Wrinkles are, of course, lines and folds that appear on the skin. They occur when the skin’s production of collagen and elastin fibers (the ingredients that give skin its fullness and its flexibility to “snap” back into place) begin to break down.
Everybody gets some wrinkles eventually, although certain factors (both in and out of our control) can speed up the process and cause greater numbers of them to form.
What Causes Wrinkles?
The premature formation of wrinkles is almost always the result of preventable extrinsic factors. Leading the list is sun exposure. Soaking in the sun’s (or the tanning bed’s) ultraviolet (UV) rays may make us feel good, but the cumulative effect gradually wreaks havoc with our skin, leading not only to wrinkles, but to a host of other unsightly skin problems, including age spots, spider veins, and, most troubling, skin cancer.
The sun does its wrinkle-damage by slowly and surely destroying collagen—and inhibiting new collagen from forming. It also weakens the skin’s elastin fibers. These changes begin immediately, although it may take years for the damage to become visible on the skin.
Smoking is another key preventable factor in the formation of wrinkles. (It also causes skin to develop a yellowish hue and a leathery texture.) Some research suggests that repeatedly sleeping in a position that causes facial creases or having an extremely “expressive” face also produce grooves that may become permanent, but those factors aren’t anywhere as important as sun exposure and smoking.
One major intrinsic—or non-preventable—factor also plays a major role in the development of wrinkles: genetics. Some families simply wrinkle more than others.
What Are the Best Treatments for Wrinkles?
The best treatment, of course, is prevention. Stay out of the sun (and out of tanning salons), particularly during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are their strongest. If you must be in the sun, be sure you slather your exposed skin with a sunscreen that has a minimum SPF value of 15. Reapply it every 2 hours—or more if you’re sweating or swimming.
For already existing fine lines and deep folds, several treatments are available. Which one is right for you will depend on many factors, including your skin type and color, your age, and the amount of time and money you want to spend on rejuvenating your skin. Your physician will discuss with you the pros and cons of all your possible options.
- Topical medications. Several medications can help minimize the appearance of fine lines. These include alpha-hydroxy (“citric fruit”) acids, clinical-strength antioxidant creams, and tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova), which is available only with a prescription.
- Injectables. Two injectable forms of botulinum toxin, Botox and Dysport, are used to temporarily inactivate the muscles that underlie unwanted facial wrinkles, particularly deep furrows on the forehead. By inactivating the muscles, the wrinkles smooth out and disappear.
- Dermal fillers. Various dermal fillers, such as Perlane and Sculptra, can be injected into facial lines and folds to temporarily “fill” them up and make them less visible.
- Chemical peels. Peels of various strengths and using various ingredients can help exfoliate the skin’s top layer (epidermis), revealing a new, fresh, and smoother (less lined) layer of skin below.
- Microdermabrasion. This procedure uses a fine jet of micro-crystals to gently abrade the uppermost layer of the epidermis (stratum corneum). In the process, it helps reduce and improve the appearance of fine lines and other superficial skin imperfections. The procedure can be done during a lunch break, and side effects are minimal (some redness and peeling).
- Laser resurfacing. There are two basic types of laser resurfacing: ablative and non-ablative. The ablative procedure uses laser heat to destroy and remove the epidermis. As the treated area heals, new skin forms that is tighter and smoother.
The procedure demands a significant recovery period and careful after-surgery care. During non-ablative laser resurfacing, the epidermis is protected with a cooling spray or gel; therefore, no skin is removed. The laser energy, however, does heat up the middle layer of skin, or dermis, which stimulates new collagen growth. Non-ablative treatments require little downtime, but their results are less dramatic and take several weeks and months to appear.
- Surgery. For extensive and deep wrinkles, face lifts, jowl lifts, and other surgical procedures are often the only option. Be sure you’re in the hands of an experienced surgeon and that you fully understand all the risks and benefits of the procedure you’re having.