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Premature Aging: Common Signs & Prevention Tips

Close-up of a person’s face; the left side appears young, with blonde hair and firm, healthy skin, while the right side features grey hair and skin with significant wrinkles and signs of aging.

Many people will start seeing wrinkles and fine lines appear sometime between their late 20s and early 30s. If you don’t take good care of your skin (e.g., smoking, over-exposure to UV rays, not drinking enough water, etc.), you could see these signs appear even earlier. Indicators of premature aging such as the early onset of wrinkles or fine lines can also signal symptoms and signs of deeper health issues.

Though aging is inevitable — and there are many other reasons your hair might stop growing — you can take actionable steps to manage the common signs of premature aging, including mitigating your body’s internal slowdowns. There are several signs and methods of prevention that you can employ if you’re looking to combat these symptoms. 

Dry Skin

Many factors can cause dry skin, including hot or cold weather, low humidity, and soaking in hot water, to name just a few. 

As a result, your skin might feel tight, rough, flaky, or itchy. In some instances, your dry skin can develop fine lines or cracks, some of which may bleed.

To prevent dry skin, you can: 

  • Drink plenty of water;
  • Regularly moisturize;
  • Limit your time in the shower to 10 minutes or less;
  • Use gentle, non-drying soap, many of which contain added moisturizers;
  • Wear rubber gloves when doing the dishes to prevent your hands from drying out.

Finally, when the weather turns cold and windy, make sure that you fully cover exposed skin with a coat, hat, scarf, and gloves.

Hair Loss

Under normal circumstances, you lose 50 to 100 hairs per day. However, premature hair loss involves losing a much greater number of hairs on a daily basis, which might not regrow once falling out. This can result in thinning hair.

The genes passed to you from your parents (heredity) is the most common cause of gradual hair thinning and loss on the head, otherwise known as male and female pattern baldness. However, other factors like hormonal changes, medical conditions, stress, or even the normal aging process can also cause premature hair loss.

Because most balding is caused by genetics and isn’t preventable, there’s not much you can do other than asking your doctor about certain prescription medications and over-the-counter serums that can slow the thinning. Additional options include:

  • Quitting smoking cigarettes;
  • Protecting your hair from UV exposure;
  • Carefully managing your diet;
  • Being gentle with your hair by using a detangler when you’re bathing and avoiding tugging when brushing your hair afterward.

Gaunt Hands

As you age, your body produces less collagen and elastin, two proteins that contribute to your skin’s strength and elasticity. Combined with losing subcutaneous tissue, bone, and muscle as you age, this can leave your hands gradually looking ‘carved out,’ otherwise known as gaunt.

Fortunately, outside of genetics, there is a handful of steps you can take to prevent premature hand gauntness:

  • Moisturize regularly;
  • Apply at least 30SPF sunscreen to your hands (and other exposed body parts) before going out into the sun;
  • Avoid exposing your hands to hot water by using gloves when doing the dishes or cleaning with harsh chemicals.

Grey Hair

Inside your hair follicles are specialized cells called melanocytes that produce melanin, the chemical that gives your hair its color. As you age, these melanocytes die and stop producing melanin, giving your hair a gray, silver, or white color.

When you’ll go gray and by how much depends primarily on your genetics. And other than dying your hair, there’s nothing you can do to change gray hair back to its original color.

Fortunately, you can slow the graying process by getting enough key nutrients in your diet, including:

  • Biotin;
  • Calcium;
  • Copper;
  • Iron;
  • Protein;
  • Vitamins B5, B6, B9, and B12;
  • Vitamin D;
  • Vitamin E;
  • Zinc.

Otherwise, deficiencies in these vitamins can contribute to premature graying.

Inflammation & Hyperpigmentation

Melanocytes aren’t just responsible for graying hair.; they can also lead to a condition called hyperpigmentation. Here’s how it works:

  1. Inflammation occurs somewhere on the skin, which can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including eczema, acne, and allergic reactions, to name just a few;
  2. The presence of these inflammatory cells causes melanocytes to release more pigment into the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin);
  3. This additional pigment results in a cluster of skin that’s darker than the surrounding areas. 

The best actions you can take to avoid inflammation and hyperpigmentation are to limit the time you spend in the sun and to wear protective clothing (e.g., long-sleeve shirts, sun hats) and sunscreen when outdoors.

Puffy Eyes

Swollen or ‘puffy eyes,’ can appear when mild under-eye swelling occurs. While this condition might not be prevalent when you’re young, as your eyelid muscles weaken, the fat around your eyes moves into your lower eyelids, or fluid accumulates below your eyes with age, it can become a persistent issue.

While you might not be able to get rid of these “bags” under your eyes permanently, you can help reduce their appearance by:

  • Applying a cool compress;
  • Reducing salt consumption;
  • Avoiding drinking fluids right before you go to bed;
  • Stopping smoking;
  • Getting plenty of sleep, and sleep on a pillow with your head raised;
  • Using over-the-counter allergy medications if you have regular issues with allergens;
  • Applying cosmetics that help cover up the appearance of bags.

Sagging Skin & Body Parts

Collagen and elastin play prominent roles in keeping your skin strong and wrinkle-free. These proteins diminish as you age, which not only leaves behind wrinkles and fine lines but also sagging skin and other body parts, especially around the face, neck, abdomen, and arms.

But these aren’t the only culprits. Other causes of sagging skin can be due to weight loss (including after pregnancy) and long-term sun exposure.

What can you do to reverse the process? Common options include:

  • Firming creams;
  • Facial exercises;
  • Dietary supplements;
  • Cosmetic procedures like chemical peels, laser resurfacing, and ultrasound skin tightening.

Sunspots

Sunspots (formally known as solar lentigo) are a form of hyperpigmentation where excess UV light exposure quickens your body’s melanin production, which forms together in specific areas and leaves behind patches of skin that are darker than their surroundings.

While sunspots aren’t a cause for a health concern, you might consider them unsightly. To help reduce their appearance, you can use at-home options like: 

  • Aloe;
  • Apple cider vinegar;
  • Green and black tea;
  • Vitamins C and E;
  • Over-the-counter topical creams. 

Professionally, your dermatologist can use treatments like laser resurfacing, microdermabrasion, and microneedling to potentially give you even better results.

Wrinkles

As you age and your body produces increasingly fewer proteins like collagen and elastin, your skin begins to sag and droop, causing fine lines and wrinkles to appear.

One of the leading causes of premature wrinkles is excessive sun exposure, but smoking, drinking too little water, certain vitamin deficiencies, and not moisturizing enough can also play meaningful roles.

To prevent premature wrinkles, try:

  • Wearing a high-SPF sunscreen when you’re exposed to the sun;
  • Moisturizing regularly;
  • Drinking plenty of water;
  • Getting the vitamins you need from foods or a dietary supplement;
  • Avoiding smoking.

Aging

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