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7 things that are aging your skin and what you can do about it

Meagan Morris is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist living in New York City. In addition to SheKnows, Morris contributes to many publications including The New York Times, Yahoo! News, PopEater, NBC New York and Spinner. Follow he...

These things might make your skin look older — but never fear, we’ve got solutions

Take a minute and look in the mirror. What do you see? A gorgeous woman, of course, but does your skin look a bit older than you want it to? If so, it's time to reassess your skin care and lifestyle habits.

The reason: Every choice we make has the potential to impact our skin, for better or worse.

And the hard truth is if you don't protect your mug from these skin care enemies, you'll see the fine lines, wrinkles and sunspots show up a lot sooner than they should.

1. Sun damage

We all love the sun, but it's not good for your skin. In fact, the sun is one of the biggest reasons for skin to show signs of aging prematurely.

Thankfully, you don't have to hide from the sun to avoid its aging effects, but you should always use anti-aging products like Elizabeth Arden PREVAGE® Anti-Aging Daily Serum ($162). This high performing serum reduces the appearance of lines, wrinkles, sun damage and uneven skin texture. It has idebenone, a powerful antioxidant, to help fight environmental threats including pollution, UV rays, and smoke — all of which can make you look old well before your time.

More: 12 expert-approved steps to smoother skin

2. Diet

What you put in your body affects the function of every organ in your body, including the biggest one: your skin. Loading up on foods full of refined sugars, carbs and fats can have an inflammatory effect on your skin, leaving your skin looking sallow and sad.

Instead, loading up on fresh, whole foods full of nutrients like zinc, vitamin C and beta carotene can help keep your skin looking bright and firm thanks to their collagen-boosting ways. And don't forget the protein: Research shows that a lack of protein can cause the skin to tear and wrinkle.

3. Smoking

It's time to kick the habit, for the sake of your lungs and your skin. According to the Mayo Clinic, the 4,000 chemicals in cigarettes damage the natural elastin and collagen fibers in your skin, leaving you with sagging, wrinkled skin on your face and body. It's especially noticeable around the mouth since the act of smoking causes you to constantly purse your lips.

Not to mention, the nicotine narrows blood vessels near the outer layers of your skin and blocks important nutrients like oxygen and vitamin A.

4. Free radicals

Free radicals might sound the like name of a band, but it's actually the name for an atom or group of atoms with an unpaired electron, according to the International Dermal Institute. This electron finds another electron and steals it, creating another free radical and a chain reaction that can damage tissue membranes and lead to inflammation and early aging.

More: It took ages to nail my skin care routine, but I've done it

Where do these free radicals come from? A number of places, including pollution and the sun's UV rays. Your best line of defense against these free radicals is a healthy diet full of antioxidants and environment-fighting skin care products like Elizabeth Arden PREVAGE® City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Hydrating Shield ($68). This invisible shield combines pollution and UV protection as it packs in plenty of hydration to help skin look younger, longer.

5. Sleep

A lack of sleep wreaks havoc on your productivity (and your coffee consumption), but it can also do a number on your skin. A 2015 study conducted by The Sleep School and Bensons for Beds in the U.K. found women who averaged six hours of sleep for five nights experienced a number of skin problems. The biggest? Fine lines and wrinkles increased in number by 45 percent, while blemishes increased by 13 percent and red areas increased by 8 percent.

“Sleep deprivation is endemic in British society, with almost half of U.K. people regularly sleeping for 25 percent less than the recommended seven to eight hours," Dr. Guy Meadows, founder of The Sleep School, concluded in the study. "As the results of this study show, not only does this have serious effects on mood, cognitive ability and concentration, but also on appearance and self-esteem.”

6. Excessive exfoliation

Wait — aren't we supposed to exfoliate? Yes, but scrubbing and scraping your skin on a daily basis can lead to microscopic tears in the fibers — that collagen and elastin we talked about — and lead to find lines and wrinkles.

But don't give it up for good. Just keep the exfoliating to once or twice a week and amp up your skin care routine with products formulated to fight aging on a daily basis.

More: I finally listened to my mom and started going makeup-free

7. Stress

Stressing about work, relationships and financial woes can have a pretty significant — and immediate — impact on your skin.

"When we’re under ongoing stress, it creates that fight-or-flight reaction in an unrelenting way, and as a result, stress chemicals are released into the body. What we know so far is that the release of those stress chemicals creates biological changes," Dr. Vivian Diller told The Huffington Post.

A 2012 study published in the journal PLOS One found that people with chronic stress had shorter sections of DNA called telomeres. The shorter the telomere, the sooner a cell becomes damaged or dies altogether, speeding up aging in your body and on your skin.

Diller said it best when she told The Huffington Post, "It’s very possible that if you have a life filled with that constant stress, little by little the body is breaking down."

When stress gets the best of you, reach for a makeup that will make a difference, like Elizabeth Arden's PREVAGE® Anti-Aging Foundation Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30 ($65). This breakthrough makeup repairs skin’s appearance for an instantly perfected look—smooth, firm and naturally radiant. Hydra-Pigments help skin retain moisture while delivering long-wear color and blurring imperfections stress leaves behind.

This post was sponsored by Elizabeth Arden.

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