What are Wrinkles?
We all get wrinkles as we get older. They're a normal part of aging. Wrinkles mainly happen on the parts of the body that get the most sun exposure, including the face, neck, the backs of the hands, and the tops of the forearms.
Wrinkles fall into two categories: fine, surface lines and deeper furrows. If your wrinkles bother you, or if you're looking to prevent them in the first place, there are things that can help.
What Causes Wrinkles?
With age, skin cells divide more slowly, and the skin's inner layer, called the dermis, begins to thin. That starts to undo skin's stretchiness and structure.
Aging skin also starts to lose its ability to hold on to moisture. It makes less oil and is slower to heal. That all contributes to the wrinkling process. Other things that cause wrinkles are:
- Smoking. It slows down your skin's production of collagen, which is a key part of the skin's structure. The downturn in collagen paves the way for wrinkles. That's one more reason to quit smoking, or never to start.
- Skin type (people with light-colored skin and blue eyes are more susceptible to sun damage)
- Heredity (some families wrinkle more)
- Sun exposure
- Repeated facial expressions
Though you can't control all of these factors, you can do something about two of them: Minimize your sun exposure and don't smoke.
What Are Some Wrinkle Treatments?
There are treatments to lessen the appearance of wrinkles and even remove them.
- Retinoids (tretinoin, Altreno, Retin-A, Renova, Tazorac). Among medical treatments, this is by far the most proven and effective way of bettering signs of aging such as uneven pigmentation, roughness, and wrinkling. At first, these medications may cause redness and peeling. Although this can be unpleasant, improvement comes when the peeling stops.
- Alpha-hydroxy acids. These are the so-called "fruit acids" and include glycolic and lactic acid. Preparations containing these fruit acids are quite safe and cause no more than mild and temporary irritation. The improvement they produce is, however, relatively subtle.
- Antioxidants. These include vitamins A, C, and E, as well as beta-carotene. Products that have antioxidants may provide some sun protection (though you should still wear sunscreen) and mildly improve wrinkles.
- Moisturizers. These may temporarily make wrinkles look less noticeable. Ads often say that they "reduce the appearance of fine lines." But they don't make those lines go away permanently.
- Glycolic acid peels. These superficial peels can make a very slight difference in the intensity of fine wrinkles.
- Deeper peels. These peels use ingredients like phenol and TCA (trichloroacetic acid) to penetrate somewhat deeper into the skin. These deeper peels do a better job of smoothing fine lines. In general, however, the deeper the peel, the greater the chance of side effects, such as scarring and changes in skin color. Such peels can be uncomfortable, so ask ahead of time what to expect.
- Dermabrasion. This procedure "sands" the skin. Depending a great deal on the skill and experience of the professional who does it, dermabrasion can make a big difference. Side effects, including scarring and permanent changes in skin color, are also possible.
- Laser resurfacing. Doctors can use lasers to stimulate the skin's production of collagen, which plumps up skin. There are different types of lasers, and you should ask your doctor about how many treatments you'll need, how much "down time" you'll need for your skin to heal, and any risks.
- Plastic surgery. Facelifts, brow lifts, and other cosmetic surgeries help some people. For others, more minor procedures are enough. Talk it over with your doctor before you decide what, if any, procedure you want to do.
- Ultrasound therapy. The FDA has approved a technique called Ultherapy which uses ultrasound in a noninvasive technique to lift and tighten skin on the face, neck, and chin. It can also be used on wrinkles on the chest area.
- Injections. Some injections, including botulinum toxin (Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin), daxibotulinumtoxinA-lanm (Daxxify) and prabotulinumtoxinA-xvfs (Jeuveau) relax muscles that produce the "frown lines" on the forehead, fine lines around the eyes, and other wrinkles. Improvement lasts several months and must be repeated to sustain improvement. Others are wrinkle fillers that are injected into skin folds, especially around the mouth, to improve the appearance of wrinkles. Injections to fill hollows of the cheeks and temples bring about a lifting of sagging skin, especially around the mouth and lateral neck areas. Some fillers actually stimulate collagen formation, which improves the skin tone and texture. You should only get injections from a doctor.
- Photodynamic rejuvenation (PDT). This therapy can help treat fine lines made by sun exposure.
- Microdermabrasion. Like dermabrasion, this procedure removes a layer of skin with a rotating brush and also stimulates collagen formation in deeper layers of the skin . In microdermabrasion, the layer of skin that comes off finer than the skin that is sanded off in dermabrasion.
If you're thinking about getting a cosmetic procedure done, consult experienced doctors. Tell them your goals and ask about risks, benefits, and costs.
How Can I Prevent Wrinkles?
- Shield your skin from the sun. Limit your time in direct sunlight, especially in the middle of the day. Wear protective clothing -- hats, sleeves, and sunglasses. Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30, and reapply every 2 hours. When choosing makeup, lotion, or other everyday beauty products, look for those that have SPF built in, so you know you’re getting daily protection no matter what.
- Moisturize. Hydrated skin is plump skin. Dry skin shrivels your skin cells and promotes fine lines and creases.
- No smoking. If you smoke, find a method to help you quit. Skin tone and texture will improve once you’ve kicked the habit.
- Eat healthy food. When your body gets the vitamins and minerals it needs, your whole body -- including your skin -- benefits.