How old do I look? This is a question we often find ourselves asking as we age and fine lines and wrinkles begin popping up. The answer is often left up to our perceptions. But thanks to new technology, you can estimate your skin age and see how it stacks up against your chronological age. All you need is a digital camera and some good lighting.
Your skin age can be influenced by a variety of lifestyle factors, including sun exposure, diet, stress, and sleep. The good news is that you can improve your skin health by adjusting your lifestyle, which may help you look younger.
What affects skin age?
Skin age is an estimate of age based on the condition of the surface of your face. This estimate can indicate how fast your facial skin is aging.
While everyone ages, it’s no secret that some people seem to age faster than others. But why?
Well, your skin age can be influenced by a variety of environmental and lifestyle factors, including the following:
- Age – Your skin is constantly repairing damaged tissue and regenerating cells. But as you age, skin cell regeneration slows down. Skin also becomes thinner, more fragile, and loses its elasticity with age. This is because collagen, the protein that keeps your skin smooth and supple, declines with age. Melanocytes, your skin cells that contain pigments, also decrease. This drop in melanocytes can cause age spots to pop up, which can result in a dull complexion.
- Sun Exposure – Overexposure to the sun is by far the top culprit that contributes to aging skin. UV rays damage your skin’s DNA, which can lead to sun spots, premature wrinkles, and even cancer.1
- Genetics – Your genes also influence your skin age. As a rule, people with fairer complexions tend to age quicker than those with darker skin tones.2 For example, Caucasians generally have an earlier onset of saggy skin and wrinkles than other ethnicities.
- Pollution – Environmental pollutants cause inflammation, which can lead to premature aging. When combined with UV radiation, the damaging effects of pollution on the skin are even more pronounced.3
- Nutrition – Diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates are linked with premature aging. As sugar enters your bloodstream, it attaches to proteins, creating advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs can weaken collagen and elastin, two proteins that help keep your skin firm and supple. As AGEs accumulate, they can trigger oxidative stress. This may lead to skin inflammation.
- Smoking – Cigarettes are filled with over 250 chemicals that can harm your skin, not to mention your overall health.4 This may explain why smokers are at increased risk of developing skin disorders such as psoriasis, alopecia, and even skin cancer.5 In addition, smoking causes free radical damage, which reduces collagen and elastin.6 This may lead to premature wrinkles and saggy skin. The longer someone has smoked, the greater the damage to their skin.
- Alcohol – Drinking alcohol dehydrates the body. This can lead to dry skin and reduced elasticity. One study found that heavy drinkers (those who consume 8 or more drinks per week) are at increased risk of forehead lines, under-eye puffiness, and facial volume loss.6
- Makeup – Most cosmetics contain harmful chemicals that can irritate and damage your skin. So wearing makeup every day or not removing it properly may contribute to premature aging.
- Stress – When you’re stressed, your body amps up the production of cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone. When cortisol shoots up, collagen breaks down, which can accelerate skin aging.7
Predicting skin age with artificial intelligence
Looking at someone’s face can give you a rough estimate of their age. But thanks to AI, there are more accurate ways to estimate skin age based on the condition of your skin.
Today, there are a variety of AI-based apps and websites that estimate skin age. These tools assess your facial lines, wrinkles, and changes in skin pigmentation to determine your skin age.
Some tools rely solely on the skin around the corners of the eye to estimate skin age. Other tools are more well-rounded and assess wrinkles, redness, skin pores, eye bags, and even facial uniformity.
So how do these AI-based age detectors work? First, they extract a person’s face from a picture or video. Then, a neural network compares that face to a database with thousands of other facial images.
While the precision of these apps varies, some claim they can guess skin age within 2.3 years with 95% accuracy.
However, these AI apps do come with some limitations. Images taken in poor lighting conditions may distort the facial skin estimation. That’s why it’s important to have good, even lighting when using these apps.
What can my skin age tell me about my health?
If your skin age is greater than your chronological age, it’s a sign that you may be aging prematurely. Often, this is preventable and due to environmental or lifestyle factors such as sun exposure, poor nutrition, smoking, or lack of sleep.
Being told that your skin looks older than your actual age can be unsettling. But it can also act as a wake-up call to inspire you to make healthy lifestyle changes that’ll benefit your skin and overall health in the long run.
What can I do to look younger?
While it’s impossible to turn back the clock, you have more power over how well you’re aging than you think.
By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can improve your skin health and slow down the aging process.
Here are 9 ways to keep your skin looking youthful.
Eat a healthy diet
Healthy skin comes from within. If you’re deficient in vitamins and nutrients, it can show up on your skin. For example, people who are low in vitamin B12 are more prone to hyperpigmentation.8
So, to get glowing from the inside out, eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. These foods are filled with antioxidants, which help protect your skin from free radical damage that can cause premature aging.
Along with knowing what to eat, you should be aware of foods that tend to age your skin. Some of the top culprits are sugary foods, fried foods, and processed foods.
Limit sun exposure
Sunshine in small doses can boost your vitamin D levels and improve your circadian rhythm. But getting too much sun damages your skin.
To keep your sun exposure within healthy limits:
- Spend only 5 to 15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen to get the benefits of exposure without risking sunburn and damaged skin.
- Use a natural broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) that protects from UVA & UVB rays if staying out in the sun for longer than 5 to 15 minutes.
- Wear protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts, pants, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed hats.
Be gentle with your skin
Hot water strips your skin of its natural oils, which can dry your skin. So when bathing or showering, use warm or lukewarm water instead of hot. Or, you may want to consider taking cold showers for their many health benefits—including helping your skin.
In addition, avoid harsh soaps, cleansers, and heavily fragranced products. These can disrupt your skin’s pH balance and cause dryness and irritation, which may accelerate premature aging.
If you need guidance finding non-toxic skin care, check out the EWG’s skin deep database.
Get plenty of sleep
Your skin cells regenerate around 3 times faster during sleep compared to daytime. Use this to your advantage and commit to getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Your skin will thank you.
As mentioned, smoking cigarettes causes premature aging. So if you smoke, consider quitting or cutting back at the very least.
Cut back on alcohol
Alcohol also damages your skin, leading to premature wrinkles. Limiting alcohol—or avoiding it altogether—can help prevent further skin damage.
Physical movement improves circulation, nourishing your skin cells with oxygen and nutrients. It also eases stress and reduces inflammation, both of which can harm your skin.
Drinking plenty of water is essential for skin health. Water helps keep your skin hydrated and flush out harmful toxins that can damage your skin. Aim to drink at least two liters of water per day.
To keep your skin looking youthful, minimize stress as much as possible. For many, this means learning to say “no” and setting healthy boundaries. Setting aside time for daily relaxation can also help prevent stress from getting out of hand. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and mindfulness are all proven stress-busting activities.
Skin age and overall wellness
While knowing your skin age can be helpful as you strive to improve your wellness, it is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to improving your overall health and wellness. Combining skin age with other measurements, such as those found in the ZYTO Link app, can give you an even better idea of how to optimize wellness to look and feel more youthful.
About Mindy Palmer
Mindy Palmer is a wellness writer and certified holistic health coach. She enjoys inspiring others to live healthier lives by creating informative content for leading-edge health and wellness brands.
1. Photoaging (Sun Damage).” Yale Medicine. Yalemedicine.org.
2. Makrantonaki, E., V. Bekou, & C.C. Zouboulis. “Genetics and skin aging.” Dermato Endocrinology 4, no. 3 (2012): 280-4.
3. Schikowski, T., & A. Hüls. “Air Pollution and Skin Aging.” Current Environmental Health Reports 7, no. 1 (2020): 58-64.
4. “Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Benefits of Quitting.” National Institutes of Health. Cancer.gov.
5. Lipa, K., N. Zając, et al. “Does smoking affect your skin?” Advances in Dermatology and Allergology 38, no. 3 (2021): 371-376.
6. Goodman, G.D., J. Kaufman, et al. “Impact of Smoking and Alcohol Use on Facial Aging in Women: Results of a Large Multinational, Multiracial, Cross-sectional Survey.” Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 12, no. 8 (2019): 28-39.
7. Kahan, V., M.L. Andersen, & J. Tomimori. “Stress, immunity, and skin collagen integrity: Evidence from animal models and clinical conditions.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 23, no. 8 (2009): 1089-1095.
8. Wong, C. & D. Chu. “Cutaneous signs of nutritional disorders.” International Journal of Women’s Dermatology 7, no. 5 (2021): 647-652.