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Antiaging skin tips that really work
Is there anything you can do about those lines and wrinkles? Read on for ways to keep your skin looking younger for longer.
You’re not happy about those little wrinkles around your eyes. And where did those lines around your mouth come from? Aging skin is a fact of life — and it’s partly out of your control. The skin on your face naturally loses fullness as you get older. It also sags and shows lines.
But there are ways you can slow down the process. Steps like avoiding the sun can help prevent wrinkles, age spots and uneven skin tone. “It’s never too late to get into the habit of protecting your skin,” says Stephanie Cotell, MD. She’s a dermatologist at Northeast Dermatology in Gahannah, Ohio.
Here are antiaging habits to start (and harmful habits you should kick) that can keep your skin looking healthy.
Wear sunscreen every day
The sun is a major cause of premature aging. That’s why wearing sunscreen is key. “If you ask a room of dermatologists what’s the No. 1 thing you can do for your skin, the answer is to use a daily facial moisturizer with SPF,” says Dr. Cotell. You can also apply sunscreen underneath your regular moisturizer.
Slather on sunscreen every day, all year long. Choose a product with at least SPF 30. And make sure it says “broad spectrum” on the label. That means it guards against both UVA and UVB rays. (Read more about how to pick the right sunscreen.)
Sun protection is important even if you’re inside. Up to 50% of UVA rays can get through a car’s side windows and reach your skin, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Visible sunlight (the kind you can see) also affects your skin. It penetrates skin more deeply than UVA and UVB light, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Visible light can speed up the production of melanin in your face and cause age spots. (P.S. Tinted sunscreen protects against invisible light.)
Other good antiaging sun habits? Wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your face and neck. Get out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on hot days. And always wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
The Optum Store carries a variety of sunscreens to fit your needs.
If you smoke, quit
You already know smoking cigarettes is bad for your health. Here’s one more reason to kick the habit: Smoking ages your skin. According to the Mayo Clinic, smoking can cause:
- Wrinkles around the mouth and eyes (from pursing your lips to take a drag, and from squinting your eyes against the smoke)
- Dull complexion
- Puffiness under your eyes
And to top it all off, smoke in the air may dry and irritate the skin. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor. There are medications, over-the-counter and prescription, that can help you kick the habit.
Use a retinoid cream
“A topical retinoid can help reverse sun damage,” says Dr. Cotell. These powerful skin creams contain compounds derived from vitamin A. Retinoids reduce signs of aging in a few ways, says the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). They can:
- Increase the production of collagen
- Stimulate new blood vessels in the skin
- Reduce inflammation
- Help unclog pores
- Promote cell turnover
- Decrease the appearance of fine lines
On the downside, retinoids can cause dryness and irritation. They come in prescription and OTC treatments. OTC versions aren’t as strong as prescription ones and are less likely to irritate skin. (FYI: You can find OTC retinoids at the Optum Store.)
Ask your doctor whether a retinoid product is right for you. Dermatologists suggest starting gradually. And always wear sunscreen. That’s because retinoids make the skin more sensitive to light. Caution: Never use retinoids if you’re pregnant or nursing.
(FYI: Retinoids can also help treat adult acne. If you’re dealing with breakouts, read our guide.)
Skip indoor tanning
News flash: Indoor tanning is just as harmful to your skin as outdoor tanning. Tanning beds cause wrinkles and age spots. And the UV rays in tanning beds may raise your risk of developing melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer), according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. “Over time, [indoor tanning] is really like having a lot of sunburns,” says Dr. Cotell. Want a safe option? Try a self-tanner.
Eat less sugar
Research shows that eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates are connected to premature aging. We naturally lose collagen and elastin in our skin as we age, explains Jeffrey Hsu, MD. He is a dermatologist in Chicago, Illinois. “When you eat a lot of sugar, it speeds up the aging process, causing premature wrinkling and dryness.” Try cutting back on sneaky sources of sugar and refined carbs. Examples include soda, baked goods, chips, crackers and white bread.
One final tip: Pay attention to any suspicious spots or areas on your skin. They could be signs of precancers or skin cancer. If you notice anything that concerns you, book an appointment with a dermatologist. When precancers and skin cancer are caught early, they may be easier to treat. This is also a great chance to chat with your doctor about sunscreens or skin care products you have questions about.
Sun and car windows: Skin Cancer Foundation (2020). “Driving Your Risk for Skin Cancer”
Visible light: Harvard Health Publishing (2020). “Tinted Sunscreens: Benefits Beyond an Attractive Glow”
Smoking: Mayo Clinic (2020). “Is It True That Smoking Causes Wrinkles?”
Retinoid facts: American Academy of Dermatology (2021). “Retinoid or Retinol?”
Tanning beds: Skin Cancer Foundation (2021). “Tanning and Your Skin”