As people age, it’s natural to experience thinner, drier skin and an increase in wrinkles and other signs of aging.
However, sometimes one’s environment and lifestyle choices can cause the skin to age prematurely.
Although there is no way to prevent your skin from aging, dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology say it’s possible to prevent premature skin aging by following a few simple steps.
“Every effective anti-aging skin care plan starts with healthy habits,” says board-certified dermatologist Michele Green, MD, FAAD.
“Daily activities, such as protecting your skin from the sun and eating healthy foods, can go a long way in preventing your skin from aging more quickly than it should.”
To prevent premature skin aging, Dr. Green recommends the following tips:
Protect your skin from the sun. Sun exposure plays a major role in premature skin aging.
Protect your skin from the sun year-round by seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothing — including a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection — and applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing.
For more effective sun protection, choose clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.
Apply a facial moisturizer every day. Moisturizer traps water in the skin, giving it a more youthful appearance. To save time in your skin care routine, consider using a moisturizer that contains sunscreen.
However, while a moisturizer that contains sunscreen is convenient, remember that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours when you’re outdoors.
Be gentle to your skin. Limit face washing to twice daily and after sweating, and use skin care products labeled “hypoallergenic”, “fragrance free” or “non-comedogenic.”
Avoid scrubbing your skin and using skin care products that sting or burn, as irritating your skin can make it look older.
Avoid repetitive facial movements, like squinting, frowning or holding a straw or cigarette in your mouth, which can cause wrinkles over time.
You can reduce this with lifestyle changes, such as wearing sunglasses to avoid squinting outdoors.
Stay out of tanning beds. Just like the sun, tanning beds emit harmful ultraviolet radiation (UV) that can lead to skin cancer and premature skin aging, including wrinkles and age spots.
If you want to look tan, use a self-tanner instead.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables may help prevent damage that leads to premature skin aging.
In addition, exercising daily can improve circulation and boost the immune system, which may give the skin a more youthful appearance.
Avoid smoking, and drink alcohol in moderation, as these are rough on skin.
Consider using a retinol cream. A derivative of vitamin A, retinol is available in many over-the-counter skincare products at doses of up to 2%. When applied daily, a retinol cream can help prevent premature skin aging.
However, since it can take time for your skin to adjust to a retinol, dermatologists recommend you start by applying it every other day instead of daily.
If you don’t experience any negative side effects after a few weeks — like increased burning or redness — you can start applying the retinol every day.
For doses higher than 2%, consult your dermatologist to see if a prescription retinoid cream is right for you.
“If you’re worried about aging skin, talk to a board-certified dermatologist,” says Dr. Green.
“There are plenty of treatments available, including non-invasive procedures, to help smooth wrinkles, tighten skin and improve your complexion.”
These tips are demonstrated in “How to Prevent Premature Skin Aging,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel.
This video is part of the AAD’s “Video of the Month” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails.