People often associate crow’s feet and laugh lines with getting older. After all, as your skin ages, it loses elasticity and can start to show wrinkles and fine lines and is an undeniable part of getting older…right?

But these physical signs of aging sometimes have nothing to do with aging at all. Other lifestyle and environmental factors can take a toll on your physical appearance, including a poor diet, lack of sleep, and chronic stress. It’s not just your imagination; those wrinkles in the mirror could have more to do with your daily habits than you think.

The following 5 things are probably the biggest culprits of wrinkles; read on to see what you can do about them.

1 – The sun

It should come as no surprise that harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun, particularly in Australia, is one of the biggest causes of wrinkles.

UVB is responsible for the majority of skin cancers. UVA is longer wavelength radiation that is lower energy than UVB but is 100 times more common than UVB. It penetrates deep into the dermis of the skin and damages collagen, elastin and blood vessels.

This damage reduces our skins elasticity, which over time give it a thin, crepey (like tissue paper) appearance. Protect your skin every day by applying at least a SPF30 moisturiser even before you leave the house.

2 – Pollution

You may not think it makes much of a difference, but the environment in which you live plays a big role in your skin health. Pollutants that land on your skin can lead to free radical damage and accelerate the signs of ageing.

A study published in 2010 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology showed that women living in an urban setting had more wrinkles and age spots over a 24 year period than those living in a rural setting.

To counteract this, make sure to wash and cleanse your face every morning and night to remove those particles of pollution

3 – Sleep

We all know that not getting enough sleep can make you feel generally unrefreshed. Studies have also shown that lack of sleep affects healing and recovery.

In regards to skin, studies have also shown that lack of sleep affects the pH of skin, which in turn affects hydration, leading it looking dry and lacklustre. Sleep is also a time when toxins get flushed from your skin.

So make sure to get at least 7-8 hours sleep a night and your skin will thank you for it.

4 – Stress

Personal or work stress can take a toll on you mentally and emotionally but it also affects you physically. Chronic stress leads to increased levels of cortisol which affects the ability of the skin to hold moisture.

Chronic stress can also raise insulin and sugar levels in our blood, which in combination with increased cortisol, can weaken collagen and elastin in your skin. These “supporting structures” then start to sag, leading to wrinkles.

It’s difficult to lead a stress-free life, but try your best to make time for you to relax, whether that be going for a walk, reading a book or if need be, seeking help with a counsellor.

5 – Sugar

Apart from the causing weight gain and obesity, sugar can also damage your skin. As stated above, stress causes our blood sugar to increase but any sugar we eat also adds to this.

Sugar, when it gets broken down in the body, can bind to proteins in our body and affect our collagen and elastin, therefore worsening wrinkles. It also causes the production of other toxic products that cause premature ageing.

Try to cut out any added sugar in your diet. Try to minimise any of the white starchy foods such as white bread, pasta and rice. Also, beware of foods labelled “Low-Fat”; they are inevitably  high in sugar. When reading the nutritional information, aim for foods with sugars of 5g or less per 100g serving.