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Genetics, smoking, and sun can make you look older, but doctors say there are ways to fight back.

By Sherry Rauh

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

WebMD Feature

Is Your Skin Aging Faster Than You Are?

How well your face reflects your age depends on a combination of genetics and lifestyle.

"It seems as though some people are genetically programmed to age slower with regard to skin texture, tone, and laxity," says Mary C. Massa, MD, a professor of dermatology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

"They are just lucky and should thank their parents," Massa says. "I often see African-Americans whose skin looks very youthful compared to their age. Very fair, slim individuals seem more prone to developing lines in the cheeks sooner."

Lifestyle factors that can speed the pace of aging skin include smoking, use of tanning beds, and sun exposure. The sun begins leaving its mark during the first years of life, says Tamara Lior, MD, chairwoman of the department of dermatology at Cleveland Clinic Florida.

"Freckles in young kids are evidence of sun damage," she tells WebMD. In fact, the amount of sun you got as a child has a lot to do with your skin's appearance today.

Quiz: Do You Look Your Age?

To find out if you look older than you are, take the quiz below. Keep in mind that the results are based on typical skin characteristics for each age group. There is no universal pattern for aging skin, and appearances can vary widely among individuals of the same age.

For each category, choose the letter that best describes the current state of your skin.

  1. Skin texture:
    1. Plump and smooth
    2. Mostly smooth with some dry or flaky spots
    3. Uneven with rough spots and dryness becoming more common
    4. Thin and dry with some sagging along the jaw line
    5. Dry and crepe-like with heavy sagging and deep creases
  1. Skin tone:
    1. Radiant and glowing with mostly even color
    2. Less radiant with some discoloration from sun exposure
    3. Less radiant with moderate discoloration (such as patches of small brown spots)
    4. Dull with blotchy, uneven color and well-defined age spots
    5. Dull and "pasty" with numerous age spots and/or yellowish discoloration
  1. Fine lines & wrinkles:
    1. Few, if any
    2. Faint lines around the eyes or between the eyebrows
    3. Lines in the forehead and around the eyes or mouth, even when the face is relaxed
    4. Deeper lines around the eyes, from the nose to the mouth, and from the corners of the mouth down; fine lines on the cheeks
    5. Deep wrinkles in the cheeks and upper lips in addition to the lines in part "d"

Brush Up on Beauty

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