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Age brings with it the two w’s: wisdom and wrinkles. While we’ll happily take the former, we’re not so thrilled with the latter. But while you can’t actually turn back the clock, of course, it is possible to delay how soon those lines show up on your face, or how severe they’ll be. Check out these everyday habits upping your wrinkle quota—and what you can do to minimize them.
You chew gum
Sorry, fresh-breath aficionados, but chomping on gum leads to wrinkles, because it forces your mouth to continually form different shapes. “For frequent chewers, those formations end up resulting in a downward turn in the corners of the mouth, as well as a pronounced muscle at the bottom of the jawline,” says Joel Schlessinger, MD, board-certified dermatologist and CEO of LovelySkin.com. And once formed, they’re incredibly difficult to undo, he says. The simple solution: Stick to mints, breath strips, mouth wash…just about anything other than gum. (Take a look at these gross side-effects of chewing gum to help you give up the habit for good.)
You sleep on your stomach
Consistently pushing on your face (which your pillow does when you snuggle into it face-first) causes creases, eventually resulting in permanent wrinkles, says Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, MD, PhD, a New York City-based dermatologist. Frowning in your sleep is another nighttime wrinkle risk, says Jeannette Graf, MD, an assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center. The solution: either sleep on your back—Graf suggests placing a pillow under your knees to help deter you from rolling onto your side—or upgrade to a copper pillowcase; this kind of cover reduces the appearance of crow’s feet and generally smoothes out skin, finds a Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology study.
There are plenty of reasons to quit smoking that have nothing to do with vanity, but we’re more than happy to add another to the list: Smoking makes you look older faster because it restricts blood flow to your skin, making it tough for skin cells to get the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay healthy and regenerate, according to research published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Plus, the chemicals in cigarette smoke break down the skin’s fiber and elastin, and constantly pursing your lips creates fine lines around the mouth.
You love sugar
It’s no secret that hitting the dessert table too often does bad things to your waistline, but indulging in sugary treats can also damage the skin, says Alexiades-Armenakas. “Sugar molecules bind to tissues by a process called glycation,” she says. When that happens, harmful new molecules are created in your bloodstream, and these saboteurs damage collagen and elastin, the fibers responsible for keeping your skin taut and firm. (Have a sweet tooth that won’t quit? Here’s how to get sugar smart.)
You consider sunscreen optional
“Two of the most important things for wrinkle prevention are using sunscreen and outright sun avoidance,” says Rod Rohrich, MD, a professor of plastic surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Because you can’t always stay out of the sun, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests slathering on a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater every day—emphasis on every day; even going for a quick drive sans sunscreen can lead to skin damage, says Rohrich, who notes that people often have more wrinkles on the left side of the face—the side that’s exposed to the sun when you drive.
You can’t live without your smartphone
Our phones and tablets may be partly to blame for the wrinkles below your chin. Just think about it: Your neck is cocked at an unusual angle when you stare down at your gadgets for hours on end. You’ve probably noticed the immediate effects—as in a sore neck and strained eyes—but other issues may develop over time, including stubborn neck wrinkles, says Schlessinger. He suggests trying to view your screens in a more ergonomic way (that tablet stand you never use, perhaps) to lessen your chance of lines.