Aging Gracefully

What’s Aging Your Skin?

Actually, many factors beyond genes and the sun. Avoiding these eight common pitfalls will help keep your skin youthful.

By Stacey Colino
Woman with mature skin Ericka McConnell

Untamed Tension

Yes, stress really does wear on you. When you’re under intense or chronic pressure, your body increases production of the hormone cortisol, which can damage collagen and elastin and decrease the skin’s ability to repair itself. What’s more, stress can make you tense up and grimace or frown, often without your even realizing it. After a while, these repeated muscle contractions can leave their mark in the form of permanent lines, says Fredric Brandt, a dermatologist in Miami and New York City.

Preventive measures: Get stress and anxiety under control by exercising regularly. Yoga, Tai Chi, and brisk walking have been found to be effective tension tamers, possibly because of the meditative aspect of these activities. (The deep or rhythmic breathing of yoga and Tai Chi probably helps, too, by promoting healthy circulation.) If you don’t have time for hour-long exercise sessions, break up your workouts: Walk the 30 minutes to the office, and download a yoga app (such as Yoga RELAX) so you can do a few gentle poses before bed.


Weight Fluctuations

Packing on pounds can make your skin look plumper on the surface, but carrying excess weight can cause your body’s levels of insulin (a hormone made by the pancreas that controls the amount of sugar in your blood) and cortisol to rise, which can break down collagen. “You’ll see increased sagging from putting and keeping on as little as 10 to 15 extra pounds,” says Brandt. In addition, repeatedly gaining and losing weight can take its toll on the skin’s elasticity, leaving behind stretch marks and jowls.

Preventive measures: Aim to keep your weight in the normal range, with a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9. (Go to nhlbisupport.com to calculate yours.)


Midlife Moisture Loss

“With menopause, your body begins to pump out less estrogen,” says Arielle Kauvar, a dermatologist and the director of New York Laser & Skin Care, in New York City. “Since estrogen stimulates oil and collagen production in the skin, your skin may become drier, more wrinkled, and saggy as its levels drop.”

Preventive measures: Your best inexpensive bet may be to “troubleshoot by moisturizing heavily,” says Marmur. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can offset some of these effects, but it can take time to find the exact combination of hormones that your body responds to. For more instant results, you might consider dermal fillers, which are injected into the skin to fill in wrinkles and plump up sagging areas. Consult your dermatologist for options.

 
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