Wrinkles: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention
As we age, wrinkles are an inevitable part of the human experience for everyone, affecting all adults at some point as we get older. Wrinkling happens as an effect from a variety of causes, whether dietary or lifestyle habits, genetics, excessive sun exposure, or from simply existing. As natural as creases and skin folds may be, most people dread the onset of wrinkles and feel quite burdened by such visible and telling changes to their skin.
- Signs & Symptoms
- Facial Wrinkles
- Body Wrinkles
- Wrinkle Treatments
- Surgical Procedures
- Non-Surgical Procedures
- Controversial Treatments
- Embracing Natural Aging
- List of Sources
One of the most telling signs of aging in the face, neck, hands, and other parts of the body is the wrinkling of the skin. Many people are relieved to learn that there are ways to prevent wrinkles from forming. In cases where wrinkles have already formed, there are ways to reduce or eliminate them from affecting our appearance.
This informative guide will reveal everything you need to know about what causes these skin folds and creases, how to prevent them, and what modern science considers to be the most effective way to treat them. Whether you are already suffering from severely wrinkled skin, or merely hoping to prevent excessive skin wrinkling as you age, take a look at our comprehensive guide to wrinkles and learn what you can do to achieve your personal skin care goals, whatever they may be.
The Signs and Symptoms of Wrinkles
While the progressive loss of collagen and sagging and creping skin are natural occurrences that come with age, there are ways to fight the process. Learning how to recognize the earliest signs and symptoms of wrinkles forming is one of the key steps to reducing them, or even prolonging their appearance for a longer amount of time.
Whether from sun exposure, smoking, or alcohol consumption, poor skincare habits, environmental factors, or genetic factors, wrinkles can begin to affect the skin as early as our 20s, and sometimes even earlier in adolescence. Just as there are many skin types, there are also different kinds of wrinkles. In general, most wrinkles can be categorized into two categories: wrinkles that occur as we age (and that are inevitable signs of aging), and preventable wrinkles that are caused or made worse by sun exposure and lifestyle habits.
The first type mentioned—unavoidable wrinkles are caused by genetics and advanced aging—includes the inevitable loss of collagen, progressive skin laxity, and the appearance of fine wrinkles over time.
The second kind of wrinkles can be prevented or lessened by limiting our exposure to the sun, and by adopting a beneficial lifestyle (rather than harmful) to the skin. It is important to note that natural wrinkles, can evolve into the second kind of wrinkle type through a less cautious skincare routine, excessive exposure to the sun, and other lifestyle choices.
Both kinds of wrinkle types can be further categorized into five subsections based on the cause of the wrinkles themselves. The five types of wrinkles are as follows:
Expression Wrinkles: Expression wrinkles are found in the face and are caused by muscle movements from frowning, smiling, or otherwise showing emotions through facial expressions.
Elastotic Wrinkles: This type of skin wrinkling is caused by a loss of tissue or elasticity of the skin, which can be due to the natural aging process. They are also caused or made worse by excessive exposure to the sun, poor skincare habits, improper diet, and other factors.
Atrophic Wrinkles: These types of skin creases are also caused by a loss of tissue and elasticity of the skin. While the cause of this more severe type of wrinkle is often due to the natural aging process, it can also be provoked or made worse by the use of steroid creams and other medications.
Gravitational Wrinkles: Caused by gravity and aggravated by the skin’s natural loss of tissue elasticity and lifestyle habits. Gravitational wrinkles are formed as a result of the downward pull on looser skin.
Compression Wrinkles: Another type of wrinkle, known as the compression wrinkle, can be caused by sleeping on one’s side or their stomach. When this happens, the skin on the face is pushed and contorted against the pillow or mattress, causing the skin to permanently fold or crease, and wrinkles to form over a long time. These types of wrinkles can be avoided by sleeping on your back, or with the use of a special pillow.
Depending on the type of wrinkles you have, these can all appear on different areas of the face, neck, chest, hands, above the knees, and around the elbows.
The face is inarguably the most visible and obvious area where wrinkles can form and is also the one spot where all five categories of wrinkles can and do appear with consistency. Here are some of the areas of the face that are most prone to wrinkling, and a bit of information about the kinds of wrinkles that form in those areas:
Crow’s Feet: Crow’s feet wrinkles refer to the creases that form around the outer corners of the eyes. These wrinkles are typically caused by the movement of the facial muscles around the eyes (usually from squinting), sun exposure, smoking, and other factors due to the natural aging process. Forehead Wrinkles: Forehead wrinkles are also caused by facial expressions, and can become deeper or more pronounced from excessive sun exposure and genetics. These wrinkles appear as horizontal lines across the forehead, or as “11’s”, the two vertical lines that appear between the eyebrows when frowning. Lip Area Wrinkles: Wrinkles around mouth come in a variety of forms, and can appear above, below, around, and on the lip areas. These wrinkles are most commonly known as lip lines, smoker lines, nasolabial folds, smile lines, and marionette lines.
Although body wrinkles may not be as noticeable as they are on the facial areas, they can still be quite bothersome for many people that have them or showing signs of wrinkles beginning to form.
Wrinkles can appear anywhere on the body, though certain areas are prone to developing skin crevices, folds, and crinkles. Here are some of the prime areas where wrinkles are usually found on the body.
- Chest area
- Above the knees
- Above the elbows
In most cases, wrinkles in these areas are caused by excessive sun exposure or loose skin. Genetics also plays a role in the development of wrinkled skin, as well as the inevitable process of aging. Staying out of the sun and wearing a broad-spectrum, high SPF sunscreen, staying hydrated, and keeping the skin nourished with a proper diet and skin care regimen can help to prevent premature wrinkling of the skin while lessening the appearance of the unavoidable kinds of wrinkles that come as we age.
The main factors that lead to wrinkle formation are advanced age and solar damage. The type of change that occurs in the aged skin is wholly different from the change that is a result of sun exposure, however, and it is important to note the difference between the two types of skin wrinkling.
As people age, their skin becomes altered just as any tissue or organ would. The changes occur as a result of the skin loosening and developing fine lines over time, and the relative thickness of a person’s skin as it loses tissue and collagen over time. This eventual thinning occurs in what is known as the epidermis, and in the dermo-epidermal junction, or the padding between skin layers. As a person ages, these components of the skin begin to atrophy, leading to deeper and deeper wrinkles. The subcutaneous tissues such as fat, muscle, and bone also atrophy as a person ages. This contributes to loose, sagging skin, which facilitates skin folding and creasing.
When wrinkles are caused by solar damage, sun exposure (also known as photoaging) does not in and of itself cause accelerated aging. However, UV radiation superimposes onto aging skin, and those individuals that have photo-damaged skin after a lifetime of solar damage eventually suffer from an accelerated decline of the skin firmness and elasticity.
Additionally, people that have fairer skin are more susceptible to this effect. Besides the accentuated wrinkling that comes from having the usual loss of skin collagen and elastin production, lighter-skinned people can also have dermoelastosis, which is an accumulation of abnormal elastic tissue. Over time, the skin can lose elasticity at a faster rate, and also cause dry skin, leading to a higher amount of skin wrinkles and leathery skin texture.
How to Reverse Wrinkles: Treatments, Remedies, and Other Options
If you’ve noticed signs of aging of the skin, or are worried about keeping wrinkles at bay, some options can work to reverse them completely and to prevent them from becoming worse. Your plastic surgeon, dermatologist, or other skin care professional can help you choose an appropriate skin care routine or cosmetic procedure to enhance your skin and reduce skin wrinkling in specific areas of the body and the face.
Anti-wrinkle treatments and procedures have become increasingly popular in the last few decades, and the technology used to treat patients has advanced considerably in that time. Here are some of the most common surgical and non-surgical treatments and procedures that have been proven to effectively eliminate, diminish, and prevent wrinkles on the face and body:
Surgical Treatments and Procedures
Facelift: A facelift, also known as a rhytidectomy, is a process designed to inhibit the effects of gravity and aging on a person’s face. As the name implies, this procedure involves the “lifting” of the skin in specific areas to create a youthful appearance. Patients who suffer from specific aging issues such as the sagging of the face, loose or hanging jowls of the face, and double chins can benefit from a facelift. For this procedure, the focus is mainly on the mid-to-lower portions of the face. However, a facelift can be used in conjunction with other procedures ranging from brow lifts to chemical peels to generate the best results possible.
There are many variations of the facelift procedure available. Most require some sort of anesthesia and incisions. You will want to make sure you work with a qualified plastic surgeon that can properly advise on the specific procedure that will meet your goals and your needs.
Neck Lift: This procedure may be lesser known than the facelift, but it is becoming increasingly more common as a way to improve the look of wrinkled skin below the chin and in the neck area. Perhaps the most important benefit of a neck lift is that it is a less obvious form of plastic surgery, which makes it a great fit for those who want to achieve dramatic results subtly. Most candidates are people that desire tighter skin in their neck or want to eradicate platysmal bands.
These candidates also seek to eliminate the deep wrinkles in the neck or sagging skin. For patients who desire to do so, they can combine this procedure with a facelift procedure as well. Patients eliminate wrinkles through the removal of excess tissue, fat, or banding that develops as they age.
Brow Lift: The brow lift, also known as a browplasty, is designed to improve a patient’s facial appearance through the tightening or removal of the excess skin and tissues that cause the forehead to sag. Much like facelifts and neck lifts, there are variations in brow lift procedures. However, the main goals are to lift the underlying muscles and forehead tissues on a person’s face. This lessens the wrinkles and furrows that cause people to look older or angry.
Candidates for this procedure are those in good health with sagging, wrinkled, and loose skin around the eyebrows. This procedure does not address issues like crow’s feet and is designed to address the area above the eyes and in the forehead region.
Non-Surgical Treatments and Procedures
Botox®: One of, if not the most famous preventative procedures for wrinkles is Botox—a procedure that paralyzes the muscles in the face that are responsible for expressing emotion. The process essentially relaxes the muscle, making it harder for the skin to develop the fine lines that turn into expression wrinkles.
Botox is an injectable, with most patients only needing a topical anesthetic. Typical patients are the ones that are not ready for permanent surgical options. The best candidates for Botox have overall good skin quality and skin elasticity, are over the age of 18 and are not pregnant or nursing.
Dermal Fillers and Injectables: This procedure is designed to fill soft tissue by way of injection, that plumps up the skin and smooths out wrinkles. This results in smoother and younger looking skin. One of the common fillers is collagen, which allows a patient to replace their lost tissue and benefit from fuller looking skin.
Because there are multiple types of fillers and injectables, you will need to consult with a physician to find a technique and filler that’s right for you. In general, if you are in good physical and psychological health, between 35-60 years old, and not pregnant or nursing then you have a better chance of being a good candidate for any of the fillers and injectables.
Laser Skin Resurfacing: This procedure is meant for reducing facial wrinkles, scars, and blemishes in the face, and is also a popular treatment used on the neck and decolletage areas as well. As the name implies, laser resurfacing is accomplished with either an ablative or non-ablative laser tool. The laser removes layers of skin to accomplish the goals of the procedure. During healing, the new skin cells that form end up giving the face a tighter and younger-looking surface.
Candidates for this procedure have good skin elasticity and are generally in good health. They’ll also have a non-oily complexion, as excess skin oil compromises the procedure results. There is an elevated risk of hyperpigmentation for those with darker skin tones, and therefore not recommended for patients with darker skin colors.
Chemical Peels: This technique is considered a skin resurfacing technique. Designed to improve the appearance of the skin, a solution is applied to the patient’s skin that causes deep exfoliation of the top layers. The doctor performing this procedure will determine how deep the exfoliation process will go--either light, medium, or deep--depending on the condition of the skin, the severity of their wrinkles, and the patient’s medical history and health background.
In a light peel, salicylic acid or glycolic acids are the commonly used chemical agents, while medium peels are usually administered with trichloroacetic acid or a mixture of trichloroacetic and glycolic acids. In deeper peels, a much stronger chemical application of phenol (carbolic acid) is necessary. In general, the deeper the peel, the greater the results—although this also means a longer healing process, and a higher risk for potential complications.
Facials: Facial treatments come in a vast array of techniques, from DIY recipes, and home kits you can buy online or in drugstores, to actual high-tech cosmetic procedures performed at medical facilities. Facials are safe, relaxing, and readily available skincare treatments suitable for most people, though individuals with heavy acne or other severe skin issues should consult a skincare professional to determine which type of facial would be the most beneficial for them.
Ideal patients for the more involved facial skin procedures are those that are looking to rejuvenate their skin, soften or prevent fine wrinkles, and to hydrate the skin after dehydration or excessive exposure to the sun. In general, however, facials are largely preventative treatments that will not reverse skin damage or eliminate wrinkles. Facials are a temporary solution for nourishing the skin and resolving very minor skin issues, and treating wrinkled with facials alone will likely not produce satisfactory results.
Microdermabrasion: Microdermabrasion is an increasingly popular option for patients who want a non-invasive treatment to reduce their wrinkles, acne, and dark spots. Besides, this procedure may stimulate collagen production, which is one of the ways the skin retains a youthful appearance. This procedure is ideal for people who want to improve the overall condition of their skin and have relatively minor resurfacing needs. Those with issues that go beyond the superficial level, however, will want to consider other procedures for achieving more dramatic results.
Dermabrasion: Dermabrasion is a process involves scraping off the outer layers of skin. This is done to diminish the appearance of scars, fine wrinkles, sun damage, and uneven pigmentation. Unlike microdermabrasion, this procedure requires general or local anesthesia, depending on the amount of skin being treated and the layers of skin being removed.
Almost anyone that wants to remove wrinkles can consider dermabrasion, as it is generally safe for all skin types and conditions. However, there are some exceptions. Older patients may experience slower than normal healing times. Also, anyone with active acne or other skin issues like eczema or dermatitis should not get dermabrasion as this can irritate the skin and exacerbate the preexisting condition. Additionally, those with darker skin tones can have a higher risk of hyperpigmentation. For best results, consult a dermatologist or plastic surgeon for advice.
Thread Lift: This procedure is a short and simple one, designed to target skin aging on the lower half of the face. A thread lift is performed by strategically placing textured PDO threads underneath the skin, and then pulling them upward. While this technique can be done to address eyebrow and cheek sag, it is primarily designed for lifting the midface, jowl, and neck areas.
There are two marked benefits to thread lift procedures. The first is the lifting of the skin, which effectively reduces the appearance of downward, hanging, or sagging skin while smoothing out gravitational wrinkles. The second benefit is that the procedure also works to encourage overall collagen production in the areas being treated, which happens as the threads dissolve underneath the skin.
Microneedling: Another noninvasive procedure, microneedling utilizes tiny needles to improve issues such as skin laxity, fine lines, wrinkles, scarring, and skin discoloration. The process is also known as collagen induction therapy since it works towards building new collagen production underneath the skin. Patients can benefit from multiple procedures to achieve the results they want.
Patients that desire to improve on superficial concerns are the best candidates for this procedure. Patients with open wounds, skin infections, or those that have used Accutane recently or that have had radiation treatment are not recommended for this procedure.
Hand Rejuvenation with Dermal Fillers: Hand rejuvenation with dermal fillers can significantly reduce wrinkling, prominent veins, and age spots for a more youthful appearance. So far, the only approved dermal filler for hand rejuvenation is Radiesse. Radiesse is a substance that is injected into the skin and is designed to be absorbed by the body over time. Radiesse boosts collagen production and can offer instant results that last up to a year or more.
Hand Rejuvenation with Fat Transfer: Fat transfer is another technique designed to reduce the wrinkling and prominent veins for a more youthful appearance. This process utilizes processed fat from the patient’s own body that is injected into the skin for a smoother, contoured look. Liposuction is performed to remove the fat from the donor area, usually on the legs, stomach, or thigh areas. Re-absorption is highly likely, so the doctor will usually overfill to make sure enough material is left to accomplish the patient’s goals.
Natural Alternatives & At-Home Remedies
While the advanced cosmetic surgical and non-surgical options listed above are the best techniques patients have for preventing, reversing, and eliminating wrinkles from the skin, those seeking more natural remedies or alternative treatments have plenty of options as well.
There are a variety of remedies available to help ease, reduce, eliminate, or even prevent the appearance of wrinkles, some of which are much simpler than you might think. One of the biggest threats to skin health is dehydration, and keeping the skin hydrated is an excellent way to prevent wrinkles. An easy way to keep your skin hydrated and prevent wrinkles is to drink the recommended amount of water each day, which will help keep your skin in good health.
In addition to drinking more water, there are other alternative therapies and DIY remedies for wrinkle prevention to choose from. For example, some studies have shown that certain essential oils like calendula and geranium oils, may help reduce the damage caused by oxidation and prevent sun damage to the skin.
Another natural option that serves to hydrate the skin naturally is with a hydrating mask. These DIY masks use natural ingredients like avocados, coconut oil, and honey, which are believed to nourish and hydrate the skin. Again, while these techniques won’t help to reverse skin damage or eliminate wrinkles that have already appeared, they can help to improve the skin’s texture, if only temporarily, and to prevent wrinkles from forming.
How to Prevent Wrinkles: All Wrinkle Prevention Options
The easiest way to fight wrinkles is to prevent them from happening in the first place. It is true that nothing can stop aging itself, but there are certain everyday things you can do to make sure that you age gracefully. Also, there are ways to make sure you do not add extra damage to your skin beyond the effects of the natural aging process. By staying hydrated and practicing good skin care habits, you can give your skin the best chance it has to stay youthful for as long as possible.
Here are some of the ways that have been proven to prevent wrinkles from forming:
Lifestyle Changes: This method is your first weapon in the battle for wrinkle prevention. Some changes you can make to immediately start benefiting include not smoking, eating healthy foods, effective face cleaning regimens, and staying hydrated.
Wrinkle Topical Creams: Many skin care products contain topical retinoids or fusion skin creams made with Retin-A, Vitamin A, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids, and other ingredients that are proven to be effective in preventing the appearance of wrinkles.
Sunscreen/Avoiding Sun Exposure: The sun’s powerful UVA and UVB rays are scientifically proven to cause major damage to a person’s skin over time. By minimizing your exposure and utilizing sunscreen every day, you can reduce solar damage from these harmful UV rays and reduce skin wrinkling.
Anti-Wrinkle Injections (Botox®): A medically prescribed method for preventing wrinkles. This treatment is best for those who are starting to get wrinkles on the forehead or around the eyes and want to reverse the trend.
Common Wrinkle Myths
There are many myths surrounding wrinkles—from what causes them, to how we can avoid getting them. For example, many people believe that getting a tan will make them look younger. While the initial results of tan may look great, once the glow fades, the result is drier, sun-damaged skin, irreversible solar damage, and more wrinkles than before.
Another myth is anti-aging creams and the results you can expect to achieve by using them. No matter how great your skin cream is, no anti-aging cream can transform your skin instantly, especially if it has already been damaged by the effects of old age or the sun.
The fact is that true wrinkle prevention comes from a skincare regimen that starts early and is carried out for years. While instant results from anti-aging creams may be a pipe dream, consistent maintenance is the key to that desired youthful look.
Another common skincare myth stresses that there is nothing you can do to improve your skin—and those genetics are the sole factor that determines what you look like as you age. As a result, many people tend to regard skincare routines as useless or unnecessary, because they believe in the myth that their genes determine the eventual quality of their skin.
While genes do determine the type of skin a person will have when they grow older, many other factors will affect the skin conditions as well, and a good skincare routine is one of them. Factors such as stress (a known force for aging), a poor diet and sleep regimen, non-existent exercise habits, and other factors can wreak havoc on even the best genetics. As mentioned before, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and good skin care habits can and will help you achieve much better results over the long run than you can expect when relying on genetics alone.
Controversial Wrinkle Treatments
While the effectiveness of a skin care regimen is not a myth, having a proper skincare plan and knowing which products to use are of the utmost importance when it comes to achieving better skin over a lifetime.
There are many anti-wrinkle treatments, techniques, products, and controversial medications, and that should be avoided at all costs. These treatments are often dangerous, illegal, and can even be deadly, which is why it is so important to consult with a licensed professional before attempting to try any kind of new treatment, procedure, or skin care method to treat wrinkles.
Some of the most popular but controversial wrinkle treatments include:
- Urine therapy
- Breast milk facials
- Bee venom
- Cryogenic chambers
- Gold facials
- Snail secretion
- Fire facials
To minimize the chances of experiencing something unpleasant or ineffective at the very least, to life-threatening at the very worst, always consult with a reputable health care professional before trying any kind of treatment for the skin.
Embracing Natural Aging
Until modern science finds the holy grail of everlasting youth, aging is a natural, normal part of the human process. As long as we are alive, we are aging—and embracing this idea can help you to feel better about the process and learn to make the most of it. Maintaining an active, positive lifestyle with effective skincare habits can greatly reduce the appearance of wrinkles because the body is being provided with what it needs to stay healthy.
That being said, aging can affect self-esteem in powerful ways. Suffering from advanced wrinkling or early onset wrinkling can make someone feel like they are aging too fast. Fortunately, science has come quite far, and new advances are constantly being developed that offer cures and solutions to these issues.
Speaking with a dermatologist or other skin care professional can arm you with the knowledge you need to fight early-onset wrinkling with the most effective cosmetic surgery or non-surgical treatments for you. While we will always grow older, no matter what we do, aging gracefully is an option for everyone and it is worth looking into your options as a way to live your best life—the way that makes you the happiest.
Conclusion & Consultation Tips
Many procedures have been covered throughout this article, and while some do not require a doctor or professional, the right medical professional or dermatologist can help you make the best decisions you need to achieve your skin care goals. One way to find a doctor to help you with the procedures mentioned is to visit the American Society of Plastic Surgeons or the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
During your consultation, be sure to make a list of questions before arriving at your appointment. These questions should be about the procedure you are interested in having, to find out whether it is right for you. Some of the questions you might consider asking include:
- Is this the best procedure for my goals?
- What is the success rate of this procedure?
- What risks and side effects are there?
- How many times have you performed the procedure?
- Who pays for this procedure? (Not all procedures are covered by insurance)
- What kind of realistic expectations should I have about the outcome of this procedure?
Improving the appearance of your skin can be a good thing, but not if the process puts your life or your health in jeopardy. For the best possible outcome, always make sure that the clinic you visit is licensed and legitimate, that the treatment you choose is valid, and that your medical professional is reputable, experienced, and fully licensed to practice the procedure in your state.
List of Sources
- Reversal of skin aging with topical retinoids.
- Cosmeceutical potential of geranium and calendula essential oil: Determination of antioxidant activity and in vitro sun protection factor.
- Hyaluronic acid, a promising skin rejuvenating biomedicine: A review of recent updates and pre-clinical and clinical investigations on cosmetic and nutricosmetic effects.