14 Lifestyle Changes That Make You Look Younger

Look younger now

You can’t stop time, you can turn back the clock to achieve more youthful-looking hair, hands, and skin. And you don’t need to submit yourself to plastic surgery, buy expensive salon treatments, or stock a medicine cabinet full of lotions and potions, either. All you need to do is examine your everyday habits and make simple anti-aging tweaks to your routine.

Skip the heat styling

Youthful hair has bounce and shine, but using a flat iron, curling iron, or hair dryer can lead to dull, flat strands that add years to your overall appearance. “I’m seeing lots of damage and breakage from women using multiple heat styling tools,” says Francesca J. Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Turn back the clock: Declare a two-day-a-week heat-free holiday where you give your locks a rest from heat styling tools, suggests Dr. Fusco says. Master the wet bun, let your hair air-dry, or skip washing your hair altogether and spritz on a dry shampoo if needed.

Apply SPF every day

Dermatologists always preach about wearing sunscreen every single day to protect against skin cancer, but slathering on the SPF is also the most effective tool in your anti-aging arsenal. A 2013 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who applied SPFthree or four days a week were less likely to suffer from skin aging compared to those who applied it at their discretion after a 4.5-year follow-up.

Turn back the clock: SPF 30 is the gold-standard dermatologists recommend. Apply it every day, rain or shine. And use more than you think you need—most people apply as little as one-quarter of the recommended dose, says the American Academy of Dermatology. Rule of thumb: use a shot-glass worth of sunscreen every time.

Use lotion on your hands

The skin on the backs of your hands is very thin, which makes it prone to accelerated aging compared to the rest of your body. And when dry air saps moisture from skin, your hands look even older than they should. Using lotion helps; pick one that contains sunscreen, suggests Dr. Fusco: “It will greatly reduce sun damage, which appears as brown spots and wrinkles.”

Turn back the clock: Rub an SPF 30 moisturizer onto the backs of your hands every morning.

Paint your nails

The part of your body that often reveals your real ageisn’t your face—it’s your hands, according to a study from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. One trick for fooling others into thinking you’re younger than you really are: wear nail polish. Along with wearing jewelry, polish offers a welcome distraction from imperfections, the study says.

Turn back the clock: For an anti-aging mani, go for jewel-toned hues (think rich purples and reds), which offer a burst of color without being too intense, says Lynette Cenée, a StyleSeat professional in Beverly Hills, CA. She likes the new Nordic collection by OPI.

Exercise regularly

“Exercise improves healthy circulation, which allows skin to look its best,” says Dr. Fusco. (Bonus: it’ll also improve circulation to reduce undereye bags.) Plus, a new study from McMaster University in Canada found that exercise may reverse skin aging. Besides, when you’re in shape, you naturally look younger.

Turn back the clock: Count it as one more reason to clock your 30 minutes of exercise every day. Follow these steps to make exercise a lasting habit.

Watch your sodium intake

Eating salty foods can make you retain water, resulting in a puffy look—especially in the area below the eyes.

Turn back the clock: Banish the bloat by searching for hidden sources of sodium in your diet. Salt lurkseverywhere—bread, cereal, condiments, sauces, deli meats, and even some sweet baked goods are loaded with it.

Keep your smartphone addiction under control

Over time, keeping your head down when you’re texting or scrolling through Facebook promotes wrinkles that ring your neck, notes Dr. Fusco. Any movement you repeat over and over eventually etches in lines permanently.

Turn back the clock: Think about where you text most—in your office, on your couch—and hang photos (of family, friends, places you’ve been) nearby at eye-level and use those as a reminder to keep your head up while using your phone.

Rinse with mouthwash daily

If you’re already in a daily mouthwash habit, you’re on the right track. These bacteria-killing rinses flush away particles on and between teeth, while also cleaning gums, says Dr. Layliev. The result: cleaner teeth free of yellowing and pinker gums (as opposed to red, a sign of gum disease).

Turn back the clock: Rinse with an alcohol-free and artificial dye-free mouthwash, like The Natural Dentist Healthy Teeth and Gums Anti-Cavity Fluoride Rinse.

Eat high-protein foods

When you want hair that looks healthy, you’ve got to start at the basics, and that means eating an adequate amount of protein to maintain normal hair production, says Kevin Pinski, MD, a dermatologist at Pinski Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in Chicago. The nutrient serves as the building block of strong hair.

Turn back the clock: Most women should eat about 46 grams of protein a day (more if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or a competitive athlete). For reference, a 3-ounce serving of salmon supplies 22 grams, while a glass of low-fat milk contains 8 grams.

Take care of wet hair

If you’ve laid off the heat styling and pumped up your protein intake but still are dealing with dull, thin hair, then your post-shower habits may be to blame. Brushing wet hair—when strands are at their weakest—can cause breakage that leads to flyaways and unruly strands.

Turn back the clock: Never brush wet hair. When you get out of the shower, use a wide-toothed comb with blunt tips, says Dr. Pinski.

Eat your greens

Greens are nature’s toothbrushes. “Fiber-rich vegetables like spinach, lettuce, and broccoli help naturally clean teeth,” says Dr. Layliev. Their fiber can prevent plaque from sticking to enamel. (Of course, you still have to brush every morning and night and floss daily, he says.) Another bonus: a diet brimming with veggies perks up your complexion, shows a study in PLOS One. People who ate about three servings of carotenoid-packed produce—found in dark leafy greens and broccoli—were perceived as having a healthier and more attractive skin tone.

Turn back the clock: Just as the USDA suggests, aim to fill half your plate with vegetables. That will help you get the 2.5 cups of vegetables they recommend women younger than 50 eat per day.

Handle your stress head-on

Stress not only makes you freak out on the inside—it shows on the outside. It shores up inflammatory processes in skin that can exacerbate conditions like psoriasis, acne, and eczema, says a report in the journalSeminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery.

Turn back the clock: Social support plays a huge role in stress levels, the researchers note, so make sure you’re meeting up with friends. Also consider relaxation techniques like breathing exercises or journal writing.

Get enough sleep

“During deep sleep, the body produces greater quantities of estrogen and progesterone,” says Dr. Pinski. These boost your skin’s natural repair mechanisms, so you look more radiant when you wake up. “The hormones also help prevent acne,” he says.

Turn back the clock: If you stay up watching reruns ofThe Big Bang Theory (even though you’ve already seen the episodes) because you’re avoiding going to bed, set a strict TV curfew. Try more soothing bedtime rituals that help you unwind mentally, like drink a mug of hot milk and honey, suggests Dr. Pinski.