the protein that gives your skin its strength and elasticity, so when that is damaged, wrinkles start to appear.
“We now have the scientific evidence to back the long-held assumption about the cosmetic value of sunscreen,” said Dr. Adele Green, lead author of a recent study that examined the effects of sunscreen on aging. “Regular sunscreen use by young and mid-aged adults under 55 brings cosmetic benefits and also decreases the risk of skin cancer.”
It’s a good idea to use sunscreen regularly, even on cloudy days, as UV rays simply aren’t great for your skin’s collagen. If you wear makeup, you can even look for brands with built-in SPF protection.
2. Picking at Your Skin
When you start to pick at a zit or ingrown hair, you’re going to do some damage. That’s especially true when you use your fingernails, which often introduce bacteria into the opening in your skin.
“When performed properly, extractions can clear certain types of pimples. However, bad techniques combined with attempts to pick non-pickable pimples can be a recipe for disaster,” said Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, to Allure.
If you need to pick at something, try only using thin tweezers or safety pins, sanitized carefully before and after each use. Better yet, use a product with salicylic acid to treat pimples properly—and if you have a recurring skin issue, see a dermatologist.
3. A High-Sugar Diet
Eating a high sugar diet is terrible for your overall health and especially bad for your skin. The saying “you are what you eat” is actually somewhat true on a molecular level.
When you consume a lot of sugar, a process called glycation occurs; sugar molecules attach themselves to proteins in your skin, causing them to become rigid and disfigured. Collagen is one such protein.
A high-sugar diet can also cause inflammation, which is another cause of collagen breakdown. All of these factors can have a serious impact on the appearance of your skin.
4. Sleeping in Makeup
“During the day you accumulate a lot of oxidative stress,” New York dermatologist Dr. Erin Gilbert told HuffPost. “When you sleep in your makeup you are not giving your skin a chance to recover from those insults, which can lead to premature aging.”
Thicker products are often more problematic, but there’s no “safe” makeup to wear to bed. Don’t be lazy—if you’re headed for the bedroom, wash off your makeup before your head hits the pillow.