Age is not the only culprit of wrinkles and neither are genetics. There are factors that come into play caused by one’s lifestyle and beauty habits that can exacerbate the aging process. Wrinkles and fine lines are the most visible signs of skin aging along with discoloration, uneven skin tone, and overall dryness and brittleness. Wrinkles develop because skin loses its natural ability to hold and lock in moisture, making it more prone to damage. Skin cells also produce collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid in smaller amounts as we age. Mirwat Sami, M.D., is a Houston board-certified ophthalmologist specializing in ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive Surgery. “It is the skin’s elasticity which prevents unwanted lines and furrows from forming, and keeps skin from sagging,” she says. “Although wrinkles naturally develop with age, there are bad habits you can break to stop being a skin saboteur.”
Sami’s recommendations for habits clients should avoid for younger-looking skin.
- Sleeping on Your Sides and Stomach You might get a good night’s sleep on your sides and tummy but you’re unnecessarily stressing your skin. Fetal and tummy positions when sleeping cause uneven blood circulation which locks up nourishment, blood, and oxygen on some parts of your body while depriving other body parts, including skin and causing it to become wrinkled. Sami says that, “Not only do these sleeping positions cause wrinkles, poor blood circulation causes fluids to be stuck around your eyes. This contributes to the formation of eye bags and dark under eye circles that make you look tired and older. Additionally, sleeping on the face or on one side can result in worsening of age-related descent of our features. I can usually tell which side my patients sleep on because there is more flattening and deflation of the face on that side.”
- Central heating Many of us spend a fortune on anti-aging products, yet we may regularly accelerate skin aging without even being aware of it. The central heating and air conditioning systems that many of us use at home and at work can severely dry out skin, leading to premature aging and wrinkles. To help keep skin youthful and soft, try turning down the heating and wearing more layers to stay warm. Sami suggests, “Keeping a glass of water in the room can also increase humidity, while wearing a protective face cream can help relieve dryness.”
- Smoking It is ranked only second to sun exposure as the leading cause of wrinkles. Sami explains that, “It interferes with the absorption of Vitamin A and C both of which provide us with skin protection. This is because nicotine the main ingredient in cigarettes promotes dehydration. It also narrows the blood vessels in the outermost layers of the skin. This impairs blood flow depleting it of oxygen and important nutrients such as Vitamin A. It also damages collagen and elastin. These are both fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity making it sag and wrinkle prematurely. Smoking also decreases the healing process due to its effect on blood vessels. The heat from the cigarette causes irritation around the eyes and forces the smoker to squint more. This leads to increased wrinkles especially around the eyes. You will also develop hollowed cheeks around the mouth from many years of dragging this in between your lips.”
- Sugar Eating too much sugar is clearly bad news for your waistline; however sugar consumption is also up there with sun exposure and smoking when it comes to the major causes of wrinkles. “When blood sugar levels are high, a process called glycation occurs which damages the collagen in your skin, ”says Sami. “Once damaged, the normally springy collagen hardens, leading to wrinkles and sagging.”
- Drinking All alcohol dehydrates the skin. This means your skin will appear less plump and fresh the morning after you drink alcohol. Over time, your skin will lose elasticity and form wrinkles due to a lack of hydration. "Additionally, alcohol can have a huge negative impact on your vitamin A level, which is a very important antioxidant for your skin and body, and it is vital in the regeneration of new cells. Vitamin A is also extremely important in the production of collagen. When you have lower amounts of collagen, you lose elasticity in your skin," says Sami. Collagen and elasticity keep your skin supple, taut, and looking young.
- Chewing Gum "Gum chewing produces a type of wrinkle that I see quite often on the lower mouth," says Sami. Additionally, it causes other issues in the mouth structure. This is an easy habit to give up in the name of preserving your skin.
- Not Removing Makeup When you sleep in your makeup, you're basically asking for wrinkles. The makeup and environmental pollutants you accumulate during the day seep into your pores, breaking down collagen and elastin. This can speed up the aging process and leave you with fine lines and wrinkles. “Cleanse and moisturize your skin every night before bed,” says Sami.
- Stretching Your Skin to Apply Makeup This practice creates wrinkles—and is generally frowned upon in the makeup world. "You should do your makeup how everyone else is going to see you, and hopefully it's not with your mouth stretched open and eyebrows lifted so you can put on your mascara," says Sami. "Don't pull on your eyes and stretch them so you can put on your eyeliner. It's about moving your whole face when you're applying makeup, not stretching it so it's flat."
- Skipping Sunscreen We've all been told to never skip the sunscreen, but it's often tempting when many of us spend our days indoors. Even a few minutes of sun exposure can lead to a breakdown of collagen though and that leads to fine lines and wrinkles. "Wear sunscreen every day, rain or shine, so that you don't get sun damage. Choose an SPF 30 and one that has zinc oxide or titanium dioxide," says Sami.