There are many major milestones in adulthood: our first jobs, our first apartments, our first big moves, and our first wrinkle sightings. Laugh all you want at the latter, but it's true—along with gray hairs and a slower metabolism, spotting your first lines is synonymous with—gulp—aging, a word that cuts so, so deep when used in self-context. But before you book your first filler appointment, it's important to know what causes those pesky ridges in the first place.
According to celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau, the first obvious cause of wrinkles is plain and simple: time. As skin ages, that plump, youthful complexion we once had starts to deflate and our collagen and elastin levels decrease. Additionally, free radical damage from the sun, pollutants, smoking, and alcohol can all contribute to fine lines and wrinkles. Another key factor? Your diet. Yes, what you eat affects the overall look and tone of your skin, and that includes its youthfulness (or lack thereof). So along with shielding your skin from the environment and limiting your vino intake, being mindful of what you ingest will help prevent lines and wrinkles (as well as treat the ones that already exist). That's right: You can eat your way to younger-looking skin. Alas, the fountain of youth has been discovered (sort of). But until we find the free-flowing, age-reversing body of water that J.Lo and Jennifer Aniston are sipping from, we suggest munching on these wrinkle-fighting foods daily.
Says dietitian Dana James, "Avocado contains a fat so tiny it can slip through membranes and protect the mitochondria and DNA from free radical damage. This means more radiant skin! Add avocado to a nori wrap filled with baby greens, wild salmon, tomatoes, peppers, and sprouts." Or, you know, you can continue business as usual and eat it on toast.
Black Sesame Seeds
"Packed with essential fats, oleic acid, amino acids, potassium, and fiber, these seeds are so abundant in skin-beautifying nutrients that they deserve to be added to every meal," says James. She suggests adding them to that avocado toast for an extra boost.
We think there might be a bit of magic in pumpkin seeds since they conquer wrinkles and acne scars: "Loaded with zinc, vitamin E, sulfur, and omega-3 fats, the seeds heal, nourish, restore, and hydrate the skin. They can also repair blemish marks when you’ve had a breakout. Eat them raw because their delicate fats are destroyed when exposed to too much heat," says James.
There's a reason you've read time and time again about how amazing omega-3 fatty acids are for your body and your skin. Rouleau says foods rich in omega-3s "stifle your body’s response to irritation and attract water to skin cells to plump up the skin and reduce wrinkles." To reap the benefits of this nutrient, she suggests eating foods such as salmon, flaxseed, tofu, shrimp, halibut, and soybean.
To help preserve your skin's elastin, Rouleau suggests eating foods rich in selenium, a mineral that helps smooth and tighten your complexion, like Brazil nuts, turkey, low-fat cottage cheese, and oysters.
Collagen fibers are made up of amino acids that make up proteins, so Rouleau recommends having a high-protein diet to support those fibers. Try eating protein-rich foods like fish, legumes, tofu, lean meats, poultry, and eggs.
Did you know that tomatoes have natural SPF? Says James, "The lycopene in tomatoes helps prevent UVA and UVB damage. While you’ll still need to add sunscreen, just two tomatoes give you a sun protection factor of 5, which means 50 minutes before you burn, if your normal skin burning time is 10 minutes. Enjoy a tomato gazpacho for lunch!
Vitamin C and E
Rouleau explains that vitamin C is essential to collagen production, and helps improve the skin's ability to renew itself. Try vitamin C–packed foods like dark leafy greens, broccoli, peppers, strawberries, oranges, and papaya. "Enjoy as an afternoon snack drizzled with a squeeze of lime!" says James. Papaya is also packed with vitamin E, another nutrient essential to fighting wrinkles as it protects skin cells from UV light and other environmental factors that generate cell-damaging free radicals. Try adding olive oil, 100% whole wheat, kale, almonds, and kiwi to your diet to get these skin-protecting benefits.