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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

Lack of Sleep

“Your skin has a chance to repair itself overnight,” says Mary P. Lupo, a clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University, in New Orleans. “Without enough deep sleep, the kind you can’t be roused from easily, the skin can’t properly undo daily damage.” Also, sleep deprivation puts your body into stress mode, causing it to release more stress hormones (see Untamed Tension).

Preventive measures: Shoot for seven to eight hours of sleep a night. It takes discipline, but start by shutting off all electronic devices a half hour before bed so the stimulation doesn’t keep you up. Another strategy: Try to sleep on your back. “If you usually sleep with your face smushed into your pillow,” says Lupo, “it will look creased faster.”

The Blues

Depression doesn’t show up only in your demeanor—it may also show up on your face. Over time, a frown (ironically, just like a smile or a squint) can become permanently etched into the skin. Depression is also associated with elevated cortisol levels, which can weaken supportive collagen fibers, as well as with “a decrease in growth-hormone synthesis, which inhibits the ability of the skin to repair itself at night,” says Brandt. What’s more, when people are depressed, they may not take care of themselves (or their complexions) the way they should.

Preventive measures:  To combat depression, exercise regularly, enter counseling if necessary, and talk to your doctor about whether you would benefit from an antidepressant. Interestingly, reducing wrinkles with a cosmetic treatment like Botox might improve symptoms of depression. Sure, it could be that if you look better you feel better, but a study conducted at Cardiff University, in the United Kingdom, found a more likely explanation: When people had their frown lines treated with Botox, the paralysis of those facial muscles prevented them from transmitting negative-mood signals to the brain, which correlated with a lifting of the spirits.

Marathon Workouts

In the skin-aging equation, regular moderate exercise is a plus, since it reduces stress. But if you frequently run or bicycle long distances, you are not only exposing yourself to lots of UV light but also “jolting, and possibly damaging, the support structure of the skin,” says Brandt.

Preventive measures: Do not consider this a license to slack off! Brandt emphasizes that premature skin aging is generally an issue for extreme athletes only. That said, the use of lots of sunscreen and a great moisturizer can go a long way toward counteracting the relentless pull of gravity.

Read More About:Anti-Aging

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