When it comes to your skin, wrinkles are natural, normal, and nothing to be ashamed about. But if you’d rather prolong the time it takes until they being to develop, you may be worried about premature wrinkles. And dermatologists say there are ways to stop those fine lines from popping up early.
One form of lines you can see are called dynamic wrinkles, which are only visible during facial movement, according to Dr. Michele Farber, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group. These are the lines that crop up around your eyes when you laugh, or the cheek creases you see when you smile. The other type of wrinkles are called static wrinkles, and they stick around even when your face is at rest.
"Dynamic wrinkles begin in the late twenties to early thirties, and static wrinkles begin in the early to mid-thirties,” Farber tells Bustle. However, wrinkles can develop earlier than this, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, due to a number of external factors. Those are the premature lines you’re better able to prevent — think those forehead wrinkles at 20 — and they aren’t related to the natural process of aging. Many are caused by behaviors and habits.
If you’ve been noticing a few more fine lines than in past years and feel they’re coming on a bit earlier than anticipated, here are 11 reasons it could be happening, and what you can do to smooth out the situation.
1. You Sleep On Your Stomach
Sleeping on your stomach can feel nice, but waking up with pillow creases on your face isn’t exactly ideal. In fact, Farber tells Bustle stomach sleeping can accelerate aging, and studies have shown that mechanical compression — aka sleeping on the side of your face — can speed up the wrinkling process.
If, however, you’re committed to sleeping on your stomach or side and getting rest on your back sounds terrible, there are methods you can turn to. Dr. Hadley King, a New York City-based dermatologist, recommends using the Nurse Jamie Beauty Bear Age Defy Memory Foam Pillow because the U-shape helps to cradle the face, which leads to less of the wrinkle-causing compression. She also tells Bustle that silk pillowcases also work because the material has less friction against your skin.
2. Sugary Snacks Are Your Absolute Favorite
If you’ve got a monster of a sweet tooth, unfortunately it could be leading to those early wrinkles. While the occasional treat is perfectly OK, a diet high in sugar can lead to all sorts of skin troubles — including the onset of premature wrinkles. "Diets high in sugar and low in antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables lead to poor skin nutrition and have pro-aging effects," says Dr. Patricia Ceballos, M.D., a dermatologist with the Schweiger Dermatology Group.
Dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner explains that this is because of a process called glycation, which occurs when blood sugar levels are high. During this process, sugar molecules in your bloodstream attach to collagen causing it to firm and break. It’s that breakdown in collagen that can lead to early wrinkling.
3. You Save Sunscreen For A Day At The Beach
You slap on sunscreen when heading out for a day at the beach. (Good job.) But do you remember to smear some on when in your car, or next to a window? If not, that’s what could be causing your premature aging. King points to studies that have shown those who wear sunscreen daily — even when inside and not directly exposed to sun — aged better than those who only applied it when going outside.
She specifically cites a study done in Australia that looked at the skin texture of those who only wore sunscreen when doing outdoor activities versus those who applied it daily. The research found that those who wore it daily had skin that aged significantly better — so be sure to apply your SPF multiple times every day.
4. You’re Not Hydrated
If you aren't getting adequate hydration, wrinkles won't be far behind — but it’s not just about water. King says a lack of hydration — regardless of whether it’s from not drinking enough water or not — leads to dehydrated skin which, in turn, can cause the skin to appear less plump and more dull. Studies show that getting hydration (not just from water but in your diet, via foods like melons and cucumber) is a way to help slow down the aging process.
5. You Live In A Smog Cloud
Do you live in a smoggy city? If so, clouds of pollution could be messing with your skin. King explains it's because of pesky little things called free radicals. These unstable atoms are made from unpaired electrons, and they seek out other electrons to pair with within your body. Their search causes damage to cells, protein, and DNA, and when that damage happens, it can lead to inflammation and skin damage.
Zeichner says you can protect your skin by using an antioxidant serum that contains vitamin C, which studies have shown to be effective against free radical damage.
6. You Love A Happy Hour
This one goes back a bit to the lack of hydration issue. "First and foremost, [drinking alcohol] dehydrates by acting as a diuretic," Ceballos says. "Paradoxically, it [also] leads to periocular puffiness (edema). The delicate eyelid skin retains fluid in response to alcohol." As King explains, the dehydration of the skin (which can be caused by alcohol) leads to dull, less plump skin.
Zeichner says it can also “interfere with the skin's natural antioxidant defenses,” which means free radicals can more easily affect the skin. He recommends using an antioxidant serum to combat this.
7. You Overuse Skin Care Products
You might think that the more the better when it comes to skin care products. But it doesn't actually work that way. King calls out specific ingredients like retinoids, antioxidants, peptides, and alpha hydroxy acids — while these have been shown to help reduce aging, she notes that using too many of them “cause irritation and inflammation, which can make the skin look more dull and rough.” Zeichner’s tip? Use products that are meant to help keep the skin barrier in tact, and remember that less is more.
8. Your Stress Levels Are Out Of Control
Stress is horrible for the body, and this includes your prematurely wrinkling epidermis. "High stress levels and lack of sleep are a lethal combination for skin health and youthfulness," Ceballos says. This is due to high cortisol levels, which take a huge toll on your skin's connective tissues. To get things under control, Farber suggests taking more time for yourself. "It is crucial to find time for activities to reduce stress: exercise, yoga, or meditation," she says.
9. You Smoke, Or Are Exposed To Smoke
Smoking, even in causal participants, can lead to premature wrinkles. “Smoking, other than sun exposure, is probably the greatest source of voluntary exposure to free radicals,” says King. It’s those free radicals that are leading to wrinkles under the eyes before age 20. The same thing applies to smokers as it does to those exposed to pollution. Free radicals attach to the body breaking down DNA and RNA and leads to inflammation and skin damage.
10. You’re Not Sleeping Enough
In a perfect world, everyone would go to bed at 10 p.m. and sleep soundly until 7 a.m. But these recommended nine hours are pretty difficult to get with busy schedules, Netflix marathons, and stress. And yet, you have to make it happen — if only for the sake of your skin. “While it is often difficult to take time for ourselves with hectic schedules, it is crucial for well-being, including that of our skin," Farber says.
11. You Have Eye Strain
Squinting into your computer screen and being exposed to direct sunlight are just two of the ways your eyes may wrinkle prematurely. It’s the repetitive movement of squinting that can lead to crow’s feet and other signs of aging, says Zeichner. He recommends a blue light blocker for your screens as well as an antioxidant eye cream to help ward off these early wrinkles.
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Dr. Hadley King, a New York City-based dermatologist
Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist
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