As you get older, your body’s internal processes — from skin cell turnover to workout recovery — slow down and take longer to complete or recharge.
This leaves room for signs of aging, such as wrinkles and fatigue, to occur.
These changes may be surprising if they happen earlier than expected, hence the term “premature” aging.
It’s impossible to avoid these changes completely, but there are ways to reduce the signs of aging in your body — especially if they’re happening before you’re ready to embrace them.
Here’s what to watch for, why it happens, and more.
The aging process looks different for everyone, but there are certain signs of aging that are considered “premature” if you notice them before you turn 35.
Sun spots, also called age spots and liver spots, are flat spots on your skin caused by years of sun exposure.
These hyper-pigmented spots may develop on your face, the back of your hands, or your forearms.
They tend to appear at or after age 40. People with fairer skin, like Fitzpatrick type 1 and 2, may see these sun spot developments earlier.
Over time, the top layers of your skin become thinner and contain fewer structuring proteins, such as collagen, that give your skin its shape.
Your hands may start to appear more veiny, thin, and prone to wrinkles as a result.
There’s no objective metric for when hands start looking older, but most people tend to notice it during their late 30s and early 40s.
Inflammation or hyperpigmentation along chest
Many people develop patchy discoloration on their chest as they get older.
Similar to sunspots, these areas of differing pigment can be caused by damage to your cells from sun exposure.
This kind of hyperpigmentation isn’t always connected to aging. It can be the result of eczema or other skin conditions that damage the melanin cells in your skin.
There isn’t an average age of when this skin condition typically appears.
Dry or itchy skin
You may notice your skin becoming drier and more prone to flaking as you near your 40s.
Wrinkles or sagging
As you enter your 30s, your skin slows down its production of collagen, the protein that gives your skin its shape. Collagen is what helps your skin bounce back and stay plump.
With less collagen in the skin, it’s easier for visible wrinkles and sagging to occur. You might notice this happening more in areas around frequently used muscles, like the forehead, or where you’re more exposed to the sun.
The age when people first notice wrinkles varies, with little standard for when it’s “premature.”
And sometimes aging may not even be responsible. It could simply be dirt or dehydration.
Hair loss happens as the stem cells that trigger new hair growth in your hair follicles die off.
Hormone changes, environmental factors, genetics, and your diet all play a role in how quickly this happens.
There are a couple of different factors that have a direct effect on how quickly these signs appear on your body.
The toxins in cigarette smoke expose your skin to oxidative stress. This causes dryness, wrinkles, and other signs of premature aging.
Sun exposure and tanning
Tanning beds and exposure to the sun penetrate your skin with UV rays. These rays damage the DNA in your skin cells, causing wrinkles.
There are some very rare genetic conditions that can cause you to show signs of aging in childhood and early puberty. These conditions are called progeria.
Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome is an even rarer condition, affecting 1 in 8 million babies.
Children with this syndrome don’t grow as quickly as others in their age group. They also experience thin limbs and baldness. The average life expectancy for children living with Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome is 13 years.
Several lifestyle habits can contribute to how quickly your body shows signs of aging, even if they aren’t a primary cause.
Sleep gives your body an opportunity to refresh and regenerate cells.
Alcohol and caffeine intake
Drinking alcohol excessively dehydrates your body. Over time, this dehydration can cause your skin to sag and lose its shape.
Caffeine may have a similar effect, although there’s conflicting research about if daily coffee consumption causes wrinkles.
Pigment spots and wrinkles
Since your skin comes into direct contact with the air around you, your skin barrier is being subjected to the toxins and pollutants in your daily environment.
A stressful lifestyle can trigger an inflammatory response in your body, as well as hurt your sleep habits. Stress hormones and inflammation
Once you notice the signs of aging, you can take steps to address the way your body is changing — or allow nature to take its course.
There isn’t a right or wrong way to age, and whatever you choose to do with your body is entirely up to you.
If you have sunspots
If you notice sunspots, start by seeing a dermatologist to rule out other skin conditions.
Once you know for sure what you’re dealing with, consider what lifestyle changes you can make.
Wear sunscreen with at least 30 SPF daily to protect yourself from UV rays, and reduce direct exposure to the sun whenever possible. Covering up when you go outside can help prevent further spots from appearing.
If you have gaunt hands
If your hands appear to be gaunt, with translucent, fragile skin and visible veins, start moisturizing them regularly.
If your hands are regularly exposed to chemicals and pollutants through the work that you do or your household chores, it might not be possible to stop your exposure to those things completely.
Instead, make small changes — like wearing gloves when you wash the dishes or weed your garden.
If you’re concerned with how your hands look, speak to a dermatologist.
If you have inflammation or hyperpigmentation
If you have discoloration on your chest, start protecting that area of your body from the sun whenever possible.
Use sunscreen with at least 30 SPF each day, and pay careful attention to covering the parts of your skin that have been damaged.
Moisturize the area frequently and try to find a lotion with vitamin C or retinoids.
There are products that a doctor can prescribe to treat hyperpigmentation in your chest area. Mild steroids and bleaching agents can fade the look of hyperpigmentation over time.
If you have dry or itchy skin
If your skin is flaky, dry, and itchy, you may want to speak with a dermatologist and rule out any other health conditions.
Once you know that your dry skin is a sign of aging and not a symptom of something else, start focusing on lifestyle factors.
Drink more water to maintain hydration throughout your body and your skin. Take shorter showers using lukewarm water.
Determine if the dryness is a result of your skin type or if it’s actually dehydrated, as the treatments for both differ.
Then find a moisturizer that works for you and apply it daily.
If switching up your routine at home doesn’t work, speak to a doctor about a prescription moisturizer that has stronger ingredients for protecting your skin.
If you have wrinkles or sagging skin
If your skin is sagging or you notice wrinkles, there are several things you can do.
Start by protecting your skin every day with a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. Limit your sun exposure by wearing hats with a brim and loose clothing that covers your limbs.
If you smoke, quitting can help prevent further skin damage.
Drink water and moisturize your skin each day. Cosmetics with green tea extracts, vitamin A, vitamin C, retinoids, and anti-oxidants
If you have hair loss
If your hair is falling out or growing thinner, consider purchasing a shampoo and conditioner product meant to address the issue.
Rogaine (minoxidil) and Propecia (finasteride) are popular over-the-counter treatments.
You can’t stop aging completely — and that’s a good thing.
Experiences come with age, and there are times when our skin or our body will reflect that.
When it comes to slowing the signs you don’t like, it’s all about prevention and giving your cells a boost through products or lifestyle changes.
In some cases, taking care of your skin can allow for a healing process that restores some of your skin’s appearance and restores a bit of its structure.
Some symptoms should signal a consultation with a doctor or dermatologist.
Sunspots, for example, can be difficult to differentiate from moles or other spots.
A doctor can verify that the spot or discoloration isn’t a sign of another health condition.
Thinning hair can be the result of malnutrition or excessive stress, so ask a doctor about that, too.
If you’re concerned about the signs of aging — what’s normal, what’s not, and if there’s anything you can do differently — talk to a doctor.
They can help you create a care plan that addresses your environment, lifestyle, and family history.
Many factors affect how visible your signs of aging will be. Some you can control, and some you cannot.
Wearing sunscreen with at least SPF 30 each day may be the biggest thing you can do to prevent signs of premature aging.
Pay attention to more than just your face
Don’t limit your moisturizing and skin-protecting regimen to just your face. Make sure to use sunscreen with at least 30 SPF and lotion on the rest of your body, too.
Introduce one new product at a time — and give it time to work
Some products make hefty claims for slowing the signs of aging immediately. The truth is that any cosmetic product will take some time for you to see visible results.
Make sure you remove all makeup before bed
Your face-washing habits can influence the way your skin appears.
Wash your face twice a day using warm water and a mild cleanser. Make sure your face is free of foundation and other residue before you go to bed.
Stick to a sleep schedule
Sleep is essential to all of your body’s organs, including your skin.
Following a sleep schedule will give your skin time to refresh and renew itself daily.
Eat a balanced diet
A balanced diet ensures that you get all of the nutrition your body needs to produce healthy skin cells.
Dehydration can make wrinkles show up faster. Drink 8 cups of water per day to hydrate your body.
Daily exercise boosts your circulation, which keeps skin healthier. This might help your skin look younger.
If you stop exposing your skin to the toxins in cigarette smoke, you’ll give your skin time to repair itself.
Practice stress management
Find a stress relief technique that works for you and make it a habit. Yoga, nature walks, and meditation are all proven healthy coping mechanisms.