While most of us know that aging is typically caused by genetic and environmental factors like stress and free radicals, did you know that your home could be aging you as well? All that effort applying antiaging creams is being undone the moment you cross the threshold of home sweet home -- that is, until now. From your windows to your paint choices, here are the 12 ways your home may be aging you and what you can do to fight the signs of time once and for all.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, at least 50 percent of UVA rays pass through glass windows. The result? Unless you are wearing sunscreen, any sun exposure you receive indoors is causing unfiltered damage to your skin. These rays -- known for causing wrinkles and age spots -- will also increase your risk for skin cancer. Board certified dermatologist and RealSelf.com advisor Dr. Joel Schlessinger recommends wearing sunscreen indoors as well as outdoors because of the bad nature of those UV rays. “Every single day, even if you don’t plan on leaving the house, you’re constantly exposed to UV rays,” he says. “Applying sunscreen every day can help you avoid fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and other signs of sun damage. Daily sun protection is the easiest way to keep your skin looking healthy and beautiful.”
2. Bed Pillows
Sleep wrinkles, caused by scrunching your face into a pillow or sleeping on your side, can easily be inhibited with two simple fixes: silk pillowcases that slide across your skin and sleeping on your back. The reason these unfortunate lines even occur, Dr. Schlessinger explains, is that mature skin doesn’t bounce back like younger skin. “These wrinkles are the result of your face being repeatedly compressed against a pillow each night, stretching, pushing and pulling the skin. The best way to avoid sleep wrinkles is to sleep on your back,” he says. If you are really serious about avoiding wrinkles while you sleep, Dr. Schlessinger recommends a pillow by JuveRest. “It has a head cradle to encourage sleeping on your back. If you absolutely must sleep on your side, JuveRest’s unique design helps minimize the contact between your face and the pillow,” he says.
Whether it’s mental or environmental clutter, according to Psychology Today, there’s no doubt that messiness causes stress, and it’s widely accepted that stress causes aging. To make your home the calm, clutter-free haven you always pictured, put forth the effort to de-clutter and donate clothes and items you don’t use. For items that have a tendency to pile up like mail, toys and books, make it routine to put them away every day. And, at the very least, keep your entryway as neat as possible so you won’t be bombarded by visual stress the moment you first open your door.
4. Scents and Odors
Just like clutter causes stress and ages you, the smell in your home helps make you feel your best and most relaxed. Daniele Ryman, aromacologist, natural well-being expert and author of “The Expert’s Guide to Aromatherapy & Essential Oils for Health,” knows that aromatherapy is an effective stress-relief tool that can help melt away anxiety and worries. She recommends adding “a few drops of relaxing essence -- such as basil, lavender, orange, clary sage or ylang-ylang -- to your bath or diffusing calming vapors around rooms.”
5. Humidity and Temperature
Dry skin means quickly aging skin. According to Dr. Schlessinger, “Low humidity depletes your skin of moisture. As a result, skin is left feeling dry, tight and uncomfortable. Similarly, colder temperatures often mean there is less moisture in the air, leaving skin dehydrated.” And to add insult to injury, indoor heat is even more drying. The solution? Use a humidifier to help combat dry air, especially while you get your beauty sleep. Look for one with a digital display, and set the humidity level between 40 and 50 percent. Anything above 60 percent, warns Dr. Schlessinger, allows for condensation on surfaces, which may allow bacteria to grow.
Be careful about spending all that time on your laptop or cell phone while camping out on the couch. eMarketer.com is reporting that the average person is spending three hours and five minutes a day on their smartphone or tablet. “Looking down at your cell phone, laptop or tablet can cause a loss of firmness in the neck called ‘tech neck.’ The skin on the neck is much thinner and more prone to wrinkling. Constantly looking down at your phone creates folds in the skin, which eventually become deep wrinkles,” says Dr. Schlessinger. The head normally weighs about 10 pounds when the spine is straight. “However, when you’re holding your head at a 45-degree angle to look down at your phone, the head weighs about 49 pounds,” he says. “This additional weight puts stress on the muscles and nerves in the neck, which can do more damage over time.” He recommends combatting this aging hurdle by reducing time spent using these devices and to hold them at a higher level so your head is in a more neutral position.
7. Air Quality
Smoke, pollution, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and UV radiation are the biggest contributors to making up free radicals -- unstable molecules that attack and harm the body. For those that are exposed, they’ll see signs of premature aging in the form of wrinkles and fine lines. To combat these free-floating enemies, quit smoking and increase your antioxidant levels by drinking green tea and eating colorful fruits and vegetables -- all of which are known to fight oxidative damage, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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8. Hot Showers
Another culprit of premature aging? Long, hot showers and dragging a towel across your body rather than patting yourself dry. “Rubbing a towel across your face or body is rough on your skin, no matter what material or fabric it is,” Dr. Schlessinger warns. “Instead of rubbing, always pat your skin dry, minimizing the risk of irritation. Next, moisturize as soon as you step out of the shower while your skin is still damp. It helps lock in moisture. If you skip this step, the top layers of your skin can quickly become dry and dehydrated.”
9. Paint Colors
With fashion, you pick colors that flatter your skin tone. The same could be said for your home. Whether it’s the paint on the wall or the color of your sofa, your home is your own personal stage and should make you look your best. Choose colors that complement your skin tone rather than wash you out. To figure out which colors work best for you, look at the inside of your wrist. If you have a more pronounced blue color, you’re cool and you’ll look best surrounded by blue, green, purple and pink colors. If your veins appear more green, then you are warm. Decorating with colors like orange, brown, ivory and red will make you look your very best and most lively.
“A poor diet, specifically one that is high in sugar, can affect your skin from the inside out,” warns Dr. Schlessinger. “Sugar molecules attach to collagen and elastin proteins in the skin through a process called glycation. This process produces advanced glycosylation end products, or AGEs for short. AGEs are free radicals that lead to inflammation, breaking down collagen and elastin in the skin.” Additionally, you may want to rethink that second glass of wine. Alcohol is known to dehydrate the body on multiple levels and can cause skin to appear blotchy and bloated. Drinking excessively is even worse. “Drinking alcohol also deprives the body of essential nutrients like vitamins, electrolytes and fluids. As you lose these key nutrients, your skin looks less healthy and vibrant. It’s also harder for your body to naturally rejuvenate dull skin because alcohol depletes your body’s natural sources of vitamin A, an antioxidant that helps promote cell turnover and keeps skin looking youthful,” he explains.
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There’s nothing better than spending the afternoon on your back porch or deck, but don’t underestimate the amount of UV radiation that can bounce off sand, water, snow and pavement, causing skin damage even when you’re not in direct sunlight. “Hard surfaces like pavement will reflect higher levels of UV radiation than softer surfaces like grass. Similarly, smooth surfaces like metal reflect higher levels of UV radiation than uneven surfaces like brick paving,” advises Dr. Schlessinger. That means that sitting out on your patio can be a lot more harmful than it sounds. And you shouldn’t just be worried about skin damage, he says, because sun exposure “can cause serious damage to eyes and the surrounding skin. Prolonged sun exposure can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, eyelid cancers and even vision loss.” He recommends always wearing a pair of UV-blocking sunglasses to screen out 99 to 100 percent of UV rays.
Lastly, believe it or not, that overhead LED lighting is seriously making you look older than you are. Harsh, bright, cool light typically found in LED and CFL bulbs causes dark shadows, emphasizing the bags under your eyes while making skin tones look grayer than they really are. To counteract terrible lighting, make sure each room has ambient lighting (indirect lighting that bounces off the ceiling) and a mix of decorative lighting (table and floor lamps). As for the bulbs, look for options that have a warmer color temperature and are dimmable. Don’t forget the use of candles either (look for ones with essential oils like lavender, sandalwood, chamomile and bergamot to help combat any additional stress). The combination of a relaxing scent and candlelight will turn your abode into your own personal spa.
What Do YOU Think?
Which of these examples resonates the most with you? Which changes do you want to make right now? Tell us in the comments!