The skin is our body’s largest organ and it is subject to the natural aging process. Known as intrinsic aging, the natural aging process is continuous and normally begins during the mid-20s. Intrinsic aging is controlled by the genes which we inherit. The second type of aging or extrinsic aging is caused by environmental factors. You can have control over extrinsic aging and prevent premature aging. Here are five ways you can keep your skin looking as young as possible:

Protect Your Skin Against Overexposure to the Sun

Vitamin D derived from sensible sun exposure is essential for bone health and the prevention of certain cancers, such as breast and colon cancers. However, overexposure to the sun without proper protection is a major cause of premature skin aging. Wrinkles, age spots, actinic keratoses and skin cancer can be traced to excessive sun exposure. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreen that offers UVA and UVB protection and has a SFP of 30 or higher. Avoid exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s ray are the strongest.

Treat Your Skin Gently

Use warm water rather than hot water to wash your skin. Limit bath and shower times. Hot water and long baths or showers remove natural oils from your skin. Use gentle and mild cleansers because strong soaps also strip oil from the skin. After washing, pat the skin dry to retain moisture. Finish with a moisturizer designed for your skin type. The American Academy of Dermatology notes that moisturizer is the secret ingredient in many products that promise to visibly minimize fine lines in 24 to 48 hours. A good moisturizer can plump up fine lines and make the skin look younger.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Vitamin A is an essential component for healthy skin and the best source is low fat dairy foods. Low-fat yogurt is high in vitamin A and contains beneficial bacteria. Foods that are high in antioxidants, such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and plums are good for skin health. Adding no more than two tablespoons of healthy oil, such as cold-pressed or extra-virgin olive oil, to your daily diet will keep skin lubricated and looking young.

Green tea, whether drunk or applied to the skin, reduces the risk of damage caused by the ultraviolet rays of the sun. The staff of the Mayo Clinic point out that research suggests that a diet rich in vitamin C and low in fats and carbohydrates may promote younger looking skin.

Don’t Smoke

Smoking constricts the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layer of the skin. This decreases blood flow and depletes the skin of oxygen and nutrients, such as vitamin A. Smoking damages the collagen and elastin, which make up the elastic fibers in connective tissue. Smoking contributes to wrinkles and makes your skin look older.

Uncontrolled stress can trigger flare-ups of acne, eczema, hives and psoriasis. An emerging field of medicine called psychodermatology looks at the connection between a person’s emotions and skin conditions. Exploring ways to cope with stress in a healthy way, such as relaxation techniques, mediation and exercise can help keep your skin healthy too.

Dr. Larry Jaeger is a well known and respected board certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon who is the medical director of Advanced Dermatology Associates of New York, PC. Dr Larry Jaeger specializes in all aspects of medical, cosmetic and surgical dermatology.