10 Surprising Things That Are Aging You

Jager Weatherby on 10 Jul 2014 at 9:10am

Written by Gina Carbone

Things That Might Be Aging You

Aging is a natural process, but there’s no need to rush it! Part of how old you look is out of your control — for example, the genetics that allow that friend from high school to look 10 years younger than you, even though you share similar lifestyles. (Hey, no one said genes played fair!) That said, plenty of things are entirely within your power. You probably know that smoking and unprotected sun exposure are fast ways to add years to your appearance, but what about the things that might be setting you back without you even knowing it? Here are 10 seemingly harmless things that may be aging you on the sly.

1. Yo-yo dieting

You may not think yo-yo dieting has much in common with smoking, but as Delray Beach facial plastic surgeon John Westine says, “Smoking [is] a great way to prematurely age your skin. Yo-yo dieting should also be avoided. Both of these behaviors decrease elasticity and promote skin to sag prematurely.” Instead of risking that kind of stretch to your skin, stick to what experts usually recommend: If you’re going to diet, aim for about a pound a week, and avoid binge eating.

Aging: Sleeping on Your Side or Face

2. Sleeping on your side or face down

Blame your pillow! It can leave lines on your face, and (depending on the pillowcase) can dry out your skin. Also, as London-based plastic surgeon Dr. Alex Karidis explains, "If you sleep on your side or face down, pressure on the face literally causes the skin to wrinkle. This is particularly true of the nasal-labial fold, which is the line that runs from the nose to the mouth. Laughter lines can also form from sleeping this way as the skin around the eyes is particularly thin. Whenever you wake up during the night and find yourself on your side or front, switch to sleeping on your back again."

3. Squinting

Are you starting to get crows feet wrinkles around your eyes? Check your glasses! As Orange County plastic surgeon Larry S. Nichter notes, “These type of wrinkles are often seen in patients that squint. First I would make sure that, if you need visual correction, [you’re using the appropriate] glasses or contacts. [You should also wear] sunglasses on bright days.”

Aging: Too Much Pool Time

4. Too much pool time

It’s summertime, and that means a lot of trips to the pool. But if you swim fairly often, you may start to flake out. “The necessary chlorine in pools is a frequent cause of dry skin for swimmers,” says San Diego dermatologic surgeon Darrell W. Gonzales. “There are a few steps that can be done to try to reduce this problem. Whenever showering, use a mild soap such as Dove Body Wash. Only use your hands to wash your skin; never use anything abrasive to exfoliate. Always apply a moisturizer to your skin after showering. If you have extremely dry skin caused by the pool, you can always consider applying a strong emollient to your skin before swimming such as Aquaphor or even Vaseline.”

5. Wearing makeup to bed

Some ladies like to keep their “face” on when they go to bed, but it’s time to reconsider. Dr. Dennis Gross tells Women’s Health magazine that sleeping with your makeup on can clog your pores and oil glands. “When the makeup becomes impacted in pores, it can make them appear larger,” he explains. He adds that it also stretches the pores out, and since our skin collagen levels go down as we get older, our pores won’t bounce back to their original size as easily. Not washing can also cause inflammation, which leads to increased collagen breakdown and a loss of firmness in the skin. Long story short: Wash up! If you don’t have time, he suggested keeping makeup removal wipes by your bed, which will at least remove any residue.

Aging: Headphones

6. Listening to music

Music can pump you up or calm you down, which are both good if you’re exercising or de-stressing. But regular use of those headphones is seriously damaging your ears. (These are problems no one had 100 years ago! Now we live longer, but how many decades will be spent with hearing loss?) According to the National Institute of Health, the softest sound you can hear is 0 decibels (dB); normal talking is roughly 40 to 60 dB; a rock concert often falls between 110 and 120 dB, but can go as high as 140 in front of the speakers; and headphones are 110 dB. (OSHA's daily permissible workplace levels are said to include three hours at 97 dB or two hours at 100 dB.) The NIH said listening to music at a level 5 or above for just 15 minutes per day may cause long-term hearing damage. What’s the solution? Turn down the volume! And limit your headphone use in general.

7. Sipping through a straw

Yep, even your straw is working against you. As dermatologist Rebecca Baxt tells The Huffington Post, "Repeated straw drinking causes people to purse their lips and can create wrinkles from the repetitive muscle motion, much like frowning causes wrinkles on the upper face." It’s not just straws, however: Any repetitive movement around the mouth — including pursing your lips or (you guessed it!) smoking — can contribute to those lines and wrinkles. Smoking is still much worse, since it causes wrinkles from both the repetitive movement and the free radical damage.

Aging: Too Much Sugar

8. Eating too much sugar

We all know sugar is bad for our waistlines, yet Dr. Frank Lipman reveals that "sugar is poison for the skin.” It's a cause of inflammation, and also leads to glycation, a process that ages skin prematurely. It's certainly not easy to give up sugar — and we're not going to do it, either — but even just limiting your intake to the natural sugars found in fruit can help a great deal. (If you are craving cookies, it’s better to eat one a day for a week than an entire box at a time, since all that sugars throws your insulin levels off.) Dermatologist Nicholas Perricone also suggests trying an alternative like Stevia, an easily digested herbal sweetener that doesn't trigger glycation.

9. Riding in a convertible

There’s nothing like hitting the open road with the top down, but it’s going to come at a price. Not only can you dry out your skin and hair, and possibly get a sunburn, but you can also harm your poor ears again. Scientists at the St. Louis University School of Medicine and the Ear Institute of Texas found that regularly driving in a convertible at more than 55 mph might be subjecting your ears to unsafe levels of noise. "Drivers of convertible automobiles with the top open may experience noise levels of 104 dB or more at highway speeds," the study explains. And it can actually get worse. The measurements taken were from when the climate control system and radio were turned off. If you turn the radio on, and up, well… you just might turn into the Grandma of your group, needing everyone around you to speak up.

Aging: Tanning Beds

10. Using a tanning bed

You know the sun is not always your friend (and that you need to use sunscreen above SPF 15 to protect your skin), but what about using tanning beds? A RealSelf user asked about protecting his face while still getting a body tan, using SPF 50 on his face during a seven minute tanning session. Was that OK? The resounding answer from RealSelf docs: "No!" Paradise Valley dermatologic surgeon Susan Van Dyke replied, saying, "I am sorry, but as a dermatologist I must advise you to avoid damaging your skin. There is no safe tan. Please consider a spray-on tan or embrace your paleness. Skin cancer and premature aging are not worth it. As for protecting your face, an SPF of 50 will protect against UVB, but tanning beds emit UVA. You will be unprotected."

It may be starting to sound like everything is bad for you, but don’t feel discouraged! If you protect your skin from the elements, drink plenty of water, get enough vitamins, eat the right healthy fats, stay aware of your sensitive eyes and ears, and get a full night’s sleep (preferably on your back and with your makeup off!), you’re doing a world of good for your health and beauty.

Photo credits: Some rights reserved by Christie Lockwood; Courtesy of MeditationMusic.net; Some rights reserved by Margot Gabel; Some rights reserved by Sascha Kohlmann; Some rights reserved by Zlatko Unger; Some rights reserved by Whatsername