In a time when we’re all busy going, going, going, it’s tempting to look for quick fixes—especially when it comes to anti-aging and healthy skin. Nowadays, it seems like there’s a procedure to remedy just about any cosmetic grievance—but there are equally as many simple, scientifically-proven ways to slow down the hands of the clock.
Maintaining that youthful glow doesn’t necessarily mean you need to splurge on expensive procedures or products. There are a bevy of daily habits that you can incorporate into your routine that actually provide great benefit to your skin.
1. Wear sunscreen.
There’s a reason why you feel like you’re constantly being hit over the head with the directive to apply SPF: It works.
Sunscreen is probably more important than any nighttime moisturizing crème or pre-makeup oil, since wrinkles, freckles, and sun spots (and skin cancer) come from the sun. “Everyone must use a sunblock every day,” says Dr. Khalil Khatri of Skin & Laser Surgery Center of New England. “UV rays of sun can make changes in collagen in the second layer of skin, which leads to loose skin and wrinkles.”
It’s not just the summer sun putting you at risk—sunscreen should be used all year round.
Another pro tip: Just because your moisturizer says it contains SPF, it isn’t enough to protect you all day long without reapplication. According to the Mayo Clinic, we can get the most protection from sunscreen by applying it frequently, and with gusto. They advise that using two tablespoons of sun protection (about the equivalent of a shot glass) will adequately cover your face, neck, and the back of your hands. More is necessary to cover the rest of your body. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours if you’re outdoors.
2. Seriously, get some sleep.
Even if it feels impossible to hit the hay at a reasonable hour, your skin will thank you for it.
A study published in the journal Sleep focused on the “facial cues” a person may display when they are sleep-deprived. The results are enough to make all of us get under the covers earlier: “The faces of sleep-deprived individuals were perceived as having more hanging eyelids, redder eyes, more swollen eyes, darker circles under the eyes, paler skin, more wrinkles and fine lines, and more droopy corners of the mouth,” read the study results.
The observers involved also noted the sleep-deprived participants looked “sadder” than those who got seven-eight hours of sleep per night. So get your zzz’s—and cheer up!
3. Stop scrubbing so hard.
Washing greasy dishes may require steel wool and elbow grease, but cleaning one’s face does not. Instinctively, it may feel as though the better we scrub, the cleaner our pores, but not so fast! That abrasiveness, even if using a seemingly soft washcloth, can damage the skin.
Additionally, you’ll want to take care not to dry your face by rubbing it with a towel. Dr. Khatri recommends patting it dry instead of creating friction with rubbing. This gentle approach results in less irritated skin and a smoother, more youthful, appearance.
You can go all- or mostly-natural, too, when it comes to caring for the skin on your face. DIY facial toners almost always include apple cider vinegar, while beauty enthusiasts swear by turmeric, honey, and charcoal face masks.
4. You are what you eat (and drink).
“There are many daily things that one can do to slow down the visible signs of aging—such as avoiding unhealthy, fatty, fried food,” advises Dr. Khatri. Also, you’ll want to drink tons of water, quit your tobacco vices, and limit your intake of alcohol—all things that dry out and harm our skin.
This brings us to our next point—water. Making hydration a priority in your day will reap endless rewards for your skin. It may sound like a broken record, but before you start rolling your eyes, you’ll want to know about a 2015 study published in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology. The study was designed to measure the impact of water intake on a person’s physical composition, particularly on the body’s largest organ: skin. A group of 49 females were categorized into two groups, with Group 1 consuming less water and Group 2 consuming more.
“Approximately two liters of water were added to the daily diet of Group 2 individuals for one month to quantify the impact of this surplus in their skin physiology,” explained the study authors.
After measuring factors like deep hydration and transepidermal water loss [water loss from inside the body through the skin], researchers feel the results confirm “higher water inputs in one’s regular diet might positively impact normal skin physiology, as expressed by its hydration and biomechanical behavior, and in particular in those individuals with lower daily water consumptions.”
Sure, you can argue with science. But why bother? Pick up a glass of water and drink it—preferably several times a day. Mayo Clinic advises women drink 2.7 liters of water a day (the equivalent of 11.5 cups) and men gulp 3.7 liters (15.5 cups).