"When a teenager raises her eyebrows, horizontal lines appear across her forehead, but then disappear immediately when she relaxes the muscles," explains Reich. "As she heads into her early 30s, it takes increasingly more time for the lines to disappear." The same thing happens in between the eyebrows (stop furrowing!) and in the lines that go from the outside of the nose down to the corners of the mouth (from years of smiling and talking - but don't stop doing those). Expression lines result from a combo of UV damage and the skin's elastin wearing out from repetitive use.
- Baby-step solution: At home, use vitamin A derivatives like over-the-counter retinol or prescription retinoids like Retin-A Micro to "prevent and minimize fine lines by increasing collagen," says Reich. Gross' grassroots solution is this: "Retraining ourselves to not make some very basic facial expressions - like scowling - can make all the difference. Whenever you feel tense, consciously take a moment to breathe deeply, which will force you to relax your facial muscles."
- Serious fix: The only way to stop expression lines from forming is to refrain from making the expression, which requires Botox. But derms are divided over using preventive Botox. "Is Botox too much for a 25-year-old? It depends," explains Fields. "If you have an anatomically aggressive wrinkle, Botox at 20 makes sense. But if your skin goes back to smooth after making an expression - get out of here."
Problem: Pores of Plenty
Before you get true wrinkles, you might notice your skin starting to look blah because your pores are getting bigger. "Pores sag because of UV damage - the collagen walls start to crumble," says Fields. Makeup, pollution, and your skin's natural oil can stretch out your pores over the years beyond the point where they can shrink back - and, according to Gross, folks with oily skin are even more prone to stretched pores because their skin produces more ... gunk.
- Baby-step solution: Clean out and tighten your pores so they can't hold as much. Peptide creams and serums strengthen and firm the skin, salicylic acid products dissolve the oil in your pores, and face scrubs with round beads smooth away surface dullness - just steer clear of scrubs that contain ground seeds or pits because jagged edges can microscopically tear skin, making the problem worse in the long run.
- Serious fix: Enzyme facials are great for jump-starting a pore-minimizing regimen. Hit up Bergdorf Goodman or Nordstrom for the Elemis Modern Skin Facial - designed for 20-something skin, it uses papaya enzymes to gently coax crud out of the pores. For a more drastic approach, Isolaz is a no-downtime laser procedure that literally vacuums out your pores and kills bacteria, which also makes it great for getting rid of pore-stretching acne - a condition that many women don't outgrow until their 40s.
Originally published September 16, 2010