Premature Aging: Signs, Causes, 8 Tips

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Your skin naturally ages as you grow older, but some environmental and lifestyle factors cause premature aging. You can prevent premature skin aging by applying moisturizer, using retinoids, and wearing sunscreen every day. Other lifestyle changes that protect your skin include eating nutrient-rich foods and staying hydrated.

Some skin changes are a natural part of getting older. There are also lifestyle factors, such as sun damage, that can accelerate the aging process. Read on to learn how to slow down the appearance of wrinkles in your 30s and protect your skin.

It’s normal for your skin to change as you age. You might notice your skin becoming a bit dryer and thinner. Fine lines may form around your eyes and mouth. Collagen and elastin—both of which are proteins that maintain the structure, strength, and elasticity of the skin—begin to weaken. Some people may notice those changes earlier than others.

Some of the most common signs of premature aging include:

  • Actinic keratosis, or precancerous pink rough patches that require medical attention
  • Age spots, or dark spots that appear in areas exposed to the sun
  • Brown rough patches, skin tags, and warts
  • Cherry angiomas, or red benign (non-cancerous) skin growths
  • Easy bruising and bleeding under the skin
  • Graying hair
  • Leather-like skin
  • Thin, dry, and itchy skin
  • Wrinkles and sagging skin

Your skin ages naturally due to genetics and hormones. Some environmental and lifestyle factors that speed up the aging process include:

  • Air pollution
  • Alcohol
  • Chemicals and toxins
  • Skin irritants (i.e., products that make your skin burn or sting)
  • Smoking
  • Sun exposure
  • Tanning beds

The delicate area under your eyes may start to thin and change around your late 20s and early 30s. Eye creams help minimize darkening, decrease puffiness, and rejuvenate this sensitive skin. Apply an eye cream, like Lumière Firm Illuminating & Tightening Eye Cream or CeraVe Eye Repair Cream, every day.

Excess added sugar and alcohol in your diet may enhance the inflammation of your skin and worsen health concerns like rosacea. This skin condition causes redness and bumps.

Try limiting your added sugar and alcohol intake. Instead, aim to replace those items with antioxidant-rich foods and healthy fats that help support healthy skin. Examples include salmon, pomegranate, and green tea.

Skin loses the ability to retain moisture with age. Switch to a hydrating cleanser from brands like Cetaphil or CeraVe instead of using a harsh foaming soap. Keep the water lukewarm while you wash your face. Gently pat your face dry with a soft towel to help prevent excess irritation and loss of natural oils.

A study published in 2015 found that physical activity, at least a couple of times per week, may help protect your skin. The researchers asked sedentary volunteers to cycle at a moderately strenuous pace for 30 minutes twice per week. After three months, their skin samples showed that the inner and outer layers looked years younger than prior to the exercise program.

The authors also noted that skin samples from habitual exercisers had fewer age-related changes than those from adults who exercised once per week or less. More research is needed to understand the effects of exercise on skin health. Still, there are plenty of studies that show exercise is generally beneficial for your overall health.

Hydrate inside and out by regularly drinking water and applying moisturizer to your skin. Water maintains the elasticity and plumpness that makes skin glow. Your skin may develop dry patches if you do not drink enough fluids.

Some people vastly overlook moisturizing. Some of the natural oils from your skin strip off every time you shower. Replace that moisture with a cream or lotion containing ceramides, or lipids (fats) similar in structure to those in the skin barrier.

The natural cell-renewal process slows down as you age. Dead skin cells that do not slough off your skin sit on its surface and dull it. As a result, those dead skin cells age your appearance and enhance fine lines and pores.

Use a topical peel to exfoliate (remove) dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin. Be sure to apply the product gently using small, circular motions and rinse with lukewarm, not hot, water.

Of note: Do not use a topical peel if you have any open cuts or sunburns. Avoid exfoliants if you use retinoid creams or products containing retinol or benzoyl peroxide. Mixing those products may worsen dry skin or lead to acne breakouts.

Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that help improve skin texture and minimize wrinkles. Like retinol, retinoids strengthen your skin barrier, limit water loss, and protect against collagen loss. Retinoids may smoothen fine lines, wrinkles, and even dark age spots. Keep in mind that it may take at least several weeks to notice any changes.

Sunscreen is for year-round use, not just summertime. Wear a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Sunscreen helps protect you from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that cause damage and speed up skin aging.

Apply sunscreen 15–30 minutes before you go outside. Remember to reapply it at least every two hours. You’ll need to reapply more often than that if you are swimming or sweating.

Premature aging, especially due to sun exposure, is often permanent. Still, you might be able to reduce signs of premature aging, such as age spots, loose skin, and wrinkles.

Some treatments that may help include:

  • Chemical peels: Smoothes the outer layer of your skin
  • Cryosurgery: Freezes tissue to help get rid of age spots
  • Fillers: Tightens loose skin and wrinkles
  • Growth factors and peptides: Applied topically to improve the appearance of loose skin
  • Laser resurfacing: CO2 (carbon dioxide) lasers, among others, remove layers of living skin, which tightens and smooths the skin
  • Light therapy: Low-level LED light helps increase collagen production in the skin
  • Microdermabrasion: Exfoliates your skin
  • Microneedling: Induces collagen production and helps fade acne scars
  • Non-invasive radiofrequency: Heats tissue to tighten loose skin
  • Prescription-strength retinoids: Are more potent than over-the-counter retinoids and retinol to help smoothen your skin
  • Radiofrequency microneedling: Fractionated microneedle radiofrequency (FMRF) devices help reduce wrinkle appearance
  • Ultrasound: Improves loose skin using heat

Aging is natural and usually does not signal a severe health condition. Still, premature aging might be a sign of too much sun exposure, a significant risk factor for skin cancer.

Contact a healthcare provider if you notice:

  • A mole that changes or looks different than others on your body
  • Brown or black streaks underneath your nails
  • Dome-shaped growths
  • Scaly patches of skin
  • Sores that do not heal or go away and then return

It’s never too early to start taking care of your skin. Remember to drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and include antioxidant-rich foods and healthy fats in your diet. These lifestyle changes help support your skin from the inside.

Try incorporating products like retinol, creams, sunscreen, moisturizers, and topical peels to support the structure, strength, and elasticity of your skin. Talk to a dermatologist if you are unsure what products are best for your skin.

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