Wrinkles and other skin changes are a natural part of growing older and nothing to be ashamed of. That said, not all skin aging is inevitable. Although internal factors like genes and hormones play an important role, the vast majority is down to external factors you can actually do something about, such as sun exposure, diet and stress.
Here's our guide to natural ways to ward off wrinkles and keep your skin young and healthy looking for longer.
Protect your skin from the sun
Although sun exposure is vital for health, providing us with essential vitamin D, it's also the number one cause of skin aging, especially premature aging, or "photoaging" as it's known, which can show up as wrinkles, sagging, dry or rough skin, age spots, a widening of blood vessels to form visible "spider veins" (known medically as telangiectasia) and actinic keratoses (rough, thickened reddish-brown to blackish patches of skin that can develop into skin cancer).1 So protecting your facial skin with a hat or daily sunscreen is an important first step.
A great option is a daily moisturizer with built-in UV protection. But choose a natural formula made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide rather that chemical filters, which may do more harm than good. Also look for formulas that contain antioxidants, as these natural free-radical fighters play an important role in protecting your skin from UV damage.1 Kimberly Sayer Ultra Light Organic Facial Moisturizer SPF 30, Kypris Heliotropic Sunscreen and Primer and 100% Pure Green Tea SPF 30 are top choices.
What you eat can have a significant impact on the state of your skin. Generally, aim to eat a balanced, colorful, whole-food diet as free of processed foods as possible. But here are some specific foods to include and avoid.
DO eat foods high in antioxidants and phytochemicals, such as leafy green vegetables, celery, asparagus, onions, cherries, grapes, melon, apples, pears, dried fruits, broad beans, lima beans, nuts and olives. These seem to have a protective effect against skin aging.2
DON'T eat lots of sugary foods and drinks, such as cakes, pastries and soft drinks. They're associated with more skin wrinkling and are thought to contribute to the aging process through the glycosylation of proteins (when a sugar molecule attaches itself to a protein molecule) in the skin.2
DO include healthy fats in your diet such as monounsaturated fatty acids from olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid, found in walnuts and several seeds and seed oils such as hemp, chia and flaxseed. These fats have been linked to less skin aging.3
DON'T eat a high-dairy diet. People with lower intakes of butter, margarine and milk products had the least skin wrinkling in one study.2
DO eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, lemons, strawberries, kiwis, broccoli, kale and peppers. People with high dietary intakes of the vitamin have fewer wrinkles and less age-related dry skin, research suggests.4
DO drink plenty of water (preferably filtered) to keep your skin hydrated.
Several nutritional supplements may help against skin aging. Here are some top ones to try:
Astaxanthin. This dark-red pigment found in a variety of seafood has been shown to improve skin wrinkles, elasticity, texture, moisture content and age spots.5
Suggested dosage: 4-6 mg/day
Vitamin C. In a study (unpublished) sponsored by the manufacturers, people taking three sachets a day of Altrient Liposomal Vitamin C for four months saw a 60 percent improvement in skin elasticity and firmness, plus a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles.6
Suggested dosage: 1-3 sachets (1,000-3,000 mg)/day
Multi-antioxidants. A high-quality antioxidant formula will provide excellent defense for your skin. One tested in a clinical trial is Pharma Nord's Evelle, a combination of vitamins C and E, carotenoids, selenium, zinc, amino acids and glycosaminoglycans (polysaccharides), blueberry extract and maritime pine bark that was found to improve skin elasticity and roughness.7 Another is Imedeen Derma One, a supplement containing a proprietary marine complex along with vitamin C and zinc that can improve the appearance of facial photodamage.8
Suggested dosages: follow the label instructions
Psychological stress can have a detrimental impact on the skin,9 so consider stress-reduction techniques such as meditation and yoga. In fact, yoga may have positive effects beyond relaxation. Studies suggest it can improve tissue functioning, glucose control and antioxidant levels, which may have anti-aging effects on the skin.10
Cosmetic acupuncture, the use of acupuncture on the head, face and neck to improve appearance, is fast becoming a popular anti-aging technique. Although there are few studies assessing its efficacy, one preliminary trial found improvements in skin elasticity after five sessions.11
Choose the right skincare
There's no shortage of creams, lotions and serums on the market claiming to reverse the signs of aging, but which ones actually work? We recommend opting for an all-natural formula, as many standard skincare products contain harsh chemical ingredients, such as parabens, which can have damaging effects on the skin.12
Look for products from natural beauty brands like Weleda, Inlight and Neal's Yard Remedies, which are packed with antioxidants, free-radical fighters that can reduce inflammation, stimulate collagen production and repair sun damage.
Here are some top antioxidant ingredients to look out for. All have been found to improve the skin when used topically, although it may take several months to notice a difference.
- Coenzyme Q10 can significantly reduce wrinkles at just a 1 percent concentration.13
- Vitamin C is great for improving sun-damaged skin, especially deep furrows and skin elasticity.14
- Niacinamide (vitamin B3) can improve several signs of aging, including hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, redness/blotchiness, yellowing (sallowness) and loss of elasticity.15
- Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a good option for rough skin.16
- Vitamin E can smooth the skin and help it retain moisture.17
- Green tea extracts can improve skin moisture and roughness.18
Also look out for: Peptides, portions of proteins that can imitate a sequence of molecules such as collagen or elastin. Applying them onto the skin can stimulate collagen synthesis and activate skin metabolism.19
If you smoke, here's another reason to quit: smoking increases levels of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs)—enzymes that break down collagen, elastin fibers and connective tissue in the skin.20 And studies show that the longer you smoke, the worse your skin will look.21
The good news is that stopping smoking can reduce the biological age of your skin by more than a decade.22