How to look younger than your years
Sure, the arsenal of anti-aging lotions, serums, and creams you’ve got stashed in your medicine cabinet can slow down the aging process and make your skin glow (in fact, we swear by many of them).
But when it comes to preventing and fading the fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots that tack years onto your appearance, making smart lifestyle changes is what will really erase years from your face. These 27 anti-aging tips really work, according to research, dermatologists, and beauty experts.
Skip the straw
Using a straw seems like an innocent enough habit, but over time, you may notice wrinkles around your mouth.
“Sipping through a straw accentuates those facial muscles where fine lines can occur,” says Angela Lamb, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The more you use those muscles, the more noticeable the lines there will become, she explains.
Seriously, don’t smoke
Add this to the already-long list of reasons to quit. While less serious than reducing your chances of getting lung cancer or heart disease, smoking also damages your looks. The habit takes a major toll on your appearance, contributing to premature skin aging, wrinkles, stained teeth, and even increased psoriasis risk.
“Smoking increases wrinkles due to facial motion, and it also has a vasoconstricting effect, which means it chokes off blood vessel circulation,” says dermatologist David Stoll, MD, author of A Woman’s Skin.
Eat your antioxidants
While a healthy diet does wonders for your entire body, fruits and veggies that contain antioxidants like vitamins B and E are particularly great for skin.
“Antioxidants help protect skin against free radicals in the environment, which are damaging to skin cells,” says dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum, MD, chief medical spokesperson for Sebamed. “They work to prevent free radicals from breaking down the skin’s elastin and collagen, resulting in more youthful, healthier skin.”
For vitamins B6 and B12, fill your plate with fish and poultry. Vegetarians can get vitamin B6 through chickpeas, which contain 55% of your DV in just one cup. And wheat germ oil (100% DV), sunflower seeds (37% DV), and almonds (34% DV) are all terrific sources of vitamin E.
Fill up on fermented foods
You probably already know that foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and other probiotic-rich foods are good for your gut. Turns out they may also combat premature aging.
“Fermented foods have excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Craig Kraffert, MD, a board certified dermatologist and president of Amarte.
Beauty products that are made with fermented extracts may also make a difference. Dr. Kraffert recommends products that contain ingredients like fermented gingko biloba nut or mushroom extract. “The most commonly cited benefits of fermented extracts within skincare products are skin calming and brightening,” he says.
Pack on the protein
Most women should eat 46 grams of protein a day (more if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or a competitive athlete). Hitting that target will help control cravings, in turn helping you lose weight or simply maintain your youthfully slim figure.
“Protein helps to build and maintain muscle mass, which we tend to lose as we age,” says Keri Gans, RD, a New York City-based nutrition consultant and author of The Small Change Diet.
Additionally, eating enough protein is essential for healthy-looking hair—the nutrient is a building block for strong strands.
Cut back on sugar
As if the risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease wasn’t enough, sugar may take a toll on your skin, too. In a 2010 study, researchers found a link between dietary sugars like glucose and greater production of advanced glycation end products (AGES).
But if you have a sweet tooth, don’t panic just yet. “The supportive scientific and clinical data, while growing, remains limited,” says Dr. Kraffert. So enjoy sugar in small amounts, and focus more on leading an active lifestyle and eating an overall balanced diet.
Sleep on a silk pillowcase
Cotton and polyester tug at the delicate skin on your face, but silk and satin pillowcases are gentler, and can prevent you from waking up with creased cheeks. “With a silk pillowcase, your skin slides on the pillow,” New York City-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD previously told Health. It’s possible that less friction on your skin can slow the formation of fine lines over time. Bonus: sleeping on silk also helps prevent frizzy hair.
Sleep on your back
Always sleep on your side? The habit could be causing lines to form on the cheek that’s constantly pressed against the pillow. “Sleeping on one side can definitely cause wrinkles on that side alone,” says Dr. Stoll. “I’ve seen this many times.”
Side-sleepers may want to switch to their backs—and not just to prevent wrinkles. Back-sleeping eases neck and back pain, fights acid reflux, and even helps prevent saggy breasts.
Fill up on healthy fats
There are lots of reasons to love omega-3 fatty acids: They keep you full, help your body absorb essential vitamins, and have been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Another perk? Super-healthy skin: “Omega-3 fatty acids promote smoother, younger-looking skin by reducing inflammatory skin conditions like acne and psoriasis,” explains Gans.
Make exercise a priority
As if keeping your weight in check and preventing chronic health conditions weren’t enough, regular workouts can help you look and feel younger than your years, according to research. A recent study of older adults published in The Journal of Physiology discovered that the more active participants functioned physiologically similar to younger adults.
Your face will benefit from those sweat sessions, too: Research from McMaster University in Canada found that exercise could help slow signs of skin aging.
Manage your stress
Stressful situations take a toll on more than just your mental health. “Stress and stress-associated hormones have aging effects,” explains Dr. Lamb.
Research suggests that these negative effects start at the cellular level. In a 2013 Dutch study, for example, researchers found that the cells of people who had depression aged more quickly than those who hadn’t suffered from the disease. “[P]sychological distress … has a large, detrimental impact on the wear and tear of a person’s body, resulting in accelerated biological aging,” one of the study’s authors explained in a news release.
To prevent premature aging, Dr. Lamb recommends taking steps to de-stress your life—whether that means getting more sleep, practicing yoga, or learning to meditate.
Exfoliate the right way
Exfoliating using beads or chemical peels is a go-to skincare strategy for sloughing off dead skin and revealing a smoother complexion underneath—but it’s important to make sure you’re not aggravating your face in the process. “Too much exfoliation is counterproductive,” says Dr. Stoll. He recommends talking to your dermatologist about the best exfoliation method for your skin type.
Get on the retinoid bandwagon
If you only have one anti-aging product in your medicine cabinet, make it a retinoid. Dermatologists love this powerful skincare ingredient (a derivative of vitamin A) for its ability to accelerate cell renewal.
“Retinoids turn over skin cells and boost collagen production, which leads to more youthful-looking skin,” says Dr. Lamb.
New to retinoids? The ingredient can be drying, so start off slowly by working products with a lower percentage into your regimen, and then working your way up.
Scale back on salt
You already know that eating high-sodium foods make your body retain water, leaving you feeling heavy and bloated. So it should come as no surprise that super-salty fare triggers a similar response in your face, giving you a puffier appearance (under your eyes, for example). To cut back gradually, start cooking with salt-free flavor boosters such as chili peppers, lemon juice, and fresh herbs. Not only will you look less bloated, but a low-sodium diet will also reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
Drink plenty of H2O
“Not drinking enough water will take a toll on aging skin,” says Dr. Nussbaum. She recommends aiming to drink half your weight in ounces of water per day (in other words, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink about 75 ounces of water, or about nine glasses). And besides sipping H2O, you can trick yourself into getting more water in your daily diet by adding certain fruits, vegetables and beverages to your routine.
Go easy on the booze
Speaking of drinking: Alcohol dehydrates the body, so think twice before having that second glass of wine. “Dehydrated skin is more likely to appear dry, sallow, dull, and crepey,” Dr. Nussbaum says. Be especially careful of white wine: the acid in white wine can damage your enamel and make your teeth more susceptible to long-lasting stains.
Take care of your hands
You probably give the skin on your face plenty of TLC, but what about your hands? “Without a targeted regimen to slow down the onset of dark spots and textural changes, the hands can age a person faster than the face,” Joshua Zeichner, MD previously told Health.
Sun exposure is mainly responsible for dark spots and crepey skin. Rub SPF on the backs of hands every morning to protect the delicate skin there from harmful UV rays. And at night, use your regular anti-aging face lotion on your hands to hydrate and ward off age-related dry patches.
Take time off your chest
Another often-forgotten patch of skin: your chest. Too much sun exposure when you’re young may leave you with blotchy, freckled skin in the short term, and down the line, you may notice wrinkles, loose skin, and white spots.
“Your best bet is to stop daily damage before it gets serious,” says Dr. Kraffert. To keep your décolletage from deteriorating, wear sunscreen on days you’re not wearing clothing that covers your chest.
And if you already have sun damage, moisturize the area before bed with an over-the-counter retinol or with a cream that contains melanin production inhibitors to brighten skin. “Adding other skin-brightening ingredients such as sulfur and botanical extracts will help, too,” says Dr. Kraffert.
Wash your face before bed
You know you’re supposed to do it, but sometimes you just… don’t. We get it. But experts stress that failing to wash your face at the end of the day is a major missed opportunity for skin to regenerate while you sleep (not to mention, it ups your chances of waking up with clogged pores).
“Skin renews itself overnight, so if you want to change the way your skin functions, the most important ingredients should be applied before bed,” Olga Lorencin-Northrup, founder and lead aesthetician of Kinara Spa in Los Angeles previously told Health.
Get serious about sunscreen
You’ve heard it before, but it can’t be said enough: “Wearing SPF is the best anti-aging thing you can do for your skin,” says Dr. Lamb.
A 2013 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who wore sunscreen three to four days a week were less likely to experience skin aging after four and a half years than those who didn’t. In addition to wrinkles, sun exposure also contributes to discoloration, which shows up in the form of dark spots on your face and hands.
And that bottle of SPF isn’t just for trips to the beach. “Even passive daily UV rays cause damage to the skin that make it age faster,” Dr. Lamb says.
Sleep it off
You should think of sleep as being another essential step in your skincare routine. “Sleep is super important in allowing the body to regenerate, and the skin is no different,” says Dr. Nussbaum. Not only will plenty of shut-eye let skin cells regenerate overnight, but it will also help prevent dark under-eye circles, she says. Certain foods can also help you sleep so stock your fridge with these sleep inducers if you’re having shut eye issues.
Visit a dermatologist
Booking regular appointments with your dermatologist will ensure that you’re up-to-date on the latest anti-aging skincare developments. Your doctor may recommend treatments for more dramatic results than you’d get from home remedies or even from a trip to the spa.
For example, Dr. Stoll says he might suggest an exfoliating peel that contains glycolic or trichloracetic acid for patients. “Aestheticians can legally use up to 20%, but doctors can use stronger strengths, like 70% glycolic acid,” he explains.
Moisturize before skin dries
Moisturizing takes more effort than just slapping some lotion on your face. All those pricey anti-aging products you’ve invested in will work more effectively if you use them on clean, moist skin, says Dr. Kraffert. When you get out of the shower, he suggests applying lotion within three minutes—before water on skin has a chance to fully evaporate. “Not only will you get the benefits of the moisturizer itself, but you’ll help seal in the hydration from the water,” he explains. “If you wait too long and that water evaporates from your skin, it can take some of your body’s natural moisture with it.”
Load up on vitamin C
Experts are divided on whether or not a diet that includes lots of vitamin C superfoods such as citrus, peppers, and kale can ward off signs of aging. But it certainly can’t hurt to add more of these foods to your plate. In a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that people who ate vitamin C-rich foods had fewer wrinkles and less age-related dry skin than those who did not.
A vitamin C serum may offer more noticeable benefits. “Topical vitamin C is much more important for preventing wrinkles than oral vitamin C,” says Dr. Stoll.
Brighten your smile
Stained, yellowed teeth can add years to your face. To feel more confident about your smile, remove stains with whitening toothpaste, strips, or trays. You can also prevent discoloration by getting regular dental cleanings and brushing your teeth after drinking red wine, coffee, and soda, or eating foods with sticky sauces such as barbecue or soy—some of the worst culprits.
Watch the way you text
Like sipping through a straw, the repetitive motion of looking down at your smartphone can eventually cause rings to show up on your neck. “Fine lines and wrinkles can form over decades’ time through repeat motions,” says Dr. Nussbaum.
While there’s no fast fix, maintaining good posture and holding your smartphone at eye level can help. Dr. Nussbaum also recommends applying a firming lotion daily. “I favor lotions that are formulated with antioxidants and ingredients like shea butter and argan oil,” she says.
Let up on the heat styling
Can’t imagine going a day without straightening your hair? Laying off the flatiron even just two days a week can restore your hair’s bounce and shine—and make you look younger in the process. Master the wet bun, learn to love dry shampoo, or embrace your natural texture and allow your mane to air dry.