A lot of good can come with age-things like wisdom, grandchildren, and senior citizen discounts. But there are a few not so-terrific things, like gray hair and wrinkles.
Gray hair, of course, can be touched up with a little dye. Simple enough. Wrinkles, however are an altogether different story. No, you can’t iron them out. And you can’t (like Peter Pan or Dorian Gray) simply wish them away. But experts say there are a number of strategies to keep you from looking old before your time.
1. Don’t be a California raisin.
In other words, stay out of the sun. This is the first line of wrinkle defense suggested by every one of our experts. Too much sun eventually does the same thing to your skin that it does to dried fruit: it shrivels it up. This is especially true today. as depletion of the earth’s ozone layer allows more of the sun’s harmful rays to reach your vulnerable skin. says Norman A. Brooks. M.D., a dermatologist in private practice in Encino, California, and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Los Angeles UCLA School of Medicine.
2. Avoid tanning booths.
They produce the very same wrinkling rays as the sun, says Jeffrey H. Binstock. M.D., a dermatologist in private practice and an assistant clinical professor of dermatologic surgery at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.
3. Scrunch not.
It’s okay to occasionally make a funny face, but constantly furrowing your brow, squinting, or puckering your lips will, in time, create wrinkles or make those you already have worse. says Marianne O’Donoghue. M.D., an associate professor of dermatology at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.
4. Test your face.
How do you know if you’re scrunching your face? Look at yourself in a mirror as you’re chatting on the telephone, suggests Dr. Binstock. Or try wearing a piece of cellophane tape over your forehead (just around the house, of course). Every time you furrow your brow, you’ll feel the tape start to crinkle, says John F. Romano, M.D.’ a dermatologist and Clinical instructor in medicine at New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center in New York City.
5. Avoid the bare-faced double whammy.
A great recipe for wrinkling is to go out into the sun without sunglasses or a peaked hat. Not only do you then have to contend with the sun’s damaging rays falling on your face, but your inclination will be to squint, which eventually can forge little wrinkles around your eyes, says Dr. O‘Donoghue.
6. Keep pillows away from your face.
“Watch out for sleep wrinkles,” says Dr. Binstock. These are wrinkles that are caused by pressing your face into the pillow at night. If you’re guilty of this habit, learn to sleep on your back instead, or experiment to find a position where your face is not pressing the pillow. You may see some of your smaller lines fade away.
7. Don’t be a yo-yo dieter.
Gaining a lot of weight can stretch your skin. Then losing weight (especially if you’re older and your skin is less elastic) can result in wrinkles because the skin will not completely retract to its original size, says Stephen Kurtin, M.D., a dermatologist practicing in New York City and an assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine of the City University of New York. The smart thing to do is to never get overweight in the first place, or, if you do, lose that excess fat and keep it off before the age of 40, says Dr. Kurtin.
8. Exercise regularly.
People who are generally in good shape seem to have healthier. more elastic skin than those who aren’t. One Finnish study found that middle aged athletes had skin that was denser, thicker, and stronger than that of a similar group of non exercisers. The elastic quality that allows the skin to spring back to its original shape after being stretched was also significantly better in the athletes.
9. Eat right.
Vitamins and minerals are important to maintaining youthful skin. Among the most important are the B complex vitamins (found in beef, chicken, eggs, whole wheat and enriched flour, and milk among other food) and vitamins A and C (found in fresh fruit and vegetables). Dr. O’Donoghue says the best foods for healthy skin are green leafy vegetables, carrots, and fresh fruit.
8. Don’t smoke.
Smoking, in addition to being bad for your general health, can result in premature wrinkling around your mouth due to all those years of puckering lips around cigarettes. Smoking also tends to decrease blood supply to the small blood vessels under your skin, which could exacerbate wrinkling, says Gerald lmber, M.D., an attending plastic surgeon at New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center in New York City.
9. Stick with checkers (or some other sobering activity) on Saturday night.
Party goers and others who hit the bottle too heavily may find that while alcohol drowns their sorrows, it also brings on wrinkles. Why? Because your face puffs up in the morning after you’ve had too much to drink. And that temporarily stretches the skin. This swelling and subsequent shrinking can create wrinkles much the same way that putting on a lot of weight and then going on a crash diet will, says Dr. lmber.
10. Use a moisturizer.
No moisturizer on the market can reverse the aging process. If you have dry skin. however: the use of a moisturizing lotion can hide some of the smaller wrinkles that form on the surface, says Dr Kurtin. He emphasizes that it is important to dampen the skin first before applying moisturizing cream.
12. Don’t be fooled into buying “miracle” creams.
Especially since the headline grabbing advent of Retin-A, a strictly prescription topical drug that can actually reduce wrinkling, false advertising about certain over the counter lotions has popped up everywhere. “The claims being made by some cosmetic companies for anti aging creams have been found by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] to be quite misleading.” says Emil Corwin, an information officer with the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the FDA.
13. Go easy on the suds.
“If anything, people in our society tend to over wash.” says Dr. Kurtin. Over washing can lead to dryness. which can create temporary wrinkling. Solution? Wash less and use only extra mild soaps. And rinse extremely well. “People should spend more time rinsing and less time washing.” says Dr. Kurtin, who explains that a soapy film left on the skin will exacerbate drying.
14. Use a humidifier.
Keeping the air in your house moist is great for your skin and may prevent the smaller, temporary wrinkles that sometimes come with dry skin. says Dr. O’Donoghue.
15. Buff yourself with a little powder.
Jack Myers, director of the National Cosmetology Association and a professional cosmetologist for the past 30 years, says that sometimes when people try to hide wrinkles with makeup, they wind up actually emphasizing wrinkles. That’s because they rub cream or oil based makeup into their skin and it tends to cake up between the wrinkles. The key to hiding wrinkles, he says, is to use only powder based (such as cornstarch) products. Here, as with moisturizers, don’t expect miracles, says Myers.
16. Live with less stress.
Dr. Lazar says the link between wrinkles and emotions is probably a superficial one. But happy people tend to carry smiles, he says, and a smile will divert other people’s attention away from any wrinkles.