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How To Prevent Wrinkles: 2 Methods You May Not Have Tried

Keep your skin looking smoother, younger, and less wrinkled for longer by getting the right amount of sleep for you at the right times for your body clock.
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
Our Editorial Standards
We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists. Learn more.
Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.
Published
2023-01-13
Updated
16 MINS
Woman preparing for sleep because getting enough sleep helps to prevent wrinkles

Fine lines and wrinkles are an inevitable part of growing older, and while there’s nothing wrong with a few laughter lines, many of us want to prevent too many wrinkles from developing, especially the ones caused by things we can control and ones that make us look older than we really are. 

There are endless over-the-counter wrinkle creams and expensive medical procedures like botox and fillers out there, but there are two underrated anti-aging treatments you may be missing: keeping your sleep debt low and living in sync with your body clock.

The best part about these treatments? They’re free, painless, work for every age and skin type, and they come with a whole host of extra benefits, like increased energy, productivity, and mood.

Below, we’ll cover what causes wrinkles and how you can prevent them by focusing on your sleep and body clock. Plus, we’ll share how the RISE app can help make it happen.

What Causes Wrinkles?

Wrinkles are caused by aging, but there are actually two types of aging you should know about:

  • Intrinsic aging: This aging is strongly correlated with chronological aging, aging caused by the passing of time, and it’s largely determined by genetics.
  • Extrinsic aging: This aging is caused by our environment and lifestyle factors like poor diet, excess sun exposure, sleep deprivation, and smoking. 

Intrinsic and extrinsic aging combine to cause epigenetic alterations — when factors (like diet, smoking, stress, and working night shifts) change how your genes work. These changes don’t affect your DNA, however, only how your DNA is read. But they do change how your skin looks, regenerates, and how fast it ages.

How does aging impact your skin exactly? We produce less collagen, a protein that gives skin its structure, as we age (it declines by about 1% to 1.5% a year) and less elastin, a protein that gives skin its elasticity. With less collagen and elastin, your skin will look less plump and smooth, and sagging, fine lines, and wrinkles start to form. 

Skin also gets thinner as we age, allowing for more wrinkling. And it’s constantly renewing and repairing itself, but this renewal process slows down with time, too. Senescent skin cells — skin cells that have stopped dividing but haven’t fully died off — build up and may reduce how well your skin can renew itself, adding to you looking older. 

Premature skin aging doesn’t just cause your skin to develop fine lines and wrinkles, it can bring about age-related skin problems, too, like skin cancer. 

The good news is epigenetic modifications may be reversible with lifestyle changes. 

You may know sun damage can cause premature aging and smoking does your skin no favors, but many of us forget how important sleep is to our skin. Here are the two most overlooked causes of premature aging and wrinkles:

Not Getting Enough Sleep  

When you don’t meet your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need each night, you’ll experience everything from lowered mental performance to daytime grogginess. But the effects of sleep loss will also show up on your skin.

A 2021 study of postpartum mothers found short sleep duration (defined in this study as less than seven hours) is associated with accelerated aging. 

Another study compared “good” sleepers who got seven to nine hours of sleep a night to “poor” sleepers who got five or less hours a night. The poor sleepers had more signs of intrinsic aging than the good sleepers, including fine wrinkling, loss of elasticity, uneven pigmentation, loss of fat (good for plumpness), and benign skin growths. 

It doesn’t take long for sleep loss to cause wrinkles, though. A 2019 study looked at participants who slept for four hours a night for six nights. After just one night, skin elasticity and wrinkles were “significantly aggravated.” Skin hydration also took a hit on night one and continued to get worse, and skin texture was significantly worse by night four.

And a 2022 study found those with regular later bedtimes had more wrinkles, oiliness, and water loss, and less skin firmness, elasticity, and hydration.

As you sleep, your body works on repairing damaged skin cells, getting rid of old ones, and making new ones. And during deep sleep, your body produces human growth hormone, which helps your skin to repair and renew itself. Growth hormone also promotes collagen production, which is needed for skin to look firm and plump. 

When you’re sleep deprived, however, your skin doesn’t get as long to repair itself. Plus, sleep deprivation leads to a spike in the stress hormone cortisol, which can break down much-needed collagen. 

Your immune system is also impaired when sleep deprived, which may also affect the integrity of collagen fibers. Plus, you’ll be more likely to get sick, which won’t help you look younger either. 

You’re not the only one who notices your wrinkles, though. One study found those who were sleep deprived were seen as having: 

  • More wrinkles and fine lines
  • More droopy corners of the mouth
  • More hanging eyelids
  • Redder eyes
  • More swollen eyes
  • Darker circles under the eyes
  • Paler skin

In short, getting a full night’s sleep is a powerful anti-aging treatment. 

Fun fact: If you have acne, there is one small silver lining. Research shows wrinkling and skin thinning appear later in those who have acne, potentially thanks to the increased sebum, or natural oil, or reduced senescence.

Need more motivation to focus on beauty sleep? We’ve covered how sleep affects your overall appearance, skin, and under-eye area in more detail: 

Being Out of Sync with Your Circadian Rhythm 

Your circadian rhythm plays a role in how your skin ages and how soon these signs of aging show up on your face.

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal body clock. It runs on a roughly 24-hour cycle and dictates things like your sleep-wake cycle, hormone production, and body temperature fluctuations. 

This is your body’s master clock, located in your brain. But you actually have other clocks found in organs and tissues, including your skin. These are called peripheral clocks. 

Your skin’s barrier function, pH, and production of new cells all run on a circadian rhythm, varying across the day. Living in sync with your circadian rhythm keeps these processes working smoothly, optimizing your skin health.

You might be out of sync with your circadian rhythm if: 

  • You’re a shift worker: Sleeping and eating at night, or at changing times each day.  
  • You have social jetlag: Or you go to bed and wake up at irregular times, such as on your days off. About 87% of adults have social jetlag and go to bed at least two hours later than usual on weekends.
  • You’re not honoring your chronotype: Perhaps you’re a night owl who forces yourself to be a morning person

Circadian rhythm disruption has been linked to accelerated aging in many organs in mice, including skin, and it can contribute to intrinsic skin aging. And in humans, short and irregular sleep may be associated with accelerated epigenetic aging, even in young healthy people. 

Your skin’s DNA repair is better in the morning (that too runs on a circadian rhythm) and it can be thrown off in shift workers who are out of sync with their circadian rhythms. As a 2019 paper discussing the research said: “This suggests that during the early morning hours, the body best performs DNA repair and that optimal DNA repair occurs with optimal sleep.” 

How to Prevent Wrinkles?

You can’t do much to stop your body from getting older, but there are lifestyle changes you can make to slow down this aging, reduce the chances of new wrinkles forming, and make sure current lines don’t look any worse. 

Lower Your Sleep Debt

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have.

Meeting your sleep need may be the secret to younger-looking skin, but try not to obsess over every minute of lost sleep. Stress can not only cause redness, acne, and dermatitis, it can also keep you up at night, too. Instead, focus on keeping your sleep debt low overall. 

Sleep debt is the running total of how much sleep you owe your body. It’s compared against your sleep need and at RISE, we measure it over your last 14 nights. 

If your sleep need is 8 hours 30 minutes, for example, but you’ve only been getting six hours of sleep a night recently, you’ll have racked up quite a bit of sleep debt and may be starting to see the effects of it on your face. 

Luckily, you can pay down sleep debt by: 

  • Taking naps: Check RISE for the best time to do this. 
  • Going to bed a little earlier. 
  • Sleeping in a little later: Keep this to an hour or two to avoid messing up your circadian rhythm.
  • Improving your sleep hygiene: Focus on sleep hygiene habits that can cut down the time it takes to fall asleep and reduce how often you wake up during the night, helping you get more sleep overall. Many sleep hygiene habits (like cutting down on alcohol) also help prevent wrinkles. You can learn more about sleep hygiene here.

The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have and keep track of it as you pay it back. It can also guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits and the ideal time to do each one to make them more effective.

Being well-rested also helps boost wound healing and recovery, so, if you do decide to get any anti-aging procedures or plastic surgery done, maximize your recovery by making sure your sleep debt is low before and after treatment. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications. 

Sync Up with Your Circadian Rhythm 

RISE app screenshot showing your melatonin window to tell you the best time to go to sleep
The RISE app can tell you the best time to go to bed each night.

Beyond keeping your sleep debt low, being mindful of your body clock and not disrupting it too much can help slow down your skin’s aging process and prevent wrinkles.

Stay in sync by: 

  • Keeping a consistent sleep schedule: Find a good sleep schedule for you and try to stick to it, even on weekends and days off. 
  • Eat meals at roughly the same times and during the day: Eating can change the timing of your circadian rhythm, so avoid eating at night and strive for regular meal times. Eating too close to bedtime can also keep you up at night. 
  • Go to bed during your Melatonin Window: This is what we call the roughly one-hour window of time when your body’s rate of melatonin production is at its highest. As melatonin primes your body for sleep, head to bed during this window to have an easier time falling and staying asleep. Bonus: melatonin has been associated with suppressing UV skin damage, protecting you from acne, and having anti-inflammatory properties. Keep production high by avoiding bright light in the run-up to bedtime. 

The RISE app predicts your circadian rhythm each day based on factors like your inferred light exposure and last night’s sleep times. It then shows you when your body naturally wants to wake up, wind down for bed, and go to sleep, making it easier to stay in sync. 

Plus, RISE reminds you when to avoid bright light each evening to help you keep melatonin levels high. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their circadian rhythm on the Energy screen.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their get bright light reminder.

Other Recommendations 

Beyond getting the right amount of sleep at the right times, here’s what else you can do to prevent fine lines and wrinkles:

  • Use sunscreen: Look for SPF 30 or higher and broad spectrum (so it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays) and apply it every day, even when it’s overcast. 
  • Avoid excess sun exposure: Some sunlight is essential — you need vitamin D and it helps reset your circadian rhythm — but too much ages your skin. Skip sunbathing and wear protective clothing if you spend long periods of time outdoors to avoid sun damage. 
  • Sleep on your back: Sleeping on your side or on your front means your face is squished against your pillow, which can cause creases, wrinkles, fine lines, and weakening of the skin. You might notice “sleep lines” when you wake up, especially cheeks and around the eye if you always sleep on the same side, or on your forehead if you sleep on your front. 
  • Use high thread count sheets and a silk pillowcase: Your pillowcase can tug on your skin, causing lines and wrinkles. Switching to a silk one reduces the friction.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking may lead to a breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin, causing premature aging, wrinkles, and a sallow complexion. 
  • Cut down on alcohol: Alcohol can reduce skin’s elasticity and it dehydrates the skin, making existing wrinkles look worse. It can also cause dryness, redness, and dark circles, all of which add to you looking older. To make matters worse, your favorite tipple can also disturb your sleep, so it’s a win-win cutting down — we’ve covered how long before bed you should stop drinking alcohol here. The RISE app can also tell you the best time to have your final drink of the day.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A 2019 study found a healthy diet was associated with fewer wrinkles in women. The research found eating red meat and snacks were linked to more wrinkles, whereas eating fruit was linked to having fewer wrinkles. 
  • Use a retinoid: Look for skincare products with the anti-aging ingredients retinoids or retinol (a type of retinoid), both derivatives of vitamin A. Retinoids can increase collagen production, which plumps the skin and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
  • Upgrade your skincare routine: Take care of your skin and moisturize every day to make sure skin stays hydrated. You don’t need to use anti-aging products, but look for serums, cleansers, or creams with Vitamin C, which helps promote collagen, or hyaluronic acid, which promotes hydration and plumpness. Alpha hydroxy acids (also known as AHAs) help remove dead skin cells and promote the production of new ones, as do in-office chemical peels. When applying products, be sure to do so gently to avoid pulling and tugging on the skin.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: Hormone replacement therapy can help slow the skin aging process, making skin thicker and boosting collagen, elasticity, and hydration. But some research suggests it’s linked to breast cancer, so more research needs to be done. 
  • Stem cell therapy: This therapy also shows promise in being able to slow skin aging, and may improve skin quality and volume.   
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants can protect the skin from free radical damage and reduce aging caused by this damage. Get antioxidants from your diet by reaching for green tea, blueberries, and kale, and look for skincare products containing antioxidants like vitamin C. Be careful of antioxidant supplements, however, as they can come with side effects. 
  • Get treated for sleep apnea: Sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes you to temporarily stop breathing during the night, causes accelerated aging, but the good news is adhering to treatment has been shown to reverse this. You can learn how to get rid of sleep apnea here.

Smooth Wrinkles with Beauty Sleep 

Whether you’ve got deep wrinkles on your forehead, crow’s feet, or just a few fine lines starting to appear, you may want to smooth out your skin or prevent new wrinkles from forming. But, instead of reaching for anti-wrinkle lotions or booking a visit to the dermatologist, try focusing on your sleep, and when exactly you get it, first. 

Seeing the effects of poor sleep on your skin is unfortunate, but it’s also a good reminder of just how important sleep and staying in sync with your body clock are to your overall health and wellness.

Keep skin looking plump, smooth, and wrinkle-free for as long as possible by getting the right amount of sleep for you at the right times. The RISE app can work out your individual sleep need and how much sleep debt you’re carrying. Plus, it can predict your circadian rhythm each day and help you sync up your daily life to it. 

As well as fewer lines and wrinkles, these actions will boost your energy levels and maximize your mental and physical health. 

Summary FAQs

What causes wrinkles on the face?

Wrinkles on the face can be caused by things like aging, sun exposure, sleep deprivation, not living in sync with your body clock, and smoking.

Is it possible to prevent wrinkles?

It is possible to prevent wrinkles, or at least the wrinkles that are caused by lifestyle factors such as sun exposure, sleep deprivation, being out of sync with your body clock, and smoking. Wrinkles are also an inevitable part of aging, however, so you may not be able to prevent all wrinkles as you age.

How to prevent wrinkles under eyes

Prevent wrinkles under your eyes by limiting sun exposure, getting enough sleep, living in sync with your body clock, and avoiding smoking.

How can I reduce wrinkles naturally?

You can reduce wrinkles naturally by limiting sun exposure, getting enough sleep, living in sync with your body clock, eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, and avoiding smoking. Sleep on your back may also help reduce sleep lines caused by your face being squashed into your pillow.

Can face wrinkles go away?

You may be able to reduce the look of face wrinkles, but they may not go away completely, especially if you’re using non-surgical, natural methods. To prevent new wrinkles from forming and make existing ones look better, get enough sleep, stay in sync with your circadian rhythm, quit smoking, and limit sun exposure.

Best treatment for wrinkles on face

The best treatment for wrinkles on your face is getting enough sleep each night and getting this sleep at the right time for your body clock. This keeps your collagen production high, your skin is able to repair and renew itself effectively, and there are a whole host of other mental and physical health benefits.

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Rise is the only app that unlocks the real-world benefits of better sleep.

Instead of just promising a better night, we use 100 years of sleep science to help you pay down sleep debt and take advantage of your circadian rhythm to be your best.

Over the past decade, we've helped professional athletes, startups, and Fortune 500s improve their sleep to measurably win more in the real-world scenarios that matter most.

Rise Science is backed by True Ventures, Freestyle Capital, and High Alpha; investors behind category winners Fitbit, Peloton, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
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