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Are You Destined to Look Like Your Mother?

If you could see the future of your skin, would it look it just like your mother's? Not necessarily. While genes play a strong role in how skin ages -- wrinkles, sagging, and dark spots -- you can change your fate with a few easy moves. Whether it's being sun smart or seeing the dentist, find out how to control how old (or young!) your skin looks.

We all know someone who bakes in the sun, but has gorgeous, smooth skin. What gives? In a word: genetics. The same can be said for the person who shuns the sun and yet has more than a few lines and wrinkles. "Obviously, there is a strong genetic component to how skin ages," says Heidi Waldorf, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. But fortunately, it's not the whole story. Waldorf says that previous studies have suggested that a whopping 75 percent of skin aging is a result of genetics, while 25 percent is due to accelerating factors such as UV damage. But she believes we're starting to close that gap. "With the interventions we have today -- noninvasive, rejuvenating treatments and better and better topicals -- we can bring those numbers closer to 60/40 and potentially even 50/50, at least in the visual effects of skin aging," she says.

So, what can you control? Below, Waldorf shares what she calls "the biggies."

  • Don't smoke. You already know this, but it bears repeating -- especially if you're still puffing. Whether it's lip lines caused by constant pursing or a yellowing of the skin (ick!), cigarettes catapult the aging process.
  • Shield yourself from the sun. "Protect yourself from UV radiation because the sun is going to age you significantly and lead to skin cancer," Waldorf says. That means sunscreen every day -- 365 days a year. Try Olay Total Effects Daily Moisturizer + SPF 30 ($18; target.com).  
  • Watch your diet. This one is two-fold. Yo-yo dieting can age your skin since you're likely going up and down with your weight. "This can be problematic since the skin, at a certain point, doesn't bounce back so well," she says. That reduced elasticity leads to permanent sagging. Also, a balanced diet -- packed with antioxidants -- will protect skin from the inside out. Waldorf points to resveratrol, found in grapes (and red wine), which has been shown to stimulate sirtuins, anti-aging genes in our bodies.
  • Get on a good skin regimen. "It doesn't have to be complicated," Waldorf says. "In addition to protecting your skin from ultraviolet light, use topical antioxidants and collagen-stimulating peptides and retinoids." Try Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM ($65; ulta.com).
  • See a dermatologist. "If your skin is already damaged, doing a procedure such as laser resurfacing is helpful," she says. "By taking away some of the damaged skin and tightening, it's basically turning back the hands of time." Injectable fillers, such as Voluma or Radiesse, are all collagen stimulating to some degree, she says. "Even if you do it just once, your skin is going to be better off in the future."
  • Keep your bones healthy. Yes, your bones can play a role in how your skin looks. "Good bone structure is helpful for keeping your face lifted," Waldorf says. Get a bone density check and take a calcium supplement. This is especially important for slim women who have a higher risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis. And don't forget about your teeth, too.  See your dentist regularly. "Your teeth are also helping to hold up your face," Waldorf says.
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