My New New Year’s Resolutions

It has been over a decade since a landmark study was published on identical twins and how their appearance changed as they aged. It showed how you live your life impacts how fast you age, and how old you look, more than the genes that are flowing through your bloodstream or camped out in your skin.

In this plastic surgery research that studied twins, it was observed that often one twin would look considerably older then the other. Since their gene make-up was obviously identical, how does one account for these differences? After studying hundreds of adult identical twins, the researchers discovered that how we nurture our skin has a huge influence on how well or poorly our skin ages. Three lifestyle factors came up consistently as accelerants of wrinkles and droopy skin; sun, smoking and stress.

So for this New Year if you want to slow down the clock on how you look as you age, here is another set of resolutions to consider. Limit the number of S’s in your lifestyle, adopt an S-free lifestyle as possible. Limit sun exposure, quit smoking and reduce the stress in your life as much as possible.

Everyone knows of the damaging effects caused by too much sun exposure on your skin. There are great examples that are not more than a person or two away most of the time. But not getting as burnt as toast at the beach is not what ages most people, it is the daily innocuous exposure that we don’t even feel. Lack of adequate daily UV protection in your moisturizer will add a few years and wrinkles than might otherwise have occurred.

The horrific effect of smoking on our heart and lungs is well chronicled since C Everett Koop was our Surgeon General.  And most people recognize that it is not good for the skin either. Its impact is more than just those pesky lip lines from embracing that cylinder (and we have yet in plastic surgery come up with a good way to get rid of them), but it causes more and deeper wrinkles to occur, thins the skin, and creates a lot of dark spots and pigmentation irregularities. By reducing the blood supply to the skin, proper nutrients can not be delivered creating a state of skin malnutrition. A significant smoking habit can easily make a person look five to ten years older.

Stress is the wild card. It is bad for your skin and definitely causes more wrinkles. But treating stress is not as easy as applying a topical cream or not flicking a match or lighter. Maybe don’t sweat the small stuff (and it is all small stuff) approach is one antidote to adopt.

So if you’ve got wrinkled skin, age spots or a turkey neck, don’t blame your family tree. Blame those Ss in your life and make this the year you resolve to reduce them.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana