Every day we look at the people around us and, whether we realize it or not, we make immediate assumptions about each person’s age. We may not assign a specific number to each individual we pass walking down the street, but at the very least, we categorize young versus old. Clothing, hairstyles and all sorts of other cultural factors can give us clues about a person’s age, but strip that all away and we’re left with the ultimate determining factor: skin.

As we get older, the appearance of our skin changes, and its condition tends to give away our age. We start out our lives as babies with soft, smooth and supple skin. But by the time we reach our thirties and forties, we may start to see expression lines forming on our faces. Next thing we know, another couple of decades go by and our skin is becoming thinner and more translucent; it’s losing its elasticity; age spots are starting to become visible.

All of these things are normal. The skin is our body’s largest organ, and like any other organ in the body, it’s perfectly natural for it to lose some of its functioning ability over time. And with that, there’s only so much we can do. But all is not lost.

“Some things we have control over and some things we don’t,” says Brian Howard, MD, FACS, of North Fulton Plastic Surgery in Roswell, Ga. “A healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle are the two things that we have control over. I certainly encourage everyone to pay attention and take those things seriously.”

Anti-Aging No-Nos: Smoking and Sun Overexposure

So first, it’s important to dedicate yourself to a healthy lifestyle. Smoking and overexposure to the sun are the two worst habits you can engage in if you’re looking to keep your skin looking youthful. No matter how healthy your diet, too much time in the sun and any amount of smoking is detrimental to fighting off the signs of aging.

“There is absolutely nothing positive to the body about smoking,” says Dr. Howard.

Eat a Diet Rich in Vitamin A and Antioxidants for Youthful Skin

On a more positive note, there is one thing you can do to help decrease your chances of developing the most common signs of aging, and that is to eat a balanced diet rich in Vitamin A and antioxidants.

Vitamin A helps the body produce and regenerate collagen, which reduces the visibility of pores, keeps the skin strong and flexible and helps prevent the skin from absorbing and spreading cancerous cells and other toxins. Antioxidants, similarly, are a series of nutrients and enzymes that work to remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents in the skin and body.

“We really need to add more plant-based foods to our diets in order to really get all of the vitamins and antioxidants,” says Susan Kraus, a registered dietician at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack. N.J. “It’s not just good for our skin, it’s good for our body. It’s good for preventing diseases. And it’s not just one thing, it’s a multitude of [food] items. No one food is going to do it alone. You have to eat a whole balance of things.”

Foods rich in Vitamin A include:

  • Liver
  • Red meat
  • Egg yolks
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Dark greens such as kale, spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens
  • Squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cantaloupe
  • Mangoes
  • Apricots
  • Tangerines
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Plums

“Anything that has a lot of color to it, you know is going to be high in Vitamin A,” says Kraus.

Foods rich in antioxidants include:

  • Beans
  • Artichokes
  • Potatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Nuts
  • Cocoa

Drink Up for Younger Skin!

And finally, potentially the most surprising of all: “Maybe the most underappreciated – but unfortunately over-abused – thing we have available to us is drinking red wine in moderation,” says Howard. “There is some great science to confirm that the resveratrol found in red win can be extremely helpful in keeping us healthy.”

Kraus agrees. “Red wine has polyphenols, which have been known to protect the skin against UV light. It keeps the skin elastic, and it strengthens the cross-linking with the collagen, reducing the appearance of wrinkles.”