With constant commercials for new anti-aging products and red carpets full of slew of 70-something-year-old celebrities who barely look a day over 40 (um, what’s up with that?), you might feel a load of pressure to invest in these pricey creams, lotions, and powders—not to mention procedures like Botox or plastic surgery—to look younger.
But before you press the panic button, take a hard look at your everyday habits. Chances are, you might be able to tweak your lifestyle to prevent premature aging. And research shows these certain key lifestyle habits can legitimately turn back the clock. Take one 2009 study of 186 pairs of identical twins. Researchers found that lifestyle choices greatly impacted skin health and signs of aging, despite the women’s identical DNA. Twins who smoked or got more sun exposure, for example, looked significantly older than twins who never lit up and slathered on the sunscreen.
So, here are a few tips for what you should do (and NOT do) to keep your skin healthy and 30-something-ish, according to Kaveh Alizadeh, MD, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Westchester Medical Center and New York Medical College.
Always use sunscreen and wear sun protective clothing when possible. In the now-classic twin study, the siblings with more sun exposure, lack of sunscreen use, and a history of outdoor activities had an older appearance than their identical siblings who did not. (Here’s the derm-approved way to apply sunscreen.)
Quit smoking. You already know smoking leads to more wrinkles, but the actual numbers may motivate you to kick butt once and for all: Every 10 years of smoking adds about 2.5 years of aging to your face. Giving up cigarettes improves circulation so more oxygen can get to the skin. Ready to quit? Try one of these strategies to quit smoking for good.
Exercise. A good workout is another way to improve circulation and bring oxygen to the skin. Plus, the 2009 study of twins found that those with a higher body mass index appeared older than their sisters, and the higher BMI often led to dark and patchy skin discoloration. (Here are 7 more health benefits of exercise.)
Keep stress levels low. Twins who had been through stressful life events, such as divorce, appeared at least two years older than their twin, according to the 2009 study.
Apply retinoids. Dermatologists have used retinoids, a derivative of vitamin A, to treat a variety of skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and general skin aging for decades. Retinols, a lower-concentration form, are available OTC at drugstores; retinoic acid, a higher-concentration form that works more effectively, is available by prescription.
Get your beauty sleep. Not only do you want to make sure you get enough sleep every night, but pay attention to how you’re sleeping. If you’re a side sleeper, make sure you alternate sides during the night. “And please, please avoid sleeping on your stomach,” says Dr. Alizadeh, “because that can lead to a characteristic pattern of lines on the face.”