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Tips for preventing premature skin aging

While it is natural for people to experience thinner, drier skin as well as an increase in wrinkles as they age, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes that sometimes it is a patient’s environment and lifestyle choices that can cause their skin to age prematurely.

Though there is no way for a patient to prevent their skin from aging, the AAD recently released a list of tips to help prevent premature skin aging.

“Every effective anti-aging skincare plan starts with healthy habits,” said Dr. Michele Green in a press release. “Daily activities, such as protecting your skin from the sun and eating healthy foods, can go a long way in preventing your skin from aging more quickly than it should.”

Dr. Green is a New York-based cosmetic dermatologist.

To prevent premature skin aging, Dr. Green recommends the following tips for patients:

  • Protect the skin from the sun. Sun exposure plays a major role in premature skin aging. Patients should protect their skin from the sun year-round by seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothing—including a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV (ultraviolet) protection. She recommended patients apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. For more effective sun protection, Dr. Green said patients should choose clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.

  • Apply a facial moisturizer every day. Moisturizer traps water in the skin, giving it a more youthful appearance. For patients to save time on their skincare routine, Dr. Green suggests using a moisturizer that contains sunscreen. She adds that while a moisturizer/sunscreen combination is convenient, it is important to remember that sunscreen needs to be re-applied every two hours when the patient is outdoors.

  • Be gentle to the skin. Patients should limit face washing to twice daily and after sweating and use skincare products labelled “hypoallergenic”, “fragrance-free”, or “non-comedogenic.” They should avoid scrubbing their skin and using skincare products that sting or burn, because irritating the skin can make it look older.

  • Avoid repetitive facial movements. Patients should avoid facial movements such as squinting, frowning, or holding a straw or cigarette in their mouth, which can cause wrinkles over time. They can reduce these facial movements with lifestyle changes, such as wearing sunglasses to avoid squinting outdoors.

  • Stay out of tanning beds. Similar to the sun, tanning beds emit harmful UV radiation that can lead to skin cancer and premature skin aging, including wrinkles and age spots. If patients really want to look tanned, they should use a self-tanner.

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can help the patient prevent damage that leads to premature skin aging. Additionally, exercising daily can improve circulation and boost the immune system, which may give the skin a more youthful appearance. Patients should avoid smoking, and drink alcohol in moderation, as these habits contribute to premature skin ageing.

  • Consider using a retinol cream. Retinol is available in many over-the-counter skincare products at doses of up to 2%. When applied daily, a retinol cream can help prevent premature skin aging. However, since it can take time for the skin to adjust to a retinol, patients should start by applying it every other day instead of daily. If patients do not experience any negative side effects, they can start applying the retinol every day.

“If [patients are] worried about aging skin, [they should consult a] dermatologist,” said Dr. Green. “There are plenty of treatments available, including non-invasive procedures, to help smooth wrinkles, tighten skin and improve [the skin’s] complexion.”

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