Many of us are so busy obsessing over little lines that we ignore other signs of aging that can be prevented or repaired with a few easy adjustments. So what could be wreaking havoc on your face? Here’s what to watch out for, along with no-brainer ways to turn back the clock.
A Dull Complexion
Sure, sure, by now you probably know that skipping your daily skin care routine can make you zitty, but can it also make you look older? Unfortunately, yes. “If you’re not cleansing your skin on a regular basis, dead skin cells start to accumulate on the surface,” says Diane Berson, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Medical College at Cornell University. All those unsloughed cells block the work of moisturizers and anti-aging creams and make your skin look lackluster, according to Rolanda Johnson, Ph.D., senior scientist at Procter & Gamble Beauty. And if that’s not skeevy enough, “research has shown that free radicals in the environment can react with remaining dirt and oil to damage and age skin over time,” says Johnson.
Pesky Dark Spots
The most likely cause of brown spots is our good old friend and foe: the sun. UV rays can trigger an overproduction of melanin in the skin, and the effect on your appearance is every bit as aging as wrinkles. Shockingly, a 2009 study done on facial aging in identical twins found that different amounts of sun exposure made the more sun-damaged sibling look as much as 10 years older! “A lot of what we call aging is actually photo-aging from the sun,” says Dr. Berson. But first of all, what does a sunspot look like? Basically, it’s a big freckle that’s symmetrical and all one color, as opposed to skin cancers, which generally have asymmetry, irregular borders, color changes and a diameter larger than six millimeters, or about a quarter of an inch.
It’s no coincidence that the dude who represents the harshest season of the year is called Old Man Winter—chilly weather is brutal on the skin. The cold air and arid indoor heat break down your skin’s protective barrier, making it blotchy, flaky, older-seeming. “A youthful glow is all about luminosity,” says Dr. Levine. “Dry, rough, scaly skin stops light in its tracks.”
Puffy Eye Bags
You might not experience these till your forties or beyond—but in this world, many women get them earlier, and they can make you look older than you are.
While your skin is doing the whole growing-old-gracefully thing, the under-eye area slowly darkens from a natural loss of fat stores. Eventually, that leads to hollowness and a shadowy effect. But in your twenties and thirties, dark circles can be attributed to three things: genetics, allergies or yo-yo dieting.