From the venerable wizard Gandolph in "Lord of the Rings" to the Catholic church's blessed Mother Teresa, both fiction and history are packed with archetypes of wise old men and women. In spite of the extraordinary powers and selfless good deeds of these sages and saints, however, their wrinkled visages are conspicuously absent from skin care advertisements. Skin sells, it seems. Wrinkles do not.
Yet, wrinkles are unavoidable. As you age, your skin loses its elasticity and the layer of fat under your face begins to thin, resulting in wrinkling [source: Roizen]. But before you resign yourself to a future full of furrows, laugh lines and crow's feet, you should know there are a few simple ways to stave off these inevitable signs of aging. Let's take a look at the top five ways to prevent wrinkles.
Resist Drinking Alcohol and Smoking Cigarettes
There's a famous Greek saying: "all in good measure." When it comes to smooth skin, moderating your alcohol and cigarette consumption is more important than ever.
If you've ever awoken with the hallmark headache of a hangover, you've experienced the dehydrating effects of alcohol. This dehydration affects the skin as well, contributing to wrinkles. Alcohol also causes capillaries to leak. While you're passed out, sleeping it off, water is collecting in your soft tissue, making your face puffy and paving the way for wrinkles to form [source: Roizen].
Smoking is another cause of wrinkling. Cigarettes deplete arteries of the nitric oxide that helps make skin flexible. Repetitive muscle movements over a long period of time also cause wrinkling. Although laugh and smile lines may be unavoidable, deeply pruned lips from years of sucking on cigarettes are not [source: Roizen].
Eat Vitamin-rich Foods
While we're talking moderation, it makes sense to point out that a balanced diet improves skin health as much as it improves overall health. Certain foods are especially beneficial for the skin. Vitamins A, C and E, as well as carotenoids (found in salmon), and lycopene (found in tomatoes), are great for your skin [source: Roizen].
A 2001 research study led by Mark L. Wahlqvist of Monash University delved into the diets of 400 adults aged 70 or older and concluded that, overall, participants who ate a diet rich in antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E had smoother skin [source: San-Joyz]. More research is needed to determine the exact effect of vitamins on wrinkles. Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to eat these foods, which are rich in vitamins A, C and E:
- Vitamin A: spinach, sweet potatoes, papayas, eggs, mangos and cantaloupe
- Vitamin C: red bell peppers, broccoli, peaches, papayas and oranges
- Vitamin E: nuts and seeds
Read the Label: Moisturizer and Wrinkle Creams
Since adding good sources of vitamins A, C and E to your diet is so great for skin, it makes sense to check the labels on your moisturizers and wrinkle creams for these wrinkle-busting ingredients.
- Vitamin A (a retinoid) appears on cosmetics labels as Retin-A (retinoic acid), retinol and retinyl. When applied as a topical cream, these ingredients increase collagen and elastin (proteins in the dermis). Retinoids also work to repair sun damage and lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- The L-ascorbic acid version of vitamin C penetrates the outer layer of skin and increases vitamin C levels by 40 percent. Vitamin C protects against sunburn and can decrease the appearance of rosacea.
- DL-alpha-tocopherol is the most effective topical form of vitamin E. It enhances the effects of sunscreen and slows the formation of wrinkles. Because UV rays degrade or inactivate vitamins C and E, use products containing these ingredients at night or underneath sunblock.
Wash and Exfoliate
True or False: Dry skin causes wrinkles? Surprisingly, the answer is false.
The same environmental assaults that cause wrinkles also cause dry skin; dry skin is a by-product of these assaults, rather than the cause of the wrinkles themselves [source: Firth]. Even though dry skin doesn't cause wrinkling, it does make existing wrinkles more noticeable. Proper washing and exfoliating will help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
The outer layer of skin (epidermis) contains a protective acid barrier that prevents bacterial and fungal growth. Ordinary soaps have an alkaline pH which removes this barrier. Instead of ordinary bar soap, use gentle pH-balanced cleansers. For an added benefit, consider applying a topical antioxidant, such as the L-ascorbic acid version of vitamin C, naicinamide or pantothenic acid. Antioxidants reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
You should also exfoliate regularly with a physical exfoliate, such as finely ground apricot seeds, or a chemical exfoliate, such as alpha-hydroxy acid (fruit-based acids) or glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane) [source: Roizen].
Stave off the Sun's Rays
On that first glorious, sunny day of spring, nothing feels better than lifting your face to the gigantic, gaseous giver of life: the sun. There's no doubt the sun is a benevolent force in our world; however, its UV rays are also the No. 1 cause of wrinkles [source: Haddon].
But before you shroud your body completely, note that sunlight (since it's necessary for the production of vitamin D) is beneficial in moderate amounts. However, if you're going to be out in the sun in the middle of the day or for long periods of time, sunblock is essential.
Start by protecting your face and the backs of your hands with a daily moisturizer that contains an SPF 30 sunscreen. For long days in the sun, be sure to spread liberal amounts of sunscreen or sunblock evenly all over your body. Sunscreens take about 20 minutes to penetrate the skin, so slather them on well before you charge outside to enjoy a wrinkle-free day in the sun.
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Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Firth, Shannon. "8 Beauty Myths." Finding Dulcinea. April 9, 2009. (May 6, 2010)http://www.findingdulcinea.com/features/feature-articles/2008/august/Eight-Beauty-Myths.html
- Haddon, Dayle. "Principles of Ageless Living." Atria Books. May 2003.
- Lennon, Chritine. "8 Anti-Aging Solutions." Women's Health. Jan. 21, 2010. (May 6, 2010)http://www.womenshealthmag.com/beauty-and-style/natural-anti-aging
- Roizen, Michael F. and Mehmet, Oz C. "You Being Beautiful." Free Press. November 2008.
- San-Joyz, Naweko. "Can You Get Rid of Wrinkles with Food?" American Chronicle. Feb. 22, 2007. (May 6, 2010)http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/21134