Dear Asking for a Friend,
I am a committed stomach sleeper — have been one since I was a baby. But as I near 50 and look to get control of the aging process, I am worried that doing face plants every night is not doing my face or neck any favours. In fact, I read that Jennifer Lopez only sleeps on her back to avoid fine lines. Could my most comfy sleep position be aging my skin?
Signed, Fine Lines
Dear Fine Lines,
It’s true — sleep positions either help or hinder your skin anti-aging efforts.
Scientists found that when the face is pressed against a surface or a pillow, it can reinforce expression lines and cause wrinkles over time. Specialty pillows, dermal fillers and non-invasive treatments that stimulate collagen production may help temporarily reduce the appearance of sleep wrinkles, according to the study.
“Sleeping on your face, and even on your side can accentuate facial lines, as well as those on the chest or décolletage,” says Dr. Sonya Abdulla, dermatologist at Dermatology on Bloor in Toronto.
Abdulla explains that because each side of the face is similar and not identical, these anatomic subtitles, in addition to things like sleep positioning and sun exposure, can further accentuate these differences. Common areas for these changes accentuated by sleep positioning include the forehead, nasolabial fold, cheek and décolletage, according to Abdulla.
JLo is right
She suggests that the ideal sleep position is on the back, but you might be surprised to learn that sleepers shift an average of 20 positions throughout the night, so even if you intentionally lie on your back when you first hit the sack, you’ll likely change various sleep positions.
Sleeping on your back can also help relieve pressure on your spine and alleviate back pain, but it may also help reduce sleep wrinkles. Experts recommend adding extra pillows to prop up your upper body or tuck a small pillow under your knees, which can help properly align your spine and support your neck and head. If you snore or have sleep apnea, sleeping on your side is recommended as it helps to open up your airways.
To help keep sleep wrinkles in check, you might also want to invest in a specialty pillow or try a weighted eye pillow, which may help reduce insomnia, headaches, and help you stay still throughout the night. Abdulla advises that a silk pillowcase might be better than a cotton one as it is less abrasive for your skin and gentler on the hair as well, preventing breakage.
“Beyond preventative strategies, a personalized skin care plan to support collagen and elastin can be helpful, as well as procedures including injectables like dermal fillers to address lines and contours and lasers or energy-based devices for collagen and elastin remodelling,” says Abdulla.
As we age, collagen production slows down, skin loses elasticity and volume, and becomes thinner and drier, causing fine lines and wrinkles. If you’re seeing premature fine lines and wrinkles, your habits might be to blame.
According to research, smoking accelerates the aging process and makes skin lose its elasticity. Processed foods have also been linked to premature skin aging, and there is evidence that suggests that rubbing the skin when removing makeup may exasperate certain skin conditions.
Researchers at the University of Alabama have been able to reverse the aging process in mice by turning off the mutation that leads to mitochondrial dysfunction. Scientists reported that when they turned off the mutation by way of adding an antibiotic to food and drinking water, it dramatically reversed the signs of aging, such as wrinkled skin and hair loss in mice.
While studies like this may help to revolutionize anti-aging and skin care in the future, there is plenty you can do right now to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Genetics and your daily habits determine how well you age — a healthy diet, positive mindset and regular exercise can help you look and feel great. Staying hydrated, getting good quality sleep and prioritizing sun protection can also help improve the appearance of your skin — no matter how old you are.
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