Medical Review By: Denise Guevara, DO
If your face is still as smooth as a baby’s bottom, you probably aren’t thinking about wrinkles. Unfortunately, everyone gets them eventually, partly because as the body ages, it produces less collagen and elastin, proteins that keep the skin firm and elastic.
But if you act now, you can delay the development of wrinkles and enjoy young-looking skin longer. Here, Denise Guevara, DO, a board-certified dermatologist at Water’s Edge Dermatology, shares her best tips for staving off these telltale signs of aging.
Use sunscreen daily
You probably know this, but it bears repeating: Wearing sunscreen is one of the best ways to prevent wrinkles.
“Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays is one of the main causes of premature wrinkles because they damage collagen and elastin, among other harmful effects,” said Dr. Guevara.
Sunscreen plays a particularly large role in preventing wrinkles in people with fair skin. A study published in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology concluded that UV rays appeared to be responsible for 80% of signs of aging facial skin in Caucasian women. (The sun takes less of a toll on dark skin because the skin contains more melanin, which provides some natural protection.)
Regardless of skin color, everyone should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day, both to prevent wrinkles and to reduce the risk of skin cancer, Dr. Guevara noted.
Wearing sunglasses protects the skin around your eyes from UV rays and guards against wrinkles by making you less likely to squint.
“Crow’s feet, which are the wrinkles that form at the outer corners of your eye, are dynamic wrinkles, meaning they develop as a result of repetitive facial movements such as squinting,” Dr. Guevara explained.
If you need regular prescription glasses, it’s important to wear those too in order to limit squinting. Be sure to get regular eye exams as well. You may not realize right away that your vision has gotten worse and that you’ve been squinting more than usual.
Smoking and vaping cause premature facial wrinkling in several ways. They interfere with the body’s ability to produce collagen and cause blood vessels to narrow, which prevents nutrients from being delivered to the skin. Smoking is also a major contributor to dynamic wrinkles.
“When you smoke, you make repetitive facial movements, such as pursing your lips and squinting,” Dr. Guevara said. “Over time, this creates wrinkles around the mouth and eyes.”
Quitting smoking won’t reduce wrinkles that have already appeared, but it can prevent them from deepening.
Sleep on your back
If you regularly sleep on your side or stomach, you may develop more wrinkles than someone who sleeps on their back.
“Resting your face on a pillow creates compression, which reduces blood flow to the areas of your skin and neck that are in contact with the pillow, depriving them of nutrients,” said Dr. Guevara. “This causes wrinkles to develop on the affected areas as time goes by.”
Can’t sleep on your back? You can minimize compression by sleeping on a softer, bouncier pillow.
These vitamins A derivatives are commonly used to reduce and prevent wrinkles by increasing collagen production.
“Retinoids are like insurance against future wrinkling,” Dr. Guevara said. “You can start using them in your 20s to prevent wrinkles, though some people begin applying them in their teens because retinoids are also an effective treatment for acne.”
Your dermatologist can prescribe a retinoid, or you can use an over-the-counter retinol product. Retinols are weaker versions of retinoids. The option you choose comes down to what your skin can tolerate. Retinoids are very exfoliating, so you may prefer retinol — and lower-concentration retinol at that — if you have sensitive skin.
Apply a moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid
Almost any moisturizer can temporarily plump the skin and diminish the appearance of fine lines, but using a moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid can also help prevent wrinkles. Not only is hyaluronic acid particularly effective at drawing moisture into your skin, but it also helps maintain the integrity of the outer layers of skin, but Dr. Guevara also explained. These layers referred to as the skin barrier, provide protection from external factors that contribute to premature aging, such as pollution.
You can start using a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid at any age, but it becomes increasingly important as you get older, as the hyaluronic acid that is naturally present in the skin decreases over time.
Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost products contain hyaluronic acid, as does wederm Pure Hydration hyaluronic acid serum.
Add vitamin C serum to your skincare routine
Vitamin C serum helps prevent wrinkles by protecting skin from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. These are generated when skin is exposed to harmful elements, such as UV rays and pollution.
“Free radicals cause premature aging because they break down collagen and elastin in your skin,” Dr. Guevara said. “This leads to wrinkles as well as other signs of aging, such as sagging skin.”
Ideally, you should start using vitamin C serum when you’re in your early 20s. But if you’re older and have wrinkles already, vitamin C serum is recommended to help diminish their appearance.
Eat a well-balanced diet
Eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants can help stave off wrinkles.
“In addition to neutralizing free radicals, fruit and vegetables also have a high water content, and hydration plays a key role in making the skin look firm,” Dr. Guevara said.
Limit foods that contribute to premature aging, such as those high in sugar. When sugar combines with fats or protein in the blood, harmful compounds called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs can form. AGEs can accumulate in the skin’s collagen and elastin and interfere with their functioning.
Consider “preventive” Botox
Botox injections treat wrinkles by temporarily paralyzing certain muscles. That effect also helps prevent dynamic wrinkles such as crow’s feet and worry lines on the forehead.
“Even if your skin is still smooth and firm, you may want to consider getting Botox injections by the time you’re in your late 20s in order to start minimizing facial movements that contribute to dynamic wrinkles, such as grimacing and frowning,” Dr. Guevara said.
Article Written By: Jessica Brown, a health and science writer/editor based in Brooklyn, New York. She has written for Prevention magazine, jnj.com, BCRF.org and many other outlets.