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I’m A Derm & Here Are 3 Things That Might Be Damaging Your Collagen

We likely don’t need to tell you that your collagen levels diminish as you age (although, we’ll happily remind you again and again). And if you consider yourself an avid mbg reader, perhaps you know that those levels begin to decline by 1% each year1, starting around your mid-20s. It’s a pretty big bummer, considering collagen is what keeps your skin looking firm and taut. Another downer? Some underrated mistakes can accelerate that decline even faster.

But keep your chins up! (Seriously, fixing your posture may have skin benefits.) We consulted board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D., for her expert tips to restore collagen and keep your skin looking bouncy. Ahead, discover what could make your skin age even faster–and what to do about it:

1.

Pollution exposure.

“Exposure to pollution can lead to free radical damage, which can contribute to collagen breakdown and skin changes over time,” says Garshick. Granted, it can be pretty difficult to completely avoid pollutants, especially for city dwellers. However, you can mitigate these effects by using antioxidants daily: “Using antioxidants can help to reduce the impact of pollution on the skin,” she adds.

She particularly calls out vitamin C serums, which also play a significant role in your natural collagen production. You see, vitamin C is a vital part of the collagen synthesis process, helping collagen cross-link and support skin firmness. And it doesn’t just stimulate collagen production; it stabilizes the collagen2 you have, leading to overall wrinkle reduction. Here’s a list of the best vitamin C serums on the market, beauty editor tested and approved.

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2.

Ignoring hydration.

Yes, hydrated skin looks deliciously dewy, but it’s not all about appearances: Improper hydration can lead to premature skin aging, like sagging and wrinkles. “Remember to nourish and moisturize the skin,” says Garshick, especially with humectants and emollients that plump your skin barrier and support your natural collagen levels. Specifically, she’s a fan of the Andalou Naturals Deep Hydration Multi-Correcting Cream, which is a fabulous night cream to help firm your skin as you sleep.

And don’t forget about internal hydration, either: If you want even more of a collagen-restoring boost, opt for hyaluronic acid and/or collagen supplements to moisturize your skin from the inside out. Here’s a list of our favorite options, all backed by a nutrition Ph.D.

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3.

Forgetting sunscreen.

Thought we’d leave you without emphasizing sun protection? Think again. “Exposure to UV rays can lead to DNA damage, which leads to collagen loss and breakdown,” reminds Garshick. In fact, up to 80% of the signs of skin aging3 are due to UV damage. That being said: Protect your delicate skin from excess sun.

“Wear sunscreen,” says Garshick. “Regular use of sunscreen can help to protect the skin against UV damage that can contribute to collagen loss and the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and skin laxity.” We’ll add to that by saying you shouldn’t use sunscreen as an excuse to bake in the sun–natural light exposure is important (vitamin D, and all), but be smart about your time under those rays.

The takeaway.

Collagen levels decline over time. It’s unavoidable! However, some habits can accelerate that process, while other smart tactics can delay the inevitable until it’s truly time. Follow Garshick’s advice to secure supple, youthful skin for as long as possible; we also have a full guide to restoring collagen in the face, if you’re looking for even more tips.

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