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Slow your skin's aging by changing these habits

Time is no friend to skin -- wrinkles, age spots and dryness come with territory. However, your bad habits could be causing your skin to age prematurely.

On "The Early Show," CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton discussed some common things that make skin age and how get a younger, healthier complexion.

When does your skin actually begin aging?

Ashton said, "You might be surprised to hear this, but it can start as early as in our 20s -- especially if you live in a peak sun area, the South, like Florida, the Southwest, Arizona. It directly correlates to our sun exposure. Some of how we age obviously has to do with genetics and our family history, and you can look at our parents and see how they look at their age -- that can give us a little clue as to how we'll age. But day-to-day, sun exposure is the number one greatest factor in prematurely aging your skin."

"And that's why," co-anchor Erica Hill observed, "we hear so much about how important sunscreen is. And it's not just for summertime."

"Exactly," Ashton said. "And that's why it's so important now -- even though we're in the peak of the winter, to remind ourselves of that. Even walking outside of your house to walk your dog, to go to your car, to take a coffee break, you are getting added sun exposure that really, really adds up over the course of our lifetime, and it shows itself in the form of sun spots, premature wrinkling, premature aging and obviously, certain types of skin cancer."

Ashton recommends wearing sunscreen every day with an SPF of at least 30. She advised applying the sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside.

She said, "Make it part of your morning ritual: When you get out of the shower and you brush your teeth, put your sunscreen on every day. It's not just for the beach."

Hill said, "And it's also a little easier to do for areas like your face because a lot of times nowadays your moisturizer can already come with SPF in."

Ashton added, "But you don't want to forget the hands and the neck. Those are areas most people tend to neglect, and they can show your age dramatically."

Sleep can also play an important role in the aging and health of your skin.

"We talk about sleep all the time in terms of our general health," Ashton said. "The skin is the largest organ in the body, and actually, there is some science now to support the correlation or the term 'beauty sleep.' A study showed that people who slept eight hours or more were actually perceived by others to be not just more beautiful and more attractive physically, but healthier. So we have to remember that, when we sleep, that's really the time where our whole body, our brain, but also our skin, regenerates, it renews itself. Growth hormone can be stimulated and released when we're sleeping. So that's the time that the re-hydration occurs, that the cellular repair occurs. And if you skimp on your sleep, you're going to see it and you're going to feel it."

Also, Ashton said, the way you sleep on your face can affect the way your skin ages.

"I have to confess, this is something that I had thought about for a while. It's just one of those things that makes sense," Ashton said. "But now there are some dermatologists who actually feel that the way we sleep can have an impact on the wrinkles and in where they occur and in which sex they occur. Women who sleep on their side tend to develop wrinkles in their cheeks and laugh lines. Men tend to develop more wrinkles in the forehead area based on how they sleep."

"So we should just sheep on our sleep on our backs," Hill said.

Ashton said, "Exactly. If you feel like you're always waking up in the same position and you not only want to give your back and your spine a rest but also your skin, you might want to change up your sleeping position."

Hill added that, with so many new products on the market, many people try different creams and serums, but don't give them enough time to work.

Ashton said, "A lot of people have very short fuses and they want to see an immediate result -- immediate gratification -- with everything they use -- skin products are no different. And whether you're using something by prescription -- from a physician -- or over-the-counter, because a lot of them can have some really strong ingredients, you have to give them time to work. It takes about 30 days for the new skin layers to reach the surface, so you're not really going to see an effect in less than 30 days. And to stimulate collagen, which a lot of these products claim to do -- and actually can do -- that can take up to three months. So try to have some patience and give these products a chance to work."