9 Things That Age You
Posted On Mar 08, 2017
Most of us know the big things that age us—stress, smoking, sun. But what are some of the surprising things that speed up the clock? Pillows, straws. . . really?
STORY BY RUCHEL LOUIS COETZEE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHAEL EDWARDS
There’s never a dull moment in the fight to stay young. Our responsibilities, environment, and habits take their toll on our looks—not to mention our overall well-being—and the world shows no sign of slowing down. While it’s crucial to eliminate cigarettes, unhealthy diets, heavy drinking, and other major aging factors, there’s more, much more we can do to maintain inner and outer beauty. Here, a group of experts offer their take on the lesser-known culprits behind premature aging.
1. WHERE IS THE LOVE?
Too little sex is clearly a depressing state of affairs, but does the situation truly age you? “It depends what you mean by aging,” says Dr. Derrick M. DeSilva, an age management specialist. “There are things about sex that lower the chances of certain diseases.” Studies show that making love reduces blood pressure, which in turn lowers the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. It also reduces stress, which minimizes the risk of autoimmune disorders. Additionally, it helps you sleep better, which impacts weight, immune function, and even diabetes. How frequently should we be having sex, exactly? “Generally speaking, about twice a week,” suggests DeSilva. That’s a prescription we can work with.
2. GETTING TOASTY
Tempted to throw another log on the fire? Think twice. “The most obvious cause of aging is photo-aging from sunlight,” assures Dr. DeSilva. “But what’s interesting is the far-red and infrared.” The biggest source of this radiation is radiant heating, such as that from an open fire or potbellied stove.
“If you sit in front of the fire for extended periods of time, it deteriorates your skin,” DeSilva warns. “In principle it could cause skin cancer.” His recommendation? Limit your hours in the sunlight, using 15+ sunblocks, and keep the cozying-up time in front of the fire to under an hour. A several-hour stint on the bearskin rug is probably too much.
3. PILLOW TALK
What could be more harmless that your beloved pillow? Plenty, it turns out. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), sleeping on your face, night after night, is one of the major causes of wrinkles. Certain sleep positions lead to “sleep lines” that become etched on the surface of your face. Fortunately, a number of scientifically approved pillows are combating this nocturnal offender. Pillows with cooling technogel (Richard Branson sleeps on one) reduce the pressure on your face while the Cupron Cosmetic Pillowcase—which uses copper oxide in the threading—has shown a 10-percent reduction of wrinkles. Meanwhile, the Wrinkle Prevention Pillow, shaped like a half-moon, reduces undue pressure on your slumbering face. It’s safe to dream of smooth skin once more.
4. DROP THE YO-YO DIET
If you’re a discouraged dieter known to leap from one “miracle diet” to the next, the time has come to ditch the gimmicks. Switching up quick weight-loss plans—likes those built around cabbages, grapefruits, and maple syrup—may yield the quick reward of looking a little thinner, but rarely keeps the pounds off for good. Worse yet, it accelerates aging. “Every time you lose weight quickly, you lose both muscle and fat,” says diet expert Susan Kleiner of Seattle’s High Performance Nutrition. “Sometimes you lose even more muscle than fat. The problem is that muscle is what burns calories. As you lose muscle, you lower the number of calories you burn.”
Even if you go back to a “normal” diet, you’re going to gain the weight back because you’ve reduced your calorie-burning capability. What inevitably happens next? You start to diet again, setting the cycle in motion again. It’s far better to focus on portion control, balance, and intake of the nutrients that help your body stay in optimal shape.
5. TECH TROUBLE
We’ve all heard stories of cell phones giving you cancer—most recently from Sheryl Crow, who blamed her benign brain tumor on excessive cell phone use. Now, a new study by the Environmental Health Trust in Washington, DC shows that mobile device radiation damages the brains of newborn rats, mice, and rabbits when exposed during pregnancy. Making matters worse, the animals developed problems with their sex organs, livers, skin, and eyes, all of which resembled premature aging. “We used to think that cell phones were weak and harmless,” says EHT epidemiologist Dr. Devra Davis. “Now we know they’re not.” Dr. Davis cautions wireless device users to read the fine print, hold phones away from the head, and use an earpiece.
Meanwhile, do your REM a favor and shut your computers and handheld devices off while you sleep. Our brains don’t produce the vital hormone melatonin in the presence of blue or white light. Sleeping in total darkness is necessary. Studies have shown that an absence of melatonin can contribute to the development of certain cancers.
6. THE SIPPING POINT
When you’re really thirsty, there’s an undeniable satisfaction that comes from sipping through a straw. However, research shows that straw use can contribute to an older, wrinkled appearance. It’s the same concept as the way cigarette smoking leads to “smoker’s lines” along the upper lip. “Even whistling will do it,” says anti-aging specialist, Dr. Sharon McQuillan. “When you purse your lips frequently, that muscle gets stronger and the lip creases. As you age, your skin gets thinner and loses elasticity. It doesn’t rebound.”
Do yourself a favor and skip the straw from here on out. Otherwise, according to Dr. McQuillan, the lines will become more evident once you hit your forties, if not earlier.
7. HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?
The idea of a low-fat diet, introduced to the US in 1960, became a veritable religion by the 1980s. Why then, you might ask, have Americans been getting fatter ever since? Because when we cut the fat, we replaced it with carbohydrates, and became fatter than we would have ever been in the first place.
When the low-fat trend began, the recommendation was that 20% of our diet should be fat, as opposed to 30% to 35%, which—according to the Harvard Public School of Health—we actually need. What the first US government recommendations failed to realize was our need for “good fat,” from non-meat sources such as nuts, avocado, and olive oil. “Fat is a protection against chronic disease and aging,” says nutritionist Paulette Lambert, Director of Nutrition at the California Health and Longevity Institute. “It cools down the inflammation from contaminants in the environment and excessive body fat.”
Take a look at the details of your diet, and see how much “good fat” you’re allowing in. “Fat” is not the four-letter-word you’ve been led to believe it is.
8. THE BIG BRUSH-OFF
You wouldn’t paint your house with an unwashed brush. Why would you be less careful with one that touches your own skin? Your makeup brush may be essential to your beauty regime, but an unwashed brush can pose a threat to your health and your looks. Every day as you apply your makeup, your brush accumulates dirt, bacteria, dead skin cells, and oil, along with a thick accumulation of product. Neglecting to clean your brush leads to unnecessary breakouts, skin infections, and an uneven complexion due to the stripping of essential oil.
“You should own a makeup brush cleanser,” insists Sandy Linter, Lancôme makeup artist at New York’s Rita Hazan Salon. “A great one is by Trish McEvoy, but nonetheless, every woman should have one. You can unload built-up color as often as necessary, about once a week. Don’t wait until the hairs on the brushes are all clumped together. Use a spray-on brush cleaner often and a soapy cleanser with water on your foundation and concealer brushes when you start to see the build-up.”
9. OVER-EXERCISERS ANONYMOUS
Everyone knows that exercise is crucial to staying young and fit. From the rush of endorphins, to the tighter muscles, to the improved internal health, working out is—for the most part—a great idea. But what about those who indulge in way too much exercise? Sure, your body might feel great, but your appearance will inevitably, at some point, take a hit. “Your average triathlete has what some refer to as ‘facial wasting,’” says Dr. Marc Mani, a prominent Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. Dr. Mani credits a loss of adipose tissue to the less-soft, sunken-in look so many athletes experience. “Correction is very difficult because you need to restore so much volume,” Mani says, insisting that it takes considerable amounts of filler to return these faces to a softer, less haggard look.
Giving up exercise is certainly not the solution (so don’t get any ideas). But if you’re a super-athlete, and your face starts looking a little drawn in the mirror, it’s time to ease up on the cross-country excursions for a while. Remember: everything in moderation! ?