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8 Things You're Doing That Make You Look Older

Just like death and taxes, growing older is inevitable. But aging before your time? That’s something you can control.

Turns out, many everyday habits could age you prematurely. Often, these behaviors could make you physically appear much older than your years. And that’s a big problem: An aging face is one of the most common insecurities men seek to correct cosmetically through creams, peels and Botox injections, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. In 2016, more than seven million botulinum toxin injections, the ingredient in Botox and Dysport, were performed in men.

But you could avoid relying on expensive creams and procedures if you focus your efforts on preventing prevent premature aging. Nix these eight habits from your routine to stay young.

Reason You Look Older: Not Wearing Sunscreen

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The number one thing you can do to keep your skin looking young and healthy? Slather on the SPF, says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.

“UV light exposure causes free radicals that damage collagen, elastin, and skin cells themselves. This leads to premature aging of the skin, with wrinkling, dark spots, and the development of skin cancers. Even short amounts of sun exposure on a daily basis add up over a lifetime,” he explains. For background, collagen and elastin are proteins found in our body that keeps skin strong and resilient.

Case in point: When Australian researchers followed more than 900 people for four years, they found those who were instructed to apply—and properly reapply—sunscreen daily were 24 percent less likely to show signs of aging in their skin compared to people who chose whether or not they wore SPF.

Even using SPF 30 alone for 12 weeks is enough to visibly reverse the signs of UV-related skin damage, like uneven texture and pigmentation, according to a study published in Dermatologic Surgery.

Reason You Look Older: Sleep Deprivation

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Sleep can help you look younger for longer, according to Zeichner. He explains that our skin cells function on a circadian rhythm, similar to the sleep-wake cycle that makes us tired at night and wakes us up in the morning.

At night, these cells work to repair damage it endured during the day, he says, like being exposed to sunlight, pollution, or a breakout. Skimping on sleep throws the entire process off, and your skin can’t prep for the next day, says Zeichner. Your skin gets stressed and is unable to complete the repair process, ultimately leading to less healthy cells and premature aging.

Try to clock in at least eight hours a night, he suggests. Before you plop into your bed, make sure you apply moisturizer to your entire body, since your skin can get dehydrated as you sleep. Dry, inflamed skin doesn’t function properly, limiting its ability to heal itself overnight, says Zeichner.

Reason You Look Older: Skimping on Fruit

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Nearly 90 percent of Americans don’t eat the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day, while 76 percent fail to eat enough fruit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends adults eat at least one and a half to two cups of fruit per day.

However, several studies suggest that eating a balanced diet loaded with disease-fighting fruits and vegetables can help prevent damage that causes your skin to age too early, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

That’s because fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients, like antioxidants and vitamins, which keep your skin cells healthy.

Research has shown that vitamin E specifically could protect your skin from UV damage, even out any pigmentation issues, and reduce inflammation, a review published in ISRN Dermatology notes.

Vitamins A, C, and B3 are also great for your skin, according to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, since they may help prevent collagen breakdown, produce and maintain elasticity, and reduce hyperpigmentation, respectively.

Some fruits and vegetables to consider for your grocery list that fit the bill? Dark leafy greens like spinach, sweet potatoes, oranges, red peppers, strawberries, asparagus, and mushrooms.

Reason You Look Older: Eating Sugar

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That donut does damage beyond your waistline. Starchy, sugary foods—like white bread, ice cream, and potato chips—can cause all sorts of problems with your face, too. That’s because they spike your blood sugar levels, which can ignite inflammation and spur acne breakouts, says Dr. Zeichner.

Dealing with pimple after pimple can lead to permanent scarring, either in the form of a depressed or raised bump in the skin caused by damaged collagen, he explains. Even if they go away, you might deal with brown and red marks, similar to sun spots that tend to make you look older. They will fade over time, but not keeping your acne in check will continue to spur that cycle. (Here’s how to get rid of acne scars.)

Plus, eating too much of the sweet stuff can lead to glycation, a process in which sugar molecules attach to your collagen, or the main building blocks of your skin, says Dr. Zeichner. This makes your collagen hard and less flexible, promoting premature wrinkling.

To make matters worse, dark sugary drinks like soda and sweetened coffee can also damage and stain your teeth, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), which is often a sign of one too many years under your belt.

Have a hard time fighting that sweet tooth? Here are four smart ways to kill a sugar craving.

Reason You Look Older: Smoking Cigarettes

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Before your light another cigarette, keep in mind that your lungs aren’t the only part of your body paying a price.

Smoking tobacco can make you look older, faster. The proof? After researchers compared the facial features of 79 sets of twins—in which one twin currently smoked or smoked five years longer than his or her double—they found that those who puffed on cigs experienced greater eye bags, more lip wrinkles, and jowls, according to a study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

And it’s not just your face that bears the damage. Other parts of your body, like your inner arms, may start to wrinkle, too. One potential reason? “Smoking decreases delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your skin by constricting blood vessels and cutting off circulation,” says Zeichner.

Plus, tobacco is loaded with chemicals that may harm your collagen and elastin, the Mayo Clinic says, both of which are crucial for a youthful looking mug. On top of that, smoking can also do a number on your mouth, since it can cause periodontal disease—which may lead to tooth loss—gum recession, and stain your teeth, according to the ADA.

Need one last reminder to quit? “Smoking has been found to harm nearly every bodily organ and organ system in the body,” says the American Cancer Society, making it a leading cause in cancer deaths.

If you’re ready to kick the habit for good, here’s how you can quit smoking right now.

Reason You Look Older: Drinking Alcohol

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There’s a reason no one looks great the morning after one too many beers. Research suggests that alcohol can lower antioxidant levels in your skin. This can cause inflammation and free radical damage to your skin cells, which promotes wrinkles says Zeichner. Alcohol also dehydrates skin, which can make your face look dry and rough, the AAD says.

Plus, booze can just make you feel older, too. When drinking stay within the recommended limit of no more than two drinks per day for men. Drinking too much raises your risk for serious health problems, like heart and liver disease, depression, and several types of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reason You Look Older: Not Drinking Enough Water

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Dehydration really takes a toll on your body: muscle cramps, dizziness, and even cravings are common symptoms. But forgetting to drink water can also make your skin look older, according to ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser.

“If you get dehydrated, your body is going to pull water from your tissues, from your skin to maintain the concentration in your blood,” Besser explained to ABC. “When it does that, your eyes are going to look sunken, your skin is going to feel dryer, it’s not going to be as elastic and so you will look a lot older.”

Hydration needs vary depending on body weight and activity level, but generally it’s best to aim for half your weight in ounces per day as a starting point. For a 200 pound man, that equates to roughly 12.5 cups of water.

Reason You Look Older: Stressing Too Much

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You’ve probably seen before and after photos of United States presidents showing how stress has aged them. Well, according to a 2004 study, long-term stress shortens a part of our chromosomes called telomeres, the Washington Post reported at the time. These structures naturally shorten as we age. Long-term stress makes them even shorter and causes the body to age more quickly.

Of course, it’s impossible not to worry sometimes, but it becomes a problem when stressing takes over your life. Dr. Warren Willey recommends dealing with stressful situations by meditating for 10 minutes a day.

“Realize you can not control most things in your life, so take some time and breathe,” he told MensHealth.com.

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