5 Work Habits That Make You Look Older
How it's aging you: Repetitive muscle movements, like furrowing your brow to read the tiny email type on your phone or squinting at your desktop all day, can lead to telltale wrinkles over time. "There are actual wrinkle patterns that I will see where I know the patient has been squinting," says Ranella Hirsch, MD, a board certified dermatologist in Boston. "I tell them that I think you might be a little myopic or you're nearsighted and you're compensating and you'd be amazed how often I'm right."
The fix: If your job involves a lot of time answering emails on your phone, you can easily change the font size (iPhone users can find out how to do it here; Android users here). You can change the font size on web browsers too (just Google the specific browser you use plus "change font size" and helpful answers will come your way). But it's also a good idea to make an appointment with an eye doctor to check if you need glasses or contacts. If you already have wrinkles from squinting, talk to a dermatologist. Injectables like Botox can be a big help, says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology in New York and faculty member at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
How it's aging you: You know that sun exposure isn't the path to youthful skin (it degrades the collagen under your skin, leading to wrinkles, sagging and bagging, not to mention dark spots, says Nazarian), but you may be underestimating how many rays you're getting during the workday. If you work near a window or in an office with a lot of natural light, it could be a lot. Plus, the majority of your sun exposure isn't coming from your yearly beach vacation; it's the in between moments—walking from your car to the front door of your building, running errands, etc.—that really add up, says Hirsch.
The fix: Add a product with SPF 30 to your morning skincare routine and if you work in an office with lots of sunlight, or your job involves a lot of time spent running from place to place, reapply every couple of hours, says Nazarian. If the thought of rubbing sunscreen in on top of your makeup is less than appealing, consider buying powdered, pigmented products with SPF like SuperGoop! Invincible Setting Powder SPF 45 or Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-on Sunscreen SPF 30, which feel nothing like sunscreen but offer the protection you need.
How it's aging you: "The cheapest and fastest way to look younger is moisture," says Hirsch, because it provides an immediate plumping effect. Without it, skin looks dull (because it doesn't reflect light as well when it's dry, says Nazarian) and less elastic, and even your pores look bigger. And the water you drink isn't the only factor. Office air, recirculated through HVAC systems over and over, can be incredibly drying because it lacks humidity, says Hirsch. So if you're not staying hydrated in your dry office, your skin is being sapped of moisture from the inside out and the outside in.
The fix: Refill that water bottle enough to keep your pee light yellow (getting up often to refill it is another bonus, because sitting all day doesn't do a body good). If you have your own office, consider running a humidifier every so often to keep the air from becoming too dry. Just make sure to check the filters regularly and clean the machine itself too. (Hirsch recommends running vinegar through it every few months.) If a humidifier isn't an option, try adding a plant or two to your workspace that naturally adds some moisture to the air. You can also incorporate hydrating products into your skincare routine. Look for ones that contain hyaluronic acid or ceramides, says Nazarian, and consider adding a product like Aquaphor to the rotation—its thick consistency helps lock moisture in.
Photo: iStock/Christian Horz
How it's aging you: If and when you go gray is determined by genetics, but if you're prone to it, work worries aren't going to help. "If you're genetically predisposed to have gray hair early, stress can probably accelerate that time frame," says Nazarian. How exactly can stress lead you to go gray, you ask? "When you're putting out those stress hormones," says Hirsch, "you can see some loss of the melanocytes that determine hair color."
The fix: Regular appointments with your colorist aside, findings ways to manage your stress is essential, and certainly not just for the sake of your hair. Meditation, exercise, journaling, breathing practices—try different options and once you settle on the habit that really makes a difference in your stress levels, make it a part of your daily routine.
How it's aging you: Being hooked on your smartphone or laptop until the wee hours is a recipe for bad sleep. The blue light they emit suppresses the release of melatonin (aka the sleep hormone) in your body, making falling asleep and staying asleep more difficult. And when you're not getting enough sleep, your skin isn't getting the time it needs to repair itself. "Think of nighttime as the time when all the maintenance happens," says Hirsch. "Night is all about restoring and refreshing the skin." And all the anti-aging products in the world won't help if you're not giving them the time they need to work. "We want you to use these products at night not because they're sun sensitive, but because that's when your skin needs them," says Nazarian. If you're regularly skimping on sleep, expect to see more wrinkling because your skin's collagen degrades faster.
The fix: Set a hard cut-off time for work before bed. Most sleep experts recommend going screen-free for at least 30 minutes before lights out. Instead of slogging through your inbox, use that time to relax and get into a sleep-friendly mindset.