Culprit #1: Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure (photoaging)
According to many top scientists, ultraviolet exposure accounts for 90% of the symptoms of premature skin aging that leads to wrinkles. Most of the damage occurs by the time kids turn 20, unaware that a "healthy tan" is actually accumulated skin damage. Here's how UV triggers the reaction that leads to wrinkles: sunlight causes an over-production of oxidants, also-known-as "free radicals," which rampage through the cells causing damage and altering genetic material. The worst damage is to the collagen fibers (the proteins that makes your skin firm) and elatin (the proteins that makes your skin spring back). The body reacts to the assault by producing an enzyme, metalloproteinases, which repairs the damage with an unorganized matrix of collagen fibers, like a tangled box of raw spaghetti. Repeat the process a few times, and the result is wrinkles. A good demonstration or this reaction: leave a rubber band in the sun and see how many days it takes to lose its elasticity and suppleness.
What about tanning salons? When the tanning salon tells you the bed is "safe," they're telling you you're less likely to get burned, but they're not telling you that you're destroying your skin's DNA, collagen and elastin, the cellular structure of your skin. Translation: wrinkles. The sun gives off ultraviolet light classified as UVA and UVB. While UVB burns the surface of your skin, UVA penetrates deep into the dermis, simultaneously altering DNA and interfering with T cells — a potentially deadly, skin cancer cocktail. Tanning booths tend to cause more damage than the sun because people don't use sunblock when they go to a salon. The World Health Organization and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has listed tanning beds and booths as "known human carcinogens," alongside smoking and radioactive plutonium.
Prevention: Wear sunscreen, a hat, and protective clothes whenever you're outside, even in the car. Do not use tanning beds or booths — EVER.
Myth: A "base tan" will keep you from burning.
Fact: According to the Mayo Clinic, a "base tan" is skin damage, and causes wrinkles. If you want a tan, use self tanner or spray tan.
Culprit #2: Smoking
Smokers have earlier, more, and deeper wrinkles. The more and longer you smoke, the more and deeper wrinkles you'll have. With just 10 cigarettes a day, the skin of a 40 year old smoker will be as wrinkled as a 60 year old non-smoker. How does smoking cause wrinkles? The nicotine in cigarettes constricts blood vessels, impairing blood flow to the outer skin, depriving it of oxygen and essential vitamins and nutrients, slowing cell division, making the skin repair slower and less completely, leading to accumulated damage. The tar produced by cigarettes contains chemicals like ammonia, cyanide, acetylene and formaldehyde, which produce free radicals that damage collagen and elastin, the proteins that gives skin firmness, elasticity, and a youthful appearance. When the damage occurs, skin permanently droops and wrinkles. Additionally, the repeated smoker's facial expressions — pursing your lips, drawing your cheeks, and squinting your eyes — soon become deep wrinkles. Quit smoking today, and normal circulation will be restored in about 3 months.
Prevention: If you smoke, quit. If you don't smoke, don't start. Stay away from secondhand smoke, and other sources of air pollution too.
Culprit #3: Alcohol
A glass of red wine every now and then may have some health benefits, but excess (more than 1 glass a day for women and 2 for men) will add years to your face. Alcohol is extremely dehydrating, and whereas drinking a lot of water might help your hangover, it does nothing to counteract the havoc to your skin. When it enters your system, excess alcohol causes a spike in blood sugar, and the evil glycation reaction explained in Culprit #4. It also dilates the blood vessels to the face, making it red and puffy. If you drink too much too often, the blood vessels and your face will stay that way. The liver then converts your tasty drink into toxic solvents called aldehydes and ketones, which on top of being inflammatory, destroy the cell's membranes and parts of the cell's interior. Finally, after all the destruction is done, alcohol sabotages your skin's ability to repair itself by destroying your skins supply of vitamin A, a key antioxidant for skin, and essential ingredient for the regeneration of collagen and new cells.
Prevention: Do not have more than 1 drink per day (women) or 2 drinks per day (men). Less is better.
Culprit #4: Sugar
One more reason to eliminate sugar from your diet — younger, smoother skin. When sugar in your diet enters your bloodstream, it attaches to proteins (glycation) to form harmful molecules called AGEs (advanced glycation end products). As AGEs accumulate, they damage neighboring proteins in a domino effect. The damaged collagen and elastin proteins change from springy and resilient to dry and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging. Furthermore, the sugar in your diet affects what type of collagen you have. Glycation transforms type III, the most stable and lasting, into type I, the most fragile, so sugar is degrading the quality as well as the quantity of collagen. Finally, AGEs deactivate you body's natural antioxidant enzymes, leaving you more susceptible to damage from the sun, smoking, pollution, and other sources of free radicals. Diabetics, who suffer from years of high blood sugar often show early signs of aging.
Prevention: Eliminate sugar from your diet wherever possible.
Culprit #5: Lack of Sleep
It's called "beauty rest" for good reason. Depriving yourself of sleep is one of the worst things you can do to your skin. When you sleep, your body goes into parasympathetic mode, where energy is shifted from your core to the rejuvenate the rest of your body. Good sleep turns down the negative effects of cortisol and the “bad” neurotransmitters, like epinephrine and norepinephrine, which actually break down tissue. Good sleep releases the good hormones like growth hormone, the youth hormone, and melatonin, which supports the immune system and skin. You rebuild energy reserves and repair your cells when you sleep. You awaken refreshed and radiant. Ahh... But if you don't sleep, dark circles and puffy eyes show that your body is in a stressed state. Your cortisol, "the death hormone," remains elevated, breaking down tissue, thinning your skin, and elevating blood sugar, which initiates a cascade of wrinkle causing glycation. See Culprit #4.
Prevention: Sleep 8 hours each night. Eliminate sources of noise and light, like the LEDs on electronic equipment, that may interfere with your sleep.
Culprit #6: Too Little or Too Much Exercise
Not only your waistline improves from exercise, so does your skin. A sedentary lifestyle can add years to your face. Extensive research shows that moderate exercise (30 minutes, 4 times a week) is one of the best things you can do for your skin. Working out improves circulation and blood flow, which dilates all the blood vessels in your skin and washes the tissue with nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood. Well-nourished skin is thicker and has more and healthier collagen, which gives it more youthful firmness and flexibility. Exercise is anti-inflammatory, and even helps skin repair and protect itself. But don't over do it. Excessive cardiovascular activity like marathon running produces severe oxidative (free radicals) damage that will accelerate wrinkles.
Prevention: Work out, but at a moderate level. If you participate in extreme endurance sports, eat, drink, and slather on antioxidants to help protect your skin.
Culprit #7: Poor Diet
Extensive international testing shows abundant evidence that people who eat wholesome foods are less prone to wrinkling than people who eat processed foods. Protein is essential for cellular repair and collagen production. Since protein cannot be stored by the body, only 3 hours after eating, protein is depleted and the body starts to feed on it's own tissue, initiating the aging process. Fruits and vegetables with lots of vitamin A, Niacin, C, and E increase collagen levels, fight free radical damage and inflammation, strengthen the cell's barrier, and reduce redness, and moisturize. Healthy fats with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fat have powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidants that improve skin’s moistness and smoothness, and help the body absorb vitamins and nutrients from fruits and vegetables.
Prevention: Eat plenty of lean meats like fish, eggs, skinless chicken and turkey breast, edamame, beans and lean beef. Get your vitamin A from sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, broccoli, asparagus and bright red, yellow and orange produce such as carrots, cantaloupe, red bell peppers and red chile peppers. Get your Niacin from lean chicken, beef and pork, canned light tuna, whole-wheat flour, and cornmeal. Get your vitamin C from red bell peppers and carrots, broccoli, strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower and of course, oranges. Get your vitamin E from nuts and seeds, wheat germ, sunflower and safflower oil, mangos, broccoli, tomatoes and spinach.
Culprit #8: Dehydration
Hydrated skin contains up to 20 percent water, while dehydrated skin can drop below 10 percent. Dry skin, from a lack of sebum (oil) is not the same thing as dehydrated skin. Dehydration is from a significant loss of body fluid and can cause serious conditions, both internally and externally if not corrected, including cellular damage, and susceptibility to wrinkles.
Prevention: Drink plenty of water every day, especially after exercising. It's anti-inflammatory and flushes waste out of the cells. Avoid the use of harsh soaps with hard-to-pronounce ingredients, don't exfoliate more than once or twice a week, avoid long-term exposure to heaters and air conditioners, and use a hydrating facial serum daily.
Culprit #9: Facial Expressions
Furrow your brow and squint, raise your brow and smile, wrinkle your nose. Have a friend take pictures, and take note of how often you make these expressions. The ones you do all the time will become etched into your face. According to an 8-year study published in 2010 in the British Journal of Dermatology, persistent wrinkles evolve from momentary wrinkles. The process is accelerated by drier, lighter, older, and post-menopausal skin, which has less collagen and elastin to keep the skin firm and elastic.
Prevention: To avoid crows feet, laugh lines, anger lines, and 11's, wear sunglasses and practice a relaxed, neutral expression. If you're squinting even when there's no sun in your eyes, it may be a sign that you need an eye exam. Maintain your skin's collagen and elastin by heeding the recommendations on this list.
Myth: Wrinkles are caused by pulling the skin.
Fact: Pulling on the skin to apply creams or mascara is too light and too brief to cause wrinkles.
Culprit #10: Sleep Position
No matter how soft your pillow is, the way you sleep may actually cause wrinkles in your chin, cheeks, forehead, and chest. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) cautions that putting pressure on your face while you sleep night after night will cause "sleep lines" — wrinkles that become etched in your skin, and don't disappear once you're up. If you're in the habit of sleeping on your stomach in the "free fall" position, you're probably forming wrinkles on your forehead. Sleeping on your side, on the other hand, will form creases in your cheeks and chin on the side that's smashed into the pillow. The older you are, and the less collagen and elastin to support your skin, the faster the lines will form. If you move a lot while you sleep, the wrinkles will be lighter and more distributed.
Prevention: To avoid this type of wrinkling altogether, get in the habit of sleeping on your back.
Culprit #11: Age
At a young age, plenty of collagen and elastin make the skin smooth and supple. Ample sebum (oil) is produced to protect the skin from drying, and subcutaneous (under the skin) fat in the deep layers of the skin make it plump
and firm. At about age 35, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, the skin starts to thin, and collagen and elastin diminish, making skin wrinkle more easily, and repair less completely. Sebum production wanes, leaving skin less protected, dryer, less elastic, and more susceptible to becoming course and wrinkly. When you press or pinch your skin, it no longer springs back like it used to. Subcutaneous fat diminishes, causing the skin to be less plump and firm, and allowing wrinkles and fine lines to appear. Tiny repeated muscle contractions add up to become crows feet, frown lines, and 11s. Gravity unrelentingly pulls the jowls and eye lids down, and the deeper layers of skin that provide scaffolding for the surface layers loosens. The way we age is partly under genetic control, but you can slow the appearance of aging by adjusting your lifestyle or behavior.
Culprit #12: Genetics
Don't blame your genes for your wrinkles. Dermatologist Doris Day, author of Forget the Facelift says only 10% of how your skin ages is genetic, but other researchers say it may be as much a 30% percent. Although it is the most important determinant of skin color, texture, and structure, sun exposure and other culprits on this list are bigger contributors to wrinkles. If you want to know where and when you'll probably wrinkle, look at your grandparents. In only the past few years, scientists using data from the Human Genome Project — the international effort to decode human DNA — have found 1500 out of 25,000 genes that govern our resistance to wrinkles. The team, led by Proctor & Gamble scientists, have identified several causes of aging skin: hydration, collagen production, inflammation, reaction to sunlight, reaction to free radicals, and skin growth.
Prevention: Some cosmetics companies are offering creams that are designed from your genetic fingerprint. Hold onto your money for now though. The information doesn't exist to provide any real benefit yet.
Culprit #13: Gender
It may not be fair, but women tend to develop more and deeper wrinkles around their mouths (perioral) than men do. They have fewer sweat and sebaceous (oil) glands to protect and lubricate the skin in that area, and fewer blood vessels to keep it nourished. According to a study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, the muscles around the mouth are closer to the skin than in men, which pulls the skin tighter, and may cause wrinkles. Hormones also play a large role in women's dermatologic aging process. Estrogen promotes healing and keeps the body youthful. Postmenopausal women, who have significantly less estrogen, have reduced blood flow, slower healing, less collagen, and as a result, more and deeper lines and furrows. Women on hormone replacement therapy are reported to have fewer wrinkles.
Beautiful skin requires the same care as all other tissues in the body. Your skin, therefor, is an indicator of your general health. Following the suggestions on this list will not only keep your skin wrinkle free, it'll improve your heath in every way.
The bottom line: Eat right. Exercise. Sleep. Avoid stress. Stay out of the sun. Don't smoke. Drink water.