Genes influence how fast your skin will age, but unhealthy habits accelerate the damage. The term “smoker’s face” has long been used to describe the telltale pattern of deep lines and creases that form around the mouth and eyes of tobacco users, from constant squinting sparked by smoke irritation and lip puckering while inhaling. Some studies show that smoking cuts production of elastin and collagen by up to 40 percent, leading to premature fine lines that may start to appear as early as age 20, offering yet another reason to snuff out the habit if you smoke.
What else can you do to fight skin creases? Here’s a look at science-based strategies that help keep your skin looking young and healthy:
Swap coffee for cocoa.
Dietary flavonoids called epicatechin and catechin, found in cocoa, help keep blood vessels elastic, raising nourishing flow to both the skin and internal organs. A German study published in Journal of Nutrition found that after three months, women who drank an epicatechin-rich cocoa drink daily not only had smoother skin, but were also more resistant to sun damage (with less redness and scaling when their skin was exposed to UV light).
Sleep on your back.
Ironically, beauty sleep can actually increase wrinkles. Over the years, habitually snoozing on your side or belly, with your face mashed into the pillow, gradually etches “sleep lines” that eventually become permanent. According to a study published in Scandinavian Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Hand Surgery, side sleeping contributes to more wrinkling of the cheeks and chin, while slumbering facedown furrows the brow. Sleeping on your back prevents sleep lines or may even reverse the problem. Getting enough Z’s spurs release of a “youth hormone” called human growth hormone, leading to thicker, healthier skin and fewer lines, says Nicholas Perricone, MD, author of The Wrinkle Cure.
Wear sunscreen—even when driving.
Ever wonder why age spots are most likely to sprout on the left side of the face? Many people don’t realize that UVA rays, the culprits in most wrinkling, easily penetrate car windows, even on cloudy days, accelerating such signs of aging as brown spots and creases on the left side of the driver’s face. The best defense is using broad-spectrum SPF30 sunscreen every day, even in the winter, since the sun’s damaging rays are the number one cause of wrinkles. If you drive frequently, you may also want to invest in tinted car windows, which help block UVA.
Eat more fish and soy.
Salmon, tuna, mackerel and other cold-water fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which nourish skin and help keep it smooth, glowing and youthful. Other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which also help protect against heart disease and stroke, include walnuts, flaxseed oil, and canola oil. Another age-defying food is soy: A 2009 study also found that consuming an isoflavones-rich soy supplement reduced skin wrinkling and increased collagen in 86 percent of the women studied, after just six months of daily use.
Avoid squinting—and get your vision checked.
A common cause of crow’s feet and bunny lines on the nose is overworking the facial muscles, creates grooves that turn into wrinkles. The underlying problem is often presbyopia, age-related vision changes that affect almost everyone after age 40—and if you get reading glasses soon enough, it could help relax lines that are starting to form from straining to read fine print. It’s also crucial to wear sunglasses outdoors, both to reduce squinting and to protect skin around the eyes from sun damage.