12 Habits That Are Prematurely Aging Your Skin

From sleeping on your side to not drinking enough water, you are likely guilty of a lot of small and seemingly insignificant actions that are leading to premature signs of aging.
Expert Opinion
Written by Samantha Stone
09.09.2021
12 Habits That Are Prematurely Aging Your SkinDiego Cervo/Shutterstock

Here at The AEDITION, we spend a lot of time discussing the professional measures you can proactively take to preserve your skin: Botox®, microneedling, chemical peels, laser skin resurfacing, you name it! But, what about the everyday things you should (or shouldn’t) be doing at-home to keep the fountain of youth flowing longer?

From unexpected wrinkle inducers and dehydrators to habits that cause volume loss and pigmentation, there are likely a lot of small and seemingly insignificant actions in your day-to-day life that are leading to premature signs of aging. If you’ve ever wondered if your routine is speeding up the hands of time, we’ve tapped three top dermatologists to find out what everyday habits you might want to kick or reconsider.

1. Sleeping On Your Side

  • Causes: Fine Lines & Wrinkles

This just in: If you truly want some beauty rest, don’t be a side sleeper. “The friction and tugging that occurs through the night when we sleep on our side can contribute to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles on the face,” says Michele Green, MD, a board certified dermatologist in New York City. It may take some getting used to, but you might want to train yourself to sleep on your back — or, at the very least, alternate sides and switch to a silk pillowcase (we’re fans of the super smooth options from Slip). Your skin and strands will thank you.

2. Skipping Sunscreen Indoors

  • Causes: Pigmentation, Fine Lines & Wrinkles, Volume Loss, Laxity

We regularly extoll the virtues of a daily sunscreen routine, but, a little louder for the people in back: You need to be wearing sunscreen everyday, rain or shine, whether you step foot outdoors or not. “It is a good idea to wear a daily SPF moisturizer, even when you don’t plan on going outside, as UVA rays can penetrate glass windows,” says Brendan Camp, MD, a board certified dermatologist in NYC. While UVB rays burn the skin, Dr. Camp explains that UVA rays “contribute to the breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers, which lead to the formation of wrinkles and sagging skin.”

His tip? Choose a daily moisturizer that provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection with an SPF of 30 or higher. In case you’re in the market for a new formula, we’ve rounded up our favorite sunscreens to wear indoors.

3. Not Washing Your Face Before Bed

  • Causes: Uneven Skin Tone & Texture

Remember when your mom told you never to go to bed without taking your makeup off? Well, mama knows best. Skipping your daily cleanse step can “contribute to clogged pores as well as dullness of the skin,” cautions Marisa Garshick, MD, a board certified dermatologist in NYC. Clogged pores lead to a host of skin texture and tone concerns. “Without washing your face at night, there is often a buildup of oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells, which, in the short term, can lead to breakouts, but, in the long term, can cause dullness of the skin,” she explains. Check out our guide to the best cleansers and makeup removers that will make you look forward to washing the day away.

4. Too Much Screen Time

  • Causes: Pigmentation, Fine Lines & Wrinkles, Volume Loss, Laxity

You probably already know that excess screen time can negatively impact your mental health and eyesight, but are you aware that it can also damage the skin? “The blue light the screens emit causes premature signs of skin aging to develop,” Dr. Green explains. To help combat the effects of oxidative stress (think: pigmentation, fine lines, and uneven texture to name a few) caused by blue light, she recommends antioxidant-rich skin and sun care products, like the Cocokind Daily SPF 32, to limit damage when limiting screen time isn’t an option.

5. Being Too Rigid With Your Skincare Routine

  • Causes: Fine Lines & Wrinkles, Pigmentation, Dryness

A consistent and well-curated skincare regimen is an essential building block of healthy skin, but mindfulness matters. “It is important to pay attention to skin changes that may signal your skin is irritated,” Dr. Camp says. A prime example? Failing to press pause on active ingredients that increase photosensitivity (think: vitamin A derivatives and hydroxy acids) while spending a week at the shore. “It may not be necessary to apply a retinoid every night if you are on a beach vacation,” he explains. “Retinoids make your skin more photosensitive, which can put you at an increased risk of a sunburn.” But that’s not all. “The salt water can dry your skin making it more prone to the side effects of a retinoid,” he adds.

Seasonally switching up your skincare routine or temporarily swapping out one or two products that may cause irritating side effects due to a change in climate or circumstances can help to ensure you don’t undo all of your efforts. To get a better sense of what ingredients work best at certain times of the year, check out our guides to winter, spring, summer, and fall skincare.

6. Failing to Reapply Sunscreen

  • Causes: Fine Lines & Wrinkles, Pigmentation, Laxity, Volume Loss

It’s not enough to apply sunscreen as part of your morning routine. “If you don’t reapply sunscreen throughout the day and you are exposed to UV radiation, there is a risk of sun damage,” Dr. Garshick warns. For the uninitiated, sun exposure breaks down collagen, which leads to volume loss, line and wrinkles, and skin laxity. Additionally, brown spots crop up and skin cancer is a serious concern. “As a result it is important to remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours and sooner if swimming or sweating,” she says.

7. Not Drinking Enough Water

  • Causes: Dryness, Fine Lines & Wrinkles, Dullness

The body needs an adequate amount of water everyday to function at its best — and so does the skin. “The top layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, is the protective barrier that shields skin from harmful elements of the environment,” Dr. Green explains. “The skin’s protective barrier requires adequate hydration to remain strong, which can be supplied by drinking a sufficient amount of water.” What happens when we’re dehydrated? “Without enough water, the skin barrier weakens, making skin more prone to irritation, dryness, and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” she says.

While it may seem counterintuitive, a lack of moisture can lead to a surplus of sebum (read: oil). “When your skin cells aren’t well-moisturized, they tend to retain excess oil to make up for lack of hydration,” Dr. Green shares. “Excess oil in the skin can lead to pores becoming clogged and the formation of acne.” The takeaway? Drink up.

8. Over-Using Retinol & Retinoids

  • Causes: Dryness, Pigmentation, Fine Lines & Wrinkles, Volume Loss, Laxity

You’ve probably heard us wax poetic about the unparalleled skincare benefits of topical vitamin A derivatives like retinol and retinoids. But, as with anything, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. “Some patients tell me that they do not think their prescription retinoid or over-the-counter retinol is working unless it is making their skin peel,” Dr. Camp laments. “Some of the side effects of retinoids include redness, dryness, and scaling, but these are signs that the product is irritating the skin, not that it is turning back the clock on your skin’s age.”

If your complexion is struggling to make it through the retinization process, Dr. Camp says it’s important “to either use less of the product, apply it less often, combine it with a moisturizer, or use a lower concentration so that your skin better tolerates it.” And, if OTC retinol or prescription retinoids are just not for you, there are some gentler alternatives to try.

9. Aggressively Washing Your Face

  • Causes: Dryness, Fine Lines & Wrinkles

Yes, rule number three was to never skip washing your face, but, with that said, there is such a thing as ‘too clean.’ “While it may be tempting to have skin that is so clean it feels tight, this actually can strip the skin of its natural moisture leading to dryness of the skin,” Dr. Garshick explains. “When the skin loses moisture, it can make fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable.” She suggests steering clear of harsh soaps and abrasive scrubs that lead to that squeaky clean feeling. Instead, she says to opt for a gentle cleanser that will effectively cleanse “without stripping the skin of its natural oils” and may even “help to replenish moisture.”

10. Forgetting to Apply Sunscreen on the Backs of Your Hands

  • Causes: Pigmentation, Fine Lines & Wrinkles, Volume Loss, Laxity

One of the first areas of the body to show signs of aging? The oft-neglected hands. “We all are very good about paying attention to the skin on our face, but the skin on the back of our hands is an area that is also under chronic sun exposure and susceptible to the changes associated with aging skin,” Dr. Camp says. He recommends “applying SPF to the back of the hands” and, if you spend a lot of time in the car, “wearing driving gloves when commuting.” These are simple ways “to help your face and hands age in harmony,” he shares. If applying your go-to face or body sunscreen is too greasy for your manis, consider a SPF-infused hand cream instead (and be sure to reapply throughout the day!).

11. Smoking

  • Causes: Fine Lines & Wrinkles, Pigmentation, Volume Loss, Laxity, Dryness

We don’t need to remind you of the health implications of smoking and vaping, but did you know puffing away also wreaks havoc on your skin? In case you need another reason to quit, Dr. Garshick says “smoking has been shown to lead to premature aging.” Both combustible and electronic cigarettes expose your body to free radicals, while depleting levels of vitamins A and C — antioxidants that play important roles in collagen and elastin production. The nutrient deprivation leads to dryness, enlarged pores, sagging, wrinkling, hyperpigmentation, and uneven texture (to name a few). “For many reasons, including to keep your skin looking young, it is important to stop smoking,” she emphasizes.

12. Not Protecting Your Skin From Visible Light

  • Causes: Pigmentation

There is, rightfully so, a tremendous amount of attention paid to the dangers of ultraviolet light, but the visible light spectrum also deserves attention. “Visible light can contribute to conditions with increased skin pigmentation, such as melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH),” Dr. Camp explains. One way to ensure your skin and sun care are providing adequate protection is to opt for a tinted sunscreen or moisturizer with iron oxide, which, he says, “filters out visible light” in a way non-tinted formulas do not. His favorites include EltaMD UV Clear Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 and bareMinerals Complexion Rescue.

All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.

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SAMANTHA STONEis a freelance writer for AEDIT.

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