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5 Habits That Can Make You Look Older Than You Are

Ditch these habits to look healthier and younger.

Medically reviewed in January 2021

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We have yet to discover the fountain of youth, but we do know the rate at which we age—and the way we look as we age—depends heavily on lifestyle. Making small changes to your everyday routine can reap benefits like fewer wrinkles, less inflammation and clearer skin. Ditch these five lifestyle pitfalls to add years to your life and take years off your face.

Related: Find out the true age of your body.

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Smoking

It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health—and can lead to emphysema, heart disease and many types of cancer—but did you know it affects how you look, too? “Smoking is probably one of the worst things you can do,” says Pascal Bordy, MD, general practitioner at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, Florida. “It induces wrinkles, makes the person look more pale and creates vertical lines around the lips.” The toxins in cigarettes can also break down the elasticity of your skin, which leads to sagging. Are you ready to put down the pack yet?

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Not Washing Your Face at Night

Your skin needs to breathe and repair itself overnight, so it’s important to wash away the dirt and grime that accumulates throughout the day. Skimping on your nighttime routine—especially if you wear makeup—can lead to breakouts, irritation, a dull complexion and even eye infections and premature wrinkling. You only need 30 seconds of washing with a gentle cleanser to keep your skin healthy and vibrant, so make it a bedtime must.

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Feeling Stressed

“Nothing can make your body age faster than constant worry, anxiety and stress,” says Bordy. In fact, research suggests stress is linked with shortened telomeres, a chromosome component that’s associated with cellular aging. When a telomere has been depleted, the cell often dies, speeding up the aging process; some research has found that people with high work-related stress have the shortest telomeres. Plus, stress can increase blood pressure, age your brain and disrupt your sleep. Learn how to identify and manage your stressors, and practice deep breathing and meditation to diffuse their effects.

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Cutting Out All Fats

As delicious as bacon and butter are, it’s wise to limit saturated and trans fats—the fats that can up your risk of heart disease and stroke. Just don’t ditch heart-healthy unsaturated fats, too. Salmon, nuts, avocado and olive oil contain good fats like omega-3s and monounsaturated fat. These kinds of fats calm inflammation, lower the risk of heart attack and keep your hair, skin and joints healthy.

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Not Getting Enough Sleep

Checking items off your to-do list, rather than getting a good night’s sleep, is more harmful than you think. “More than one-third of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of sleep per night,” according to Bordy. “When you get to sleep, the parasympathetic system takes over and allows the body to repair itself.” Sleep deprivation can lead to to high blood pressure, weight gain and diabetes—not to mention under-eye circles and a dull complexion. Aim for seven to nine hours every night.

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