Sun bathing. Squinting. Smoking. Some wrinkle culprits get a lot of press. But what about the everyday habits that can also lead to fine lines that are more... stealthy? Here, we tapped top dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and an aesthetic nurse to talk about the things we do unwittingly that can lead to aging skin. Plus, they’re sharing solutions to combat these wrinkle microaggressions that can occur throughout the day. From the way you hold your phone to that midday cookie, here’s what may be wreaking havoc on your skin — and what to do about it.
1. Sleep Position
New York City facial plastic surgeon Jennifer Levine, MD, says that one cause of wrinkles is the way you sleep. “The mechanical action of sleeping on your face causes wrinkles that are not in the location of the average wrinkle,” she notes. To combat this, she recommends using a silk pillowcase, as it’s “smoother” than cotton and “does not cause as much stress on the skin.”
Staying on your back all night is obviously the best option, but Dr. Levine sees a lot of side-sleepers at her practice. “Often I can tell if someone sleeps on their side by the differences in the sides of their face,” she reveals. “That side often requires more injectables, such as filler, to correct.” Timm Golueke, MD, a Munich-based dermatologist and founder of Royal Fern, agrees. He recommends treating those wrinkles on the cheeks and around the mouth with Restylane® and switching to one of those special sleep pillows, “as they can ‘train’ you to sleep with your face up.” One to try: Nurse Jamie Beauty Bear Age Defy Pillow.
Sleeping on your side also causes wrinkles on the chest (some people refer to them as ‘clinkles’), Dr. Levine says. Treatments include laser resurfacing — she likes the Frax 1550 — as well as superficial fillers such as Belotero®. “Ultherapy® is a great treatment for chest wrinkles, combined with either diluted Sculptra® or Radiesse®,” she says.
2. Drinking from a Straw
Drinking out of a straw involves excessive puckering of the lips caused by contraction of the orbicularis oris muscle — a ring like muscle that surrounds the lips — says New York City-based board certified dermatologist Jessica Weiser, MD. “The mouth moves thousands, if not millions, of times each day when speaking or eating, which already increases the risk of fine lines around the mouth,” she adds. To prevent these wrinkles, Dr. Weiser recommends skipping the straw (the environment will also thank you) and instead sipping from the side of a cup or mug.
3. Tech Neck
So-called ‘tech neck’ is caused by bending your head down to look at your phone. That motion leads to laxity and wrinkles, Dr. Levine says. She recommends holding your phone up to eye level to limit the damage. “My favorite treatments are neuromodulators — Botox®, Dysport®, and Xeomin® — as well as Ultherapy®,” she says. Dr. Golueke agrees that skin tightening with microfocused ultrasound can help. He recommends treating horizontal lines on the neck with Botox® and says a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) solution can improve fine lines and wrinkles.
4. Weight Loss
Weight loss for a healthier you is a good thing, but it can have unintended consequences. “Fitness has one downside,” says Christopher Funderburk, MD, associate plastic surgeon at Neinstein Plastic Surgery. “As we tone our bodies and drop our body fat percentages, we lose some of the fat in our faces and necks.” While a bit of fat loss in these areas can be attractive, a significant decrease can lead to deepened folds, more prominent wrinkles, and hollowing around the eyes and temples. “In short, the exceptionally fit patient often looks older than his or her age when it comes to the face and neck,” he says.
Dr. Funderburk’s more athletic patients seek ways to plump up these volume-deficient areas through filler injections or facial fat grafting. “Filler injections typically involve the delivery of slowly absorbable filler material to recessed areas such as the temples, the cheeks and area above the cheekbones, the tear troughs, and the folds around the mouth,” Dr. Funderburk says. “Facial fat grafting works similarly by using purified fat from a donor site, such as the abdomen or thigh, to fill select areas and restore volume.” Unlike dermal fillers which need to be touched up every six to 12 months, about 60 to 70 percent of the fat graft is expected to remain over time.
Sugar ages skin through a process called glycation that damages collagen and elastin, says Connecticut-based dermatologist, Mona Gohara, MD. “It’s not about complete avoidance but moderation,” she advises, adding that it is as simple as choosing the red wine with resveratrol instead of the white. Dr. Weiser points out that other refined carbohydrates, like pasta and white rice, are also a highly underestimated cause of skin aging and wrinkles. Limiting sugars helps your skin and your body overall, Dr. Levine agrees. “I love Evoke, a new treatment for skin tightening that promotes collagen to lift and tone that is pain-free and has no downtime,” Dr. Levine says. Other collagen-stimulating procedures include injectables like Sculptra® and Radiesse® and Ultherapy®.
“Get eye checks regularly,” Dr. Gohara says. And, try to not look at your phone first thing in the morning when squinting is required. In case you needed another reason to expand your sunglasses collection, New York City-based board certified facial plastic surgeon Dara Liotta, MD, says it’s imperative to have them when you head outside. Squinting in bright sunlight can contribute to the etching of the glabellar lines — the vertical lines between the eyebrows. “The lines are deepened by action of the corrugator and procerus muscles,” she says. We contract these muscles in sunlight involuntarily to help bring the inner part of the brow down to shield the eyes from the sun. “So, when you’re in bright sunlight without your sunglasses, you can actually be worsening your 11 lines,” Dr. Liotta notes. Botox® and its fellow neurotoxins are used to address this.
7. Jaw Asymmetries
It may seem counterintuitive, but Fay Jouni, an aesthetic nurse at Neinstein Plastic Surgery, has observed significant crow’s feet (i.e. lines on the outer portion of the eyes) in patients with jaw asymmetries. “Some patients with an abnormal bite present with increased lines on one side of the face compared with the other,” she says. “For these patients, not only do we provide Botox® or other neuromodulator injections to decrease the presence of the lines, but we also recommend a dental consultation,” Jouni says.
8. Rubbing Your Eyes
Whether it’s due to allergies, fatigue, or makeup removal, rubbing your eyes is another cause of fine lines and wrinkles. “[It] causes excess distortion of this fine skin leading to increased laxity, fine lines, and even discoloration,” Dr. Weiser says. In place of rubbing and distorting the eyelid skin, she recommends using a blotting motion to gently remove eye makeup. For those dealing with itchy eyes or seasonal allergies, consider using eye drops or taking antihistamines as directed by your doctor. Cold compresses are also a good choice to soothe irritated eyes.
If you are looking for in-office solutions, Dr. Liotta suggests Botox® in the orbicularis oculi muscle. This is the circular muscle that surrounds the eye and is responsible for crow’s feet wrinkles. She also recommends laser resurfacing, such as CO2 laser resurfacing, of the delicate under eye area to smooth the fine lines and crepey skin that makeup often settles into.
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