Calculating Your Skin Age

Close up picture of the faces of a hispanic senior man and his eleven years old grandchild
Your skin can make you look older or younger than you actually are.

You've probably heard a lot of arguments about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle -- how eating well, exercising and refraining from things like cigarettes will boost your energy and prevent trips to the doctor. What you may not have heard in these arguments is how much your lifestyle choices affect your skin.

Your skin has the ability to reflect your real age, or it can make you look younger than you actually are. It can also make you look older. Taking your lifestyle into account, you can get a more accurate reading on your skin age than by just looking at your reflection in the mirror or counting birthdays.


For a quick test of skin age, pay attention to how your face feels after the next time you wash it. If your skin feels smooth, it probably still gives off the impression of youth. If your skin feels rough, however, you may want to consider options for repairing some signs of aging [source: Janes].

As skin ages, it becomes dry and loose, and it can even experience uneven pigmentation [source: Prevention]. Safety under the sun is a big factor in how your skin ages. Not only does wearing sunscreen whenever you go outdoors help prevent skin cancer; it also provides a shield against premature aging of the skin.

You might be able to repair sun damage later in life, but prevention is the best medicine. You can avoid signs of aging skin, like dryness, wrinkles and uneven skin tone, by eating well, exercising regularly, refraining from smoking and shielding yourself from the sun's harmful rays. Think of your skin as a canvas displaying a portrait of your overall health.

If you think your skin may be showing some signs of aging, read the next page for information on how to recognize your skin age.


Skin Age Factors

The age of your skin is determined by a lot more than a date on the calendar. Lots of things, ranging from lifestyle choices to genetics, play a role in how old your skin appears. Your skin ages in different ways, too -- not everyone will go through the same aging process.

As you get older, your skin produces less collagen. Collagen is what keeps your skin pulled tightly around your body, so having less means that skin loses some of its youthful elasticity. Your skin may even sag, causing wrinkles [source: Prevention].


When people hit their 40s, skin also produces less oil than it previously did. This will cause your skin to be drier than before, so if you used to wash your face twice a day, you may want to switch to only washing at night. Cleansing can dry out skin even more, so use a quick splash of water to wake yourself up in the morning, and save using a cleanser for removing dirt and makeup for the end of the day. Also be sure to use a moisturizer afterwards -- this can help slow the aging process.

Another skin age factor to watch for is your skin's tone. Your may notice as you get older that the pigmentation in your skin isn't as even as it used to be, or that you have small, darker spots on your skin that weren't there before. Sometimes referred to as sun spots, these little dark circles resemble freckles and shouldn't be confused with moles.

Now that you know what to look for in your skin's age, read on to learn how to keep these factors at bay.


Determining Your Skin Age

If you're concerned about the way your skin is aging, rest assured that a great deal of your skin's fate is under your control. Skin age is determined by evaluating a number of lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, smoking and sun exposure.

How much time your skin spends unprotected in the sun has a lot to do with how quickly your skin ages. The sun can cause anything from a decrease in collagen to uneven skin tone, so be sure to use a sunscreen at all times when you're outdoors. Even stress can take its toll on your skin. Stress produces a hormone called cortisol, which has a tendency to decrease collagen production [source: Prevention].


To keep your skin looking young, you can eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and unsaturated fats. Foods rich in as omega-3 fatty acids, for instance, such as fish and nuts, are particularly helpful for people with dry skin [source: University of Maryland]. Exercise helps your skin, too, by facilitating oxygen flow to keep it firm [sources: Janes].

Most resources that assign a number to your skin age will take into account your lifestyle and then provide skin care advice based on what decade your skin's age falls into. If your skin is in its 20s or 30s -- no matter what your real age is -- you'll want to focus on preventing signs of aging. If your skin is older and you want it to look younger again, you'll want to focus on repair.

For lots more information on skin age and skin care, follow the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Janes, Beth. "How Young Is Your Skin?" Self Magazine. April 2009. (Sept. 21, 2009)
  • Oprah Radio. "Slow Your Clock Down." (Sept. 21, 2009)
  • Prevention Magazine. "Skin Health." Dec. 19, 2008. (Sept. 21, 2009)
  • Prevention Magazine. "Your Younger-Skin Strategy." 2009. (Sept. 21, 2009)
  • University of Maryland. "Omega-3 fatty acids." (Sept. 21, 2009)