I once thought I could stay young by exercising regularly, eating mindfully and challenging my brain everyday. It’s what I’ve heard and seen other people do, which made me decide to do the same.

And it works — for the most part. Sticking to these healthy routines, day-by-day, over the years has made me more energetic and happier than I’d ever been. If I skipped a day at the gym (due to laziness), I instantly felt a decline in my mood, in my body and in myself, which made me question why I skipped out on that day’s workout in the first place.

But then as I grew older and started traveling more frequently, I began to realize that despite how persistent I was with my self-care, I was undeniably aging.

I noticed it one night peering into the mirror after my shower — something that wasn’t there before.

Crowfeet wrinkles near my eyes.

For someone who just turned 30, it made me extreme worried.

Is this realistically possible at my age? Was there something I was doing wrong? Or something I wasn’t doing right? 

As my mind pondered for all the reasons as to why I was aging so quickly, I finally realized what I haven’t been doing that I should’ve been doing all along: putting on sunscreen.

And from what I’ve learned, the sun in Southeast Asia is much stronger than the sun in the States so there’s a greater chance of getting UV radiation and skin damage. Since I’ve been traveling around Southeast Asia for two years, unprotected, my skin had aged quicker than I’d expected.

And that scared me.

Because once your skin ages, it can never go back to its original form — just like how a broken vase can never quite be the same again.

Looking back, I wish I’d taken better care of my skin in my 20s or perhaps had taken the time to research. Had I done it, I would’ve known that sunscreen is the most important skincare product anyone can invest in because our skin, our body’s largest organ, won’t stay young forever.

But I think the greater lesson I’ve learned from this experience is to never be complacent. Familiarity breeds complacency and once we lose the reason and desire to improve ourselves, it may be too late.

So take care of yourself as much as you can now because your future depends on what you do today.