8 bad habits to avoid to slow down the effects of aging on the skin

Making a few changes to your lifestyle — and modifying harmful behaviors — can help protect you from cancer and slow the aging process. Start by avoiding these eight bad habits.

Bad habit 1: Skipping a daily dose of SPF

It doesn’t matter if the only time you go out is to get the mail, say dermatologists: It’s always important to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen to your face, neck, chest, hands – all areas of exposed skin – daily. . Most of the damage caused by sunlight in a person’s lifetime occurs during daily activities such as driving to work, reading the newspaper and walking the dog, says John Wolf Jr., MD, director of the department of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine.

“It’s not just about playing golf, tennis, sunbathing and skiing,” says Wolf. “Remember that the sun shines through the windshield of your car and through the windows” of your home and workplace.

Dermatologists recommend mineral-based sunscreens that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to block the sun rather than those that use chemicals, which can irritate your skin. If you spend time outdoors, be sure to reapply about every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

Regular daily use of SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50%, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. And if the fear of skin cancer isn’t enough to convince you to opt for sunscreen, consider how it can affect your appearance: a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that women who used broad-spectrum sunscreen daily showed no detectable increase in skin aging after four and a half years compared to those who used it only occasionally.

“I put my sunscreen next to my toothpaste, so I see it and put it on automatically every day,” says Wolf.

Bad habit 2: Smoking

Add this to the ever-growing list of reasons to quit smoking: plenty of research shows that smoking accelerates premature skin aging. Over time, smokers are more likely to experience dry skin, uneven skin pigmentation, puffy eyes, sagging jawline, and deep facial wrinkles and furrows. “The skin of addicted smokers at the age of 40 has been observed to resemble the skin of non-smoking adults at the age of 70,” wrote the authors of a published review.

Smoking also slows the body’s ability to heal itself and increases your risk of skin infection, in addition to boosting your body’s overall inflammation, says Heather Holahan, MD, dermatologist at UNC Health and assistant professor at the University of Carolina. North to Chapel. Hill.

Meanwhile, the carcinogens in cigarette smoke dramatically increase your risk of developing a variety of cancers, including skin cancer.

Bad habit 3: Over-exfoliating

A little exfoliation can be good for the skin. It sloughs off dry, dead skin cells to reveal glowing, youthful skin. But many people scrub too hard or exfoliate too often, dermatologists say, which can damage your body’s protective barrier.

Over-exfoliation causes inflammation, dryness, irritation, and tiny cuts in the skin, says Holahan. It can also contribute to skin rashes. And because skin thickens in response to trauma, if you continue to over-exfoliate, your skin can become dull and flaky over time.

If you exfoliate regularly and your skin isn’t improving, limit your exfoliating sessions to once a week and reduce friction, advises Holahan. Or try a chemical exfoliator that uses ingredients like alpha and beta hydroxy acids to gently dissolve dead skin cells.

Bad habit 4: Buying products with fragrances and dyes

Lots of people love heavily scented soaps and lotions, but the products you used when you were younger can start to cause rashes and irritation as you age, as your skin thins and becomes more sensitive. Artificial fragrances, dyes and other chemicals also make dryness worse, says Holahan.

If you tend to have dry skin, choose fragrance-free soaps or cleansers designed for sensitive skin, as well as “free and clear” laundry detergents and dish soap. To seal in moisture, apply a fragrance-free lotion or moisturizer every time you wash your hands or face.

Bad habit 5: Drinking alcohol

Alcohol dehydrates your skin, making wrinkles more visible, and it has been linked to puffiness under the eyes, loss of volume in the middle of the face, and increased flushing or redness. Drinking alcohol also increases your risk of acne and rosacea, and research shows it may even make you more susceptible to skin cancer.

A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, for example, found that drinking more than one drink a day increases your risk of malignant melanoma by about 20%, and the risk increases if you drink more. Researchers believe that alcohol makes your body more sensitive to ultraviolet rays and reduces its immune response after sun damage.

Bad habit 6: picking and scratching

It’s human nature to pick and scratch at insect bites, scabs, pimples and other bumps on the skin, but you can cause infection or create a permanent scar, dermatologists say.

Habit also makes it harder for doctors to diagnose problems. “If you touch something and there’s a thick scab of blood or a scab, I have to get a much deeper sample to send to the pathologist, and you end up with a bigger scar,” says Ploch.

Whether you’re a chronic picker or just can’t resist scratching an itchy mosquito bite, Ploch says the solution is simple: cover the area with a bandage for a few days. “Our skin doesn’t really breathe. It doesn’t need to be aired or dried, so cover whatever is picked,” she says.

Bad habit 7: Ignoring a changing mole

Skin cancer is highly treatable if you catch it early, so it’s essential to check your skin regularly, says Wolf. If you have a mole or other spot that’s growing, itching, bleeding, or changing in any way, make an appointment with a dermatologist right away, advises Wolf. A change in mole or a new mole is often a sign of melanoma. As

The most worrisome are very dark, uneven in color, uneven in shape, or fast growing. Remember that melanomas can appear even in places with little sun exposure. Ploch found some in the groin area, on the buttocks and in the crease behind the ear.

“I want people to come whenever there’s something they’re worried about,” she says. “Some people tell themselves over and over that it’s okay until it’s too late.”

Bad habit 8: Taking hot showers and baths

Many older people suffer from dry, cracked skin in winter. Taking a hot, humid shower or bath may seem therapeutic, but it can make the problem worse. “You feel good when you’re in it, but in the long run the heat dries out the skin and makes the itching worse,” says Wolf.

Instead, aim for a quick lukewarm shower and be sure to use a mild, fragrance-free soap or body wash, suggests Wolf. If your skin is excessively dry, consider using soap only in skin folds and other areas that tend to smell, rather than all over your body.

After your shower or bath, while your skin is still damp, apply a high-quality cream or lotion to lock moisture into your skin.​

Michelle Crouch is a contributing writer who has covered health and personal finance for some of the nation’s leading consumer publications. His work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Real Simple, Prevention, The Washington Post and The New York Times.​

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