Updated 3/12/21. By now, most of us are well-versed in the major habits that cause premature aging. These include tanning (whether in the sun or in a tanning bed), failing to wear sunscreen, and certain lifestyle choices (such as drugs, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption). You might already avoid these common triggers of premature aging, but what about all the hidden ways you might be aging your skin without realizing it?
Surprising Ways You’re Aging Your Skin Faster
1. Not Wearing Sunscreen on Cloudy, Rainy Days or in Fall and Winter
It’s a common misconception that you’re safe from dangerous UV rays when it’s overcast or when temperatures drop. The sun’s rays may feel weaker during these times, but don’t let that fool you! The rays that cause premature skin aging and skin cancer (UVA rays) are approximately the same strength year-round and can penetrate through clouds, which means you still need sunscreen on snowy or rainy days. It’s so important to get in the habit of using a moisturizer with sunscreen built right in. You’ll want to apply it every morning (ideally the moment you wake up), every day of the year, rain and shine, inside and out. (Did you know? UVA rays can also penetrate through windows!)
The very best anti-aging product in the entire world is sunscreen. Period. Yes, other products, such as a well-formulated retinol serum can make a big improvement on your skin’s appearance, but nothing else will be effective unless you’re protecting your skin from the harmful rays that are aging your skin. (Read about the different types of sunscreens.)
If you stay up past your usual bedtime, chances are you’ll be yawning more, right? When you yawn, it encourages your eyes to water, which creates swelling and puffiness. This repeated swelling weakens the elasticity of the surrounding tissue by stretching it out, which causes an acceleration of wrinkles. The loss of elasticity is like a rubber band that’s been stretched repeatedly: at some point, it doesn’t snap back anymore, and this is what happens to the eye area.
Before you stay up past your bedtime to watch one more episode or read one more chapter, consider the consequences. It’s just one more reason to get a good night’s rest!
Aside from preventing unnecessary wear and tear on the skin tissue, regular exfoliation under the eyes as well as the use of an eye cream will help manage dryness and crepey-ness. Get in the habit of using a peptide firming eye cream, which will deliver hydration and improve the quality of the skin.
3. Not Wearing Glasses
Anytime you squint your eyes from bright light or blurry vision, you’re weakening the elastin fibers around the eyes. This will accelerate the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Schedule an annual exam and get prescription glasses (if needed) to stay squint-free. Also, be sure to wear sunglasses whenever outdoors.
4. Exposing Yourself to Secondhand Smoke
Did you know that secondhand smoke may actually be more dangerous than firsthand smoke? It’s shocking but true. (I learned this during a cosmetic chemistry course at UCLA.) The components of secondhand smoke are more concentrated, since there is no filter at the end of the cigarette. The levels of nicotine, tar, nitric oxide, and carbon monoxide are at least twice as high in secondhand smoke.
So, what does this mean for your skin? Simply put, you’re getting much of the same skin damage that smokers can get, if not more. Collagen-destroying enzymes (MMPs) ramp up when the skin is exposed to tobacco smoke. This leads to premature wrinkling and visible aging. Sadly, I can often tell from an adult person’s skin whether or not they grew up in a home with a heavy smoking parent.
The best thing you can do is avoid secondhand smoke. Also, be sure to use antioxidant-rich ingredients in your skincare routine. Studies show that using a potent vitamin C serum every morning under sunscreen will protect skin cells from oxidative damage, which will keep your skin looking fresh, bright, and youthful. Since your skin’s natural antioxidant supply depletes during the day, a product loaded with superfruits and vitamins, like Firm + Repair Overnight Serum, is important to use a few nights a week.
5. Drinking Out of Straws
Just like squinting, repeated facial expressions and movements will break down collagen and elastin fibers over time. When drinking out of a straw, you have to purse your lips, causing unnecessary lines and wrinkles around the mouth (similar to smoker’s lines). Drinking from a narrow bottle may also cause this to happen. Instead of using a straw, drink your beverage from a glass, so that your mouth doesn’t have to purse so tightly. Reusable glass is a better choice for the environment than disposable plastic bottles, anyway.
Note: I know that some dentists suggest drinking out of straws to prevent liquids from staining the teeth. This is a choice that you have to make for yourself. Personally, I think it’s far easier to bleach your teeth with an at-home whitening system than it is to get rid of wrinkles once they appear. (After my face, my teeth are my top priority when it comes to my beauty routine. Learn about my head-to-toe beauty routine, including how I keep my teeth in the best shape possible!)
6. Over-Exfoliating Your Skin
With a surge of at-home exfoliating products hitting the market, I’ve noticed a new trend: if it’s not burning or stinging, it’s not working. Oh, and the more exfoliation, the better. Does this sound familiar?
In the quest for smoother, younger-looking skin, many people are doing way too many aggressive exfoliating treatments. This is actually injuring their skin and causing what is known as a damaged moisture barrier. What results from a damaged moisture barrier is flaking, redness, dryness, dehydration, inflammation, and possible destruction of healthy cells. This is extremely counterproductive if your goal is healthy skin!
Although every type of skin responds differently to exfoliation, the general rule is that it should not be performed daily. If you suspect you’re over-doing it with your exfoliation, or you have a damaged moisture barrier, here’s how to repair your skin.
7. Not Cleansing Your Skin in the Morning (I’m Talking to You, Water Rinsers)
Are you someone who thinks it’s unnecessary to wash your face in the morning if you cleansed the night before? Wrong. The reason it’s important to wash your face in the morning is that your skin goes into repair mode at night, which means your skin secretes toxins and sebum (oil) while you sleep. The benefit of washing your face with a cleanser in the morning is that you’re getting all of that off, along with your nighttime skincare products. This creates a clean slate, so your daytime products (especially your sunscreen) can perform their best. After all, you don’t want anything to interfere with proper sun protection.
You have 365 opportunities per year to get your morning skincare routine perfect. Washing your face in the morning is a key step in ensuring healthy and happy skin. (On that note, learn how splashing your face with water is actually damaging your skin).
So there you have it. Avoid these seven things, and your skin will most certainly look and feel its very best for years to come. Rest assured that these little changes add up in a big way over the course of a lifetime.
Next, read all about the 10 skincare rules I swear by.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”