4 Major Factors That Age Your Skin + How To Avoid Them

Plastic Surgeon By Anthony Youn, M.D., FACS
Plastic Surgeon
Anthony Youn, M.D., FACS is a nationally-recognized, board-certified plastic surgeon. He received his medical degree from the Michigan State University College of Medicine.
4 Major Factors That Age Your Skin + How To Avoid Them
Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

Aging skin is a problem everyone deals with at one point or another. Though we haven't figured out how to totally stop time just yet, there are things you can do to help slow the effects of aging on the skin. Thankfully, Dr. Anthony Youn's new book, The Age Fix, is here to talk about four of the biggest skin offenders and how to avoid each and every one of them.

Why does aging change your skin, and why, oh why, can’t it just stay the same as it was when you were young, before you ever had a pimple, before you were exposed to pollution or thought tanning was a great idea?

The reason is that life quite literally happens to you, and your skin is the primary barrier between you and the world. It is your shield, and it gets battered by time and life experience. Women typically begin to show the first signs of aging in their mid-twenties, while men begin to show the first signs about five years later, only because they have thicker skin. Their shields are a bit thicker, but aging happens to all of us eventually.

Aging happens due to two different kinds of influences: intrinsic and extrinsic. You can’t do much about intrinsic aging. It is caused by your genetics, such as a propensity to stay looking younger longer or to get wrinkles at a younger age. Intrinsic aging is also caused by your ethnicity. Different ethnic skin types withstand aging better or worse than others.

Intrinsic aging can also be caused by certain disease conditions, which can prematurely age your skin. You can’t change your genetics, your ethnicity, or arguably your disease state. However, you can definitely do something about extrinsic aging.

Extrinsic aging is caused by factors that you can control. Fortunately, extrinsic aging is a major part of aging, so while you can’t turn the clock back forever, you can definitely slow it down pretty significantly.

There are four major factors that cause extrinsic aging:

1. Sun damage

Excess ultraviolet radiation is the absolute worst thing you can expose your skin to if you want to keep it looking young. You probably already know that ultraviolet radiation increases your risk of skin cancer. However, it also has a striking effect on aging.

All you have to do to determine whether ultraviolet light has already aged you beyond how you would age without exposure is to compare the skin on a part of your body that gets a lot of sun, like your face or your arms, with parts of your body that get almost no sun, like your butt cheeks.

Check out your butt cheeks. (I won’t look.) Notice how nice and smooth they are? They don’t have age spots or wrinkles, and while they might have a few cellulite dimples or not be the exact size or shape you would prefer, the skin itself is looking pretty good, wouldn’t you say?

Imagine how young you would look if your facial skin and the skin on your hands and forearms looked like the skin on your butt. Clearly, being called a butt-face is really a compliment!


2. Smoking

Smoking is second only to UV radiation in its aging effects on the skin. Smoking constricts the blood vessels, which decreases blood supply to your skin. It also dehydrates your skin, increases free-radical damage, and has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer.

One study showed that the risk of developing severe wrinkles was three times higher in smokers than in nonsmokers. That’s reason enough to throw that pack of cigarettes in the trash!

3. Eating poorly

You know it’s not healthy for your insides, but did you know that poor dietary choices can make visible differences in your skin? Sugar in particular is a skin wrecker, as it causes aging by increasing inflammation and glycation. Eating the right kinds of fats can actually help you look younger, however.


4. Drinking too much alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption is bad for you in all kinds of ways, and one of those ways is by aging your skin prematurely. Alcohol dehydrates your skin and causes some people to have a flushing reaction. Repeated flushing can result in a ruddy complexion, and I don’t mean that healthy glow you get when you’ve been on a hike. I mean the kind caused by tiny broken blood vessels that show up as splotchy red patches all over your face. It’s not pretty.

Too much alcohol can also keep you from other healthy habits, like eating well, and can encourage other unhealthy habits, like smoking. Sit out on the beach in the sun with a cigarette and a cocktail, and you’ve got a recipe for overnight aging.


The effects that these four factors have on skin aren’t just about dehydration and blood vessel constriction or swelling. They’re also about free radicals. In fact, a significant amount of aging in the body is caused by free radicals, and you have the power to greatly minimize these effects.

Free radicals are damaged oxygen molecules that are missing at least one electron. To remedy the problem, they attach to healthy cells and steal their electrons, damaging the cells or causing them to malfunction. This can cause all sorts of problems, from cell structure damage to DNA damage.

Free radicals are by‑products of the body’s various processes, like digestion, and they should be present in amounts the body can easily handle. However, when you add in extrinsic factors like UV exposure, smoking, a poor diet, alcohol, and the effects of toxins like pollution, pesticides, automobile exhaust, and environmental chemicals, and especially when you have more than one of these operating in the body at one time, free radicals can become too numerous.

When this happens, the body enters a state of oxidative stress, in which it cannot fend off all the free radical damage on its own. Free radicals then begin to cause visible damage.

One type is a breakdown in collagen and elastin, making the skin looser, more wrinkled, and thinner. As we age, collagen production slows down, so we don’t replace the collagen that gets broken down as quickly. Eventually, we hardly replace it at all.

This is why the best anti-aging treatments address free radicals in their formulations. First on the list: antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radicals by neutralizing them. They donate an extra electron to the free radical, essentially stopping it from scavenging electrons from other cells.

Your body naturally produces antioxidants, but if you add more through diet and the right skin-care products, you can help your body immensely. Antioxidants are like the cavalry sweeping in to fight off the free-radical onslaught.

4 Major Factors That Age Your Skin + How To Avoid Them

Excerpted from The Age Fix: A Leading Plastic Surgeon Reveals How to Really Look 10 Years Younger by Anthony Youn, M.D., with Eve Adamson. Copyright © 2016 by Anthony Youn, M.D., with Eve Adamson. Used with permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

And do you want your passion for wellness to change the world? Become A Functional Nutrition Coach! Enroll today to join live July office hours.


More On This Topic

The Ultimate Guide To Plant-Based Nutrition

The Ultimate Guide To Plant-Based Nutrition
More Lifestyle

Popular Stories


Latest Articles

Latest Articles

Sites We Love

Your article and new folder have been saved!