If you've ever seen one of those wrinkle time-lapse videos -- on TV or on line -- then you know how scary it can be to watch a face age.
Even more disconcerting is waking up one morning, taking a glance in the mirror, and seeing what looks like "instant aging" -- lines and wrinkles that seem to appear overnight.
The truth is, no matter how you view it -- quick time or real time -- eventually everyone's face wrinkles and ages.
"How well you cared for your skin from a young age and, more importantly, how much you limited sun exposure before age 20 can make a difference in wrinkle formation. But there are still certain inevitable changes that are going to take place," dermatologist David Goldberg, MD, director of Skin, Laser and Surgery Specialists of New York and New Jersey, says.
But as scary as that sounds, it needn't be. Goldberg and others say by knowing what to expect you can take steps to reduce or delay the impact of facial aging -- including wrinkles -- and take control of how the years unfold.
While you can do many of these treatments on your own -- even on a limited budget -- some require rather costly professional care. When this is the case, remember that the earlier you start, the larger your budget is going to have to be.
Equally important is not trying to cut corners by getting treatments in nonmedical facilities. Instead, always seek out the care and advice of a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon before embarking on any professional anti-aging treatments.
To help you safely get started on your journey to the fountain of youth, several experts prepared a timeline for how the face ages and what you can do, both on your own and with the help of your doctor, every step of the way.
Your Face in Your 20s
Experts say that as you head from your teens into young adulthood, your face shows it with a more "womanly" look.
"You begin to lose the 'baby fat.' And while the change is subtle, overall you begin to look less like a girl and more like a woman," says Ellen Marmur, MD, chief of dermatologic surgery at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
But with that new womanly appeal comes, believe it or not, the start of facial aging.
"This is the decade when the very early signs of what we call 'motor wrinkles' -- lines and creases related to movement -- first appear. And the first place they appear is the brow," Marmur says.
In addition, if you spent a lot of time in the sun as a child -- or long hours squinting at a computer screen -- you may also see the beginning of "crow's feet," those tiny expression lines around the eyes.