Your morning commute may be aggravating, but did you know it can actually give you wrinkles?
That’s one of several findings in a new study commissioned by RoC Skincare in partnership with independent research firm Sperling’s BestPlaces, which linked a correlation between skin aging and overall city lifestyle. Criteria included factors like stress index, occupational factors, climate, ozone pollution, diet and fitness.
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA topped the list thanks to year-round intense sun rays that bake skin along with the strain of one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. “Psychological stress like unemployment affects every organ in the body, including skin,” explains New York City dermatologist Erin Gilbert. “The ensuing lack of sleep, depression and anxiety increase your predisposition to damage by free radicals, cause DNA damage, and ultimately result in accelerated aging,” adds Dr. Gilbert.
The city that never sleeps lives up to its reputation by coming in second with overwhelming career stress. New Yorkers have the longest commute in the study—an average of 37 minutes each way, which is 35 percent higher than average. Most city workers use mass transit, where delayed trains and cramped subways can raise blood pressure before you even get to work. “Multiple studies show that this type of stressful situation increases your body’s concentration of the stress hormone cortisol, even in the skin itself,” explains Gilbert. Elevated levels of cortisol have been shown to break down collagen, which leads to wrinkles and sagging skin.
Daily car commuters incur even more cumulative damage from the combination of traffic stress and exposure to sunlight. “Despite windows and air conditioning that make you feel comfortable, the sun still has the same effect on your skin, and all those hours spent commuting add up over the years,” says Bert Sperling, president of Sperling’s BestPlaces. “The laminated glass of the windshield filters out nearly all UV radiation, but the side and rear windows still allow damaging UVA radiation to pass through,” he explains. This is why pigmentation and wrinkling can appear more pronounced on the side of your face more routinely exposed to the car window. (We all remember this harrowing tale of the truck driver with half his face sagging off from sun damage—poor guy.)
Meanwhile, Philadelphia ranks third with a high smoking rate, Atlanta comes in fourth with a stressed work force exposed year-round to a strong southern sun, and Baltimore is fifth with significant pollution factor. Denver follows due to high altitude air that is less able to absorb damaging UV rays, and harbors one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the country. The leathery effect on skin is not lost on locals. “My friends and I have a running joke—we can never move out of Colorado because people anywhere else will think we’re 10 years older than we really are,” says Deanne Buck, executive director of Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition.
The windy city of Chicago houses job stress and high alcohol use to land it in seventh. Newark, NJ, a city just outside of Manhattan, is weighed down with similar working woes and sleepless nights in eighth place, while the lack of fruits and veggies in the diets of St. Louis dwellers combined with a high smoking rate brings them to ninth. Rounding out the top 10 is Orlando-Kissimmee, where high divorce and property crime rates combine with skin cancer deaths and poor diet for a low ranking in spite of an enjoyable climate and low job stress otherwise.
So where should we move to for the best lifestyle and most beautiful skin? San Diego scores last in this study, thanks to health-conscious residents who balance work with relaxation and plenty of outdoor activity. We’re sure that average year-round temperature of 71 degrees doesn’t hurt, either.
Does your city give you wrinkles?
Top 20 Wrinkle Ranking
Click here to see the full list of 50 cities!
#1 – Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
#2 – New York, NY
#3 – Philadelphia, PA
#4 – Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA
#5 – Baltimore-Towson, MD
#6 – Denver-Aurora, CO
#7 – Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL
#8 – Newark, NJ-PA
#9 – St. Louis, MO-IL
#10 – Orlando-Kissimmee, FL
#11 – Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
#12 – Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN
#13 – Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
#14 – Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL
#15 – Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
#16 – Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA
#17 – Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC
#18 – Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX
#19 – Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ
#20 – Warren, MI
What You Can Do: Your Anti-Aging Plan
Not all of the news is doom and gloom. If you live in one of the high ranking cities, experts say simple strategies can help negate aging factors and improve your quality of life in the process.
Chill on your commute. Find your inner Buddha and create a stress-free zone when getting to and from work. “I suggest listening to your favorite relaxing music and carrying a to-go cup filled with an antioxidant beverage like iced green tea or pomegranate juice spritzer,” says Gilbert. And studies have shown that coffee lowers depression and your risk of heart disease, so sip away.
Use a retinol. This derivative of vitamin A speeds up cell turnover so skin looks younger. “Retinols reduce the appearance of wrinkles and uneven pigmentation, and are best used at night since sunlight breaks down the retinol molecule,” says Gilbert, who says to start three nights a week and work up to nightly two weeks later. Try RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream ($23) which combines the active with a mineral complex to show a visible difference in wrinkles after 12 weeks of use.
Schedule green time. “Spend as much time as you can in outdoor green environments—they’re proven to reduce stress levels,” advises Gilbert. This can be as simple as a 10 minute walk around a park during lunch time, or scheduling weekend hiking, biking or running with friends (while wearing sunscreen, of course). Bonus: the endorphins you release during cardio exercise has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety and depression.
Moisturize your skin. Humidity may be your hair’s worst enemy, but it can be your skin’s best friend. “A dry climate—whether hot or cold—leeches moisture from your skin, leaving it drier and more prone to cracking, chafing and wrinkling,” explains Sperling. Hydrate twice daily to keep skin plump with moisture and to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
Sleep! Research has shown that not sleeping enough kicks up inflammation in the skin, which makes it recover and restore more slowly than it otherwise would. “Aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and try to sleep on your back, which reduces wrinkle formation caused by leaning into your pillow at night,” says Gilbert. But if you’re a dedicated side or tummy sleeper, relax—just getting those zzz’s is the most important thing for glowing skin.