Wrinkles are the creases and lines that develop on the skin, most commonly over sun-exposed areas. They can be fine lines or deeper creases and furrows.
Some wrinkles are a normal part of aging, but others can be preventable or treated. The best wrinkle treatments include medications, skin-resurfacing techniques and injections.
Wrinkles, also called rhytids, develop as a normal part of the aging process as skin becomes thinner, less elastic and loses fat in its deepest layers. These changes occur as cells don’t divide as quickly, the skin breaks down, and a network of collagen fibers weakens. These changes may be accelerated by sunlight, smoking and air pollutants. Age is the most common cause of wrinkles, although other factors, such as repeated muscle movements, exposure to ultraviolet radiation, genetics and skin type can all play a role in how early or late wrinkles appear.
Repetitive facial expressions like smiling, frowning and squinting can cause tiny muscles to contract. Over time, these repeated muscle movements can form permanent creases in the skin. The lines that appear on your forehead, between your eyebrows (frown lines) and jutting from the corners of your eyes (crow’s feet) are examples of these types of wrinkles. Some people, however, don’t have many wrinkles until later in life – often because they’ve taken good care of their skin and have good genes.
There are several things that can help prevent wrinkles, such as using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, wearing hats and loose-fitting clothing, not smoking, staying hydrated and eating foods that are rich in vitamin C. For those who want to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, there are a variety of creams and spa skin treatments that can help smooth them. Other wrinkle treatments include medications, laser resurfacing and plastic surgery.
While most people understand that smoking damages the heart and lungs, many are surprised to learn that cigarettes also age the skin. Smoking accelerates the onset of wrinkles by depriving the skin of valuable oxygen and nutrients, which slows collagen production. This makes the skin more brittle and weak, which leads to a loss of elasticity.
The toxins in tobacco smoke cause every organ of the body to break down, including the skin. According to a 2021 study, chronic smoking causes the fibroblasts in the skin to reduce their capacity for producing collagen and elastin fibers. It also causes them to produce more of the enzyme that destroys these fibers. As a result, the skin becomes more fragile and less elastic, which is what creates fine lines and wrinkles.
Additionally, cigarette smoke decreases the amount of moisture in the skin, which can lead to dryness and irritation. This can make existing wrinkles more noticeable, especially if they are in exposed areas such as the lips or fingers. It also puts smokers at a higher risk of developing an auto-immune disease called psoriasis, which results in thick, scaly patches on the knees, elbows, scalp, hands, or feet.
The good news is that if you quit smoking, your skin will quickly return to its pre-smoking condition. The damage caused by smoking can be undone by limiting your exposure to harsh chemicals found in cigarette smoke and prioritizing a routine that includes regular cleansing, gentle exfoliation, and the use of serums that contain vitamin C, retinol, and other active ingredients.
Sunlight comes in a variety of wavelengths or waves, including visible light and invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays damage skin by causing it to thin and wrinkle, making it saggy and leathery. They also cause pigment changes, such as brown spots and patches (melasma), freckles and liver spots (solar lentigines) or red, rough scaly spots on the skin (actinic keratosis). UV damage to the skin can result in fine lines and wrinkles, and it may cause redness and a loss of elasticity in sun-exposed areas. It can also result in spider veins on the nose, cheeks and neck, which are small broken blood vessels called telangiectasia.
The more sun exposure you get, the faster your skin will age. This is because UV rays can reduce the number of white blood cells in the skin. These white blood cells are essential for keeping the skin healthy and fight off infections.
Researchers have found that sun exposure is one of the major contributors to extrinsic aging, or aging that is not caused by genetics but rather lifestyle choices, such as smoking and UV ray damage. People who spend more time in the sun tend to develop more wrinkles and have less elastic skin than those who protect themselves from the sun. This aging effect is even more apparent on fair skin, which is most vulnerable to sun damage and the development of wrinkles and other signs of aging.
The endocrine system is made up of glands that produce hormones, which are chemical messengers that direct different functions in the body, including growth and development, metabolism and immune and reproductive systems. A healthy, balanced endocrine system helps ensure our skin stays firm, supple and wrinkle free.
Hormonal imbalances can lead to a variety of symptoms, but the skin is often the first place to show signs of hormonal changes. These signs of imbalance can include itchy skin, a sudden redness of the skin due to hot flashes and rosacea, dry or oily skin, thinning of the skin, increased sensitivity of the skin, hyperpigmentation and fine lines and wrinkles.
In women, the ovaries and adrenal glands produce estrogen and progesterone, which are important for keeping the skin looking young and healthy. But as women enter perimenopause and menopause, the amount of these hormones decline.
When the levels of these hormones drop, the elasticity of the skin decreases, which is when fine lines and wrinkles start to form. Estrogens also help increase oil production in the skin. During perimenopause and menopause, testosterone levels also begin to drop, which can make the skin appear dry and thin.
Stress is another major factor that contributes to the forming of wrinkles. This is not only bad for your health, but it ages you at the cellular level. High levels of cortisol deplete the skin of its collagen, causing it to become thinner and more susceptible to developing wrinkles.