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12 Sneaky Everyday Things That Age You

Inflammatory Foods

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What’s on your plate can be what causes wrinkles, Just think: You eat three or more times a day, most likely, and if your daily meals are filled with foods such as vegetable oils, margarine, red meats, white bread, or sugary, processed foods, you're not doing your skin any favors. These foods can cause inflammation in your body, which may accelerate wrinkle formation. Through a process called glycation, sugars found in foods with a high glycemic index bind to collagen and elastin, weakening them.

To prevent premature aging, stock up on foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acids (ALA) such as flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, avocados, salmon, and olive oil. These foods will help your skin maintain its soft and supple look.

Be sure to load up on fruits and veggies, too. Fresh produce is abundant in zinc, selenium, vitamin C, and beta carotene, all of which are key players in the body's production of collagen (which keeps skin firm), as well as protecting against free radicals. Two good options are red bell peppers and carrots. Not a fan? Try upping your intake of broccoli—just 1 cup has 100 percent of the total daily recommended value of vitamin C. Lastly, make sure you're getting enough protein—studies show that an insufficient amount of protein can cause tears, wrinkles, and cracks in your skin. Aim to get at least one protein-containing food (for example, eggs, lean beef or poultry, beans) at each meal. (And complete your supermarket shopping list with even more ideas of the best anti-aging foods on the planet.)

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Happy Hour

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Alcohol is a natural diuretic, so the more you drink, the more dehydrated you become. Besides sapping the natural moisture from your skin, excessive booze can also trigger rosacea outbreaks and exacerbates fine lines, acne, and wrinkles, all of which instantly make you look older. You don't have to swear off the bottle altogether, but by drinking less, your liver doesn't have to work as hard to flush out toxins and impurities from your body, and when it works more efficiently, you'll see the results in your skin.

Related: How to Stop Drinking Alcohol Without Feeling Like a Pariah

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Neglecting the Skin Around Your Eyes

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This is a good habit to start early, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. "The skin around your eyes is the thinnest and has very few oil glands," she says. Pamper your eyes with a little TLC and stave off signs of aging by picking a daily eye cream that includes peptides—they work to stimulate collagen production and prevent fine lines. Be sure to check the label: Other notable ingredients that reduce puffiness, lines, wrinkles, and under eye circles are caffeine, and nicotinic acid (a form of the B vitamin niacin).

Related: The Top Anti-Aging Products of the Year

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Not Exercising

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While excessive running can cause sagging known as "runner's face," (experts believe what causes wrinkles is that it causes more oxygen or free radical damage, which can lead to a breakdown in collagen), moderate exercise (defined as exercising at 40 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate) is not only healthy for your weight, heart, and lungs, but it provides a rejuvenating effect on the skin. Since the damaging skin effects don't take place until you've been running or working out for 90 minutes at 70 to 80 percent of your heart rate, as long as you keep your workouts short and sweaty, you'll be able to reap the best of both worlds and get the anti-aging and weight-loss benefits.

Related: Why It's Never Too Early to Start Protecting the Collagen In Your Skin

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Makeup Missteps

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Makeup can help hide imperfections and age spots, but the using the wrong kind can be what causes wrinkles or what makes you look older than you truly are. For example, some heavy foundations and powders can settle into the wrinkles around your eyes and mouth, accentuating fine lines. Swap your foundation for a lighter formula or tinted moisturizer that will provide coverage while enhancing your skin's luminosity.

Make your eyes pop in the morning by lining the inside rims of your lower lids with a white eyeliner pencil. Finally, use facial blotting tissues that will soak up excess oil without smearing or ruining your look. (And add these retinol products to your routine for younger-looking skin.)

Related: The Best Anti-Aging Moisturizers to Use Every Morning

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Smog

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Research has shown that chemicals in the air cause reactive oxygen species and free radicals similar to those from sunlight. To protect against air pollution, make sure to take three important steps.

  1. Cleanse at night to get rid of pesky industrial particles that have settled on your face.
  2. Fortify the skin with an antioxidant.
  3. Add a barrier repair cream to help fortify your skin's natural defenses.

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Smoking

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This should come as no surprise that this habit could be what causes wrinkles. Is there any organ that benefits from smoking? People may actually see the detrimental effects of smoking begin to occur just a few years after initial cigarette use. Deep furrows that result from the constant lip purse required to secure your smoke? Those are just the beginning of the story.

According to the Mayo Clinic, nicotine in cigarettes causes narrowing of blood vessels in the outermost layers of skin, leading to impaired circulation. A weaker blood supply means fewer nutrients. The many collagen-destroying chemicals in nicotine don't help the already rocky situation. Try to kick the habit to benefit your heart, lungs, and brain as well.

Related: How Running Helped Me Quit Smoking for Good

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Harsh Soap

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That's right, soap. Soaps have a high pH, so they strip the skin of natural lipids and proteins, leaving our barrier compromised, dehydrated, and easily inflamed. Cosmetically this translates into a dry, cracked, face with a lackluster appearance and accentuated fine lines. Next shower, use a mild pH-neutral non-soap cleanser instead—one that deposits moisture instead of stripping it. With the right product, after just one wash you may notice a new glow and radiance.

Related: The Best Moisturizing Body Washes Your Shower Routine Needs

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Stress

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Nothing takes its toll on your body faster than constant worry, anxiety, or stress. Stress can age your brain, increase your blood pressure, and disrupt your sleeping habits, all of which combined can make you look older, as well.

It's hard for most people to reduce the amount of work-related stress they face, but hopefully, you can dial it down with just a few simple lifestyle tweaks. Limit the amount of caffeine you drink, avoid processed foods, which can put stress on your digestive system, and try taking up a weekly yoga or meditation session to boost your mood and calm your mind. Not your thing? Try these five ways to reduce stress and sleep better after a long day.

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Falling Short on Sleep

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No question about it, those eight hours are worth it. The term "beauty sleep" comes from the fact that the skin automatically regenerates and repairs itself at night. Cutting sleep means less time for Mother Nature to work her magic. Also, stomach sleepers may notice more puffiness, especially around the eyes, as fluid cannot drain quite so easily in this position.

More than a third of American adults don't get the recommended amount of sleep per night, which can cause big-time negative effects on your health, such as weight gain, impaired immune system, decreased focus, sallow skin, and compromised memory. (Learn how to eat your way to better—and more—zzzs.)

If you can, try to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. But be careful: Sleeping too long on one side of your face can be what causes wrinkles and sleep lines. The best way to avoid fine lines and wrinkles is by sleeping on your back or purchasing smooth pillowslip cases.

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Squinting

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One of the most common facial expressions is the squint—we do it when we're happy, sad, when the sun is too bright, and even when words are hard to read. If some or all of these apply, crow's feet may pop out much sooner than we would like because the skin around the eyes is so thin, and every little crease seems magnified. So keep those shades handy for brighter days, and make an appointment for a vision screening if headlines are getting hazy.

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Sunbathing

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As amazing as that sun feels on your body, sunbathing or tanning is one of the worst things you can do for your skin. Besides the risk of cancer, excessive UV ray exposure weakens your skin cells and blood vessels, which causes that tanned, leathery look you see on people who've spent their entire lives outdoors. Interestingly enough, it can even make your skin more susceptible to bruising.

So how do you protect yourself? Sunscreen. All day, every day. It may seem obvious, but a four-year Australian study officially confirmed what experts have long suspected: That the regular, daily application of sunscreen can fight wrinkles, reduce the risk of developing skin cancer, and keep your skin smooth and resilient.

To make sure you're maximizing the benefits of sunscreen, use about 1 ounce (that's the size of a standard shot glass) of SPF 30 sunscreen for your entire body, with a nickel-sized amount for your face, and remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially on those hot summer days when you're constantly in and out of the pool.

If you skipped the sunblock and are already burned, there may not be a lot you can do, but the next time you go out, arm yourself against the sun's harmful rays by combining your daily moisturizer with a vitamin C serum to reverse the damage. "Studies have shown that if you put vitamin C on the skin, it somewhat prevents the skin from getting burned," says Gerald Imber, M.D., a plastic surgeon practicing in New York and author of The Youth Corridor. "If you add vitamin E, the effect is a little bit better. And if you add melatonin to the mix, it dramatically protects your skin."

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