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Health news

Effects of smoking, sun and stress on the skin of twins

What keeps a woman looking young? A study of identical twins reveals some surprising answers.


Brenda and Barb

Age: 52

A trifecta of smoking, sunning, and lower weight means that Brenda (left) looks significantly older than Barb (right), who lives near her in Ontario, Canada. (“I love being called the younger one,” Barb says, laughing.) Brenda has smoked half a pack a day for 14 years, while Barb has never smoked. Brenda also reported seven times more sun exposure (primarily over eight to ten weeks of the year for 30 years, at an estimated 14 hours a week, versus two hours a week for Barb). “The festoons of loose skin” under Brenda’s eyes are attributable to her cigarette habit, says Dr. Bahman Guyuron, a plastic surgeon at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University “When I see that [on patients], I don’t have to ask if they smoke. I know they do.”

Janet and Jean

Age: 54

Jean (right) looks older than Janet (left), Guyuron says, noting her darker undereye area, deeper smile lines, and “more numerous and deeper vertical frown lines.” The probable reason, his study suggests, is that Jean is divorced (after 27 years of marriage), whereas Janet has been married for more than three decades; nothing else measured in the history of these Chicago-area sisters was different. In general, marital trouble, separation, and worries about money and finding a new partner can result in stress levels that affect appearance, Guyuron says.

Laurie and Lisa

Age: 46

Laurie (left), who lives in Pennsylvania, weighs 38 pounds less than Lisa (right), in North Carolina — which explains the eye wrinkles and deeper smile lines that reach almost to the corners of Laurie’s lips, Guyuron says. Lisa’s extra weight provides some filling for her smile lines and makes her face look smoother overall. This is one of several examples from the study showing that “in twins over 40, more weight gives a younger appearance,” says Guyuron.

Charlotte and Rebecca

Age: 48

These San Antonio twins underwent two different types of gastric weight-loss surgery. Rebecca (right) lost 80 pounds, while Charlotte (left) dropped a great deal more — 220 pounds — to wind up 4 pounds lighter than her sister at the time of this photograph. Guyuron says that Charlotte’s dramatic loss of fat caused skin looseness and rippling (similar to what happens to the surface of a balloon when the air is let out). As a result, her face is thinner and her forehead wrinkles and smile lines are deeper than her sister’s.

Jeanne and Susan

Age: 61

Jeanne (left) is the twin who commented that her sister looks “ten years older” — in fact, the researchers upped that to an 11-and-a-quarter-year edge. The reasons for Susan’s condition are that she smoked for 16 years of her life, sunbathes, and weighs 15 pounds less. Since her 20s, Susan (right) has spent as much time as she could in the sun (she has plenty of opportunity on Florida’s east coast, where she moved more than a decade ago). Jeanne, meanwhile, has aimed for “as little exposure as possible.” Besides causing Susan’s dark, patchy discoloration and age spots, UV light also reduces skin’s elasticity, increasing wrinkles and deepening creases, Guyuron says.

Dina and Gina

Age: 27

Dina (left) weighs 50 pounds less than Gina (right), and hence looks younger, Guyuron says. “The added weight on Gina takes away definition in her jawline and projection in her cheekbones” — key factors in a youthful-looking face for women under 40, he notes. Dina, who lives in Georgia, actually reported significantly more sun exposure than her sister, in Florida. But for women in their 20s and 30s, whose sun damage hasn’t yet become fully visible, weighing less temporarily plays a more definitive role in looking younger, Guyuron says.