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Ways to "Look Younger," According to Physicians

Who needs the Fountain of Youth when you have science?
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

There has never been a time where the Fountain of Youth was so easily within reach. This is nothing to do with plastic surgery—very simple lifestyle changes and habits can take years off your appearance and add years to your biological age (and unfortunately certain behaviors will age you faster than the bad guy at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Here are some easily attainable ways to look younger—no scalpel required. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Block Those Damaging UV Rays

woman applying sunscreen lotion standing outdoors at the urban location during the sunny weather
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If you want to age without your skin looking like a baseball mitt, you have to protect yourself from damaging UV rays. This goes beyond mere vanity—overexposure to the sun can result in skin damage, immune system suppression, eye damage, and skin cancer. Not one of those things is worth a tan. "Sun exposure causes DNA damage in keratinocytes, increases oxidative damage to skin cells, increases melanin production to cause pigmentation, and breaks down collagen," says Y. Claire Chang, MD. "Photodamage presents with brown spots, blood vessels, fine lines, wrinkles, and skin sagging. Because sun damage is cumulative, it is important to start sun protection early and continue daily sunscreen use." So there you have it. Better stick to being pale and interesting.

2

You Are What You Eat

Man eating pizza having a takeaway at home relaxing resting
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If the majority of your diet is sugary, processed junk food and a ton of alcohol, don't be surprised if it not only makes you look older, but damages your DNA into the bargain. "Your metabolism, which breaks down food to extract energy, generates high-energy particles called free radicals that, like UV light, can distort the units in your DNA," says Adam Barsouk, Research Assistant, University of Pittsburgh Health Science. "This, in turn, wears away at your telomeres. Such metabolic damage accumulates over a lifetime of eating. Scientists believe this is why older, overweight adults, who have spent many years metabolizing more food than average, have a far greater risk of telomere shortening and cancer. Moreover, it seems diets rich in antioxidants, found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, which counter that metabolic damage, actually protect telomeres as well." In other words, the most delicious foods are the ones best for health and aging, so no excuses.

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3

Stop Smoking Immediately

Do yourself a favor and Google "smoker face before and after". The contrast should horrify you, and for good reason: Smoking is possibly one of the worst—if not the worst—habits not only for your health, but for your appearance. "When toxic chemicals reach your lungs, they impact every organ in your body, including your skin," says Board Certified Dermatologist Donna Hart, MD. "The internal damage that's taking place is largely invisible. Changes to your skin are among the first, visible signs that smoking is causing you harm. The list of skin issues caused by smoking is long and includes a number of undesirable effects on both skin health and appearance including loss of healthy color, dryness, sagging of the skin, development of lines and wrinkles, warts, age spots, and even skin cancer development." The good news is when you stop smoking, the skin has a decent chance of recovery. "When you stop smoking, vitamin C and collagen production returns to normal within months. Shallow, dynamic wrinkles may repair themselves," says Dr. Hart. "Skin coloration and a healthy glow returns, as improved circulation delivers oxygen and nutrients. Smoking seems to fast-track the aging process. Once you quit, it will seem as though you've turned back the wheels of time."

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4

You Better Work (Out)

middle-aged woman jogging in winter in a close up low angle view against a sunny blue sky in a healthy active lifestyle
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No one ever regretted a workout, the saying goes. It can be hard to motivate yourself into regular exercise, but where motivation ends, discipline and habit take over. Consistent exercise is linked to countless benefits—brain health, weight management, lower risk of disease, mental health support… the list goes on. Any exercise that gets your heart rate going will "deliver more nutrients, like vitamins and oxygen, to the skin cells all over your face and body," says dermatologist David Bank, M.D., director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic, and Laser Surgery.  

"As a 46-year-old, I'm constantly told that I don't look anywhere close to my age," says personal trainer Jackie Warner. "And I really think that's because I have made fitness a priority in my life." Face it (no pun intended): If that was sold in a bottle, you'd probably buy it, right? Instead, the minimum it might cost you is a brisk walk. That's definitely cheaper than Botox!

RELATED: The #1 Way to Lower Your Blood Sugar, Say Doctors

5

Stressing Out Will Age You

woman puts head down on desk, tired, stressed, burned out

It's not exactly helpful to tell someone overwhelmed with stress to stop stressing out, but listen: You have to learn to manage your stress. It's destroying your health and making you look much older than you actually are. Stress causes damage to cells, and damaged cells result in damaged skin. "When cells age and break down, they reduce the quality of your skin's texture, tone, strength, and vibrancy," says Todd B Koch, MD. "Aging cells can also lead to lower production of collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin are vital elements in our body responsible for skin elasticity, strength, and thickness. Therefore, lower levels can create the appearance of loose and sagging skin." Stress is an inevitable part of life, but things like meditation, exercise, therapy, and self-care can help keep cortisol from running riot through your system. Namaste. (And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.)

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more
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