Wrinkles are an inevitable part of the natural aging process. As we become older our skin gets thinner, drier and less elastic. Our skin's ability to protect itself from damage is also reduced as we age. Eventually, wrinkles, creases and lines form on our skin. Apart from the factors mentioned above, a person's genetic makeup also influences how wrinkly we become, and when and where wrinkles start appearing.
Even though wrinkles can give people an aspect of wisdom, most people do not welcome them. Billions of dollars are spent globally on treatments to get rid of them. Some make great claims but have no effect, while others either have moderate, significant or very considerable success.
Most wrinkles tend to appear in the parts of the body which receive the most sun exposure, including the:
- Backs of hands
- Tops of forearms.
- Surface lines
- Deep furrows.
What are the main factors that cause wrinkles?Apart from the normal aging process, the following factors are known to promote the development of wrinkles:
- Smoking - experts say that the link between regular smoking and the accelerated aging of skin is due to a reduced blood supply to the skin.
- Light skin - people with light skin tend to experience a higher level of sun damage, which usually accelerates the development of wrinkles.
- Genetic factors - if your parents developed wrinkles earlier than other people, your chances of also doing so are significantly higher than somebody whose parents developed wrinkles later than others.
- Hair - some hairstyles provide more shade for the face than others.
- Clothes - people who tend to wear hats and long sleeves usually develop wrinkles later in life compared to other people of the same skin type.
- Some jobs - people whose jobs expose them to more sunlight tend to become wrinkly earlier than others. Examples include fishermen, farmers, sailors, golfers, tanning booth employees (UV exposure), and gardeners.
- Exposure to UV (ultraviolet light) - apart from those mentioned above who have jobs that expose them to more sunlight, people who spend considerable time out in the sun during their leisure hours are more likely to develop wrinkles earlier.
- Facial expressions - people who repeatedly smile, frown, or squint will develop fine lines and wrinkles earlier than other who do not do these facial expressions so often. According to the Mayo Clinic, each time we use a facial muscle a groove forms under the surface of the skin. When you are young the skin springs back, but as it gets older and loses its flexibility springing back becomes harder and less frequent, resulting in more permanent grooves.
What are the treatment options for wrinkles?Getting rid of wrinkles or taking steps to postpone their development are nearly always optional measures, because wrinkles are not usually considered as medical conditions or diseases - they are not generally life-threatening or harmful to physical health. It is important for the individual to bear this in mind when considering treatment options.
- Topical retinoids - these are said to help reduce fine wrinkles, some pigmentations and skin roughness. Topical renitoids are derived from vitamin A. As this medication can make the skin more susceptible to burning from sunlight exposure, the patient needs to use it with a skin-care program to protect the skin. Topical retinoids may sometimes cause dryness, itching, a burning sensation, a tingling sensation and redness.
- OTC (over the counter, no prescription required) wrinkle creams - the effectiveness of OTC wrinkle creams varies considerably, and depends mainly on what its active ingredient is.
Slight to modest results may sometimes be obtained from retinol, alpha hydroxy acids, kinetin, coenzyme Q10, copper peptides and antioxidants. The active ingredient concentration in an OTC wrinkle cream will be significantly lower than a prescription one. In most cases if any results are noticed, they do not usually last long.
- Surgery and other medical procedures
- Dermabrasion - a surgical procedure involving the controlled wearing away (abrasion) of the upper layers of skin with sandpaper or some other mechanical means. Dermabrasion is used for the removal of fine wrinkles, tattoos, nevi (moles), and scars (such as acne ones). There will be some scabbing, swelling and redness, which generally go away after a couple of weeks. The pinkness may take several months to fade. Desired results are not immediate and may take several months too.
- Microdermabrasion - a powerful vacuum is used to spray microcrystals of aluminum oxide across the surface of the skin. The procedure removes the outermost layers of skin cells - part of the stratum corneum - as well as stimulating cell growth in the underlying dermis. Microdermabrasion is said to help give a fresher and smoother appearance to the skin, as well as diminishing the appearance of lines and wrinkles, enlarged pores, coarse skin, and sun damage. The patient may have slight redness in the areas of treated skin. Repeated treatments are required because results are temporary.
- Laser, light source and radiofrequency - in wounding (ablative) laser resurfacing, the epidermis (the outer layer of skin) is destroyed by a laser beam, while the dermis (underlying skin) is heated up - this stimulates the development of new collagen fibers. When the wound heals, new smoother and tighter skin is formed. Ablative laser resurfacing can take several months to heal up. Newer therapies using laser technology may result in faster healing times. Non-ablative lasers, radiofrequency devices and pulsed light sources do not damage the epidermis - the dermis is heated, triggering the formation of new collagen and elastin. The skin feels firmer and appears refreshed after several treatments, resulting in faster recovery times; while at the same time more treatments are required and results are subtler.
- Botox - (Botulinum Toxin Type A) - Botox blocks the chemical signals that cause muscles to contract. It is injected in small doses into targeted muscles. If the muscles can no longer tighten the skin flattens, giving a less wrinkled and smoother appearance. Botox is effective for lines on the forehead and between the eyes (frown lines), as well as crow's feet (around the corners of the eyes). As treatments generally last about three to four months, repeated injections are required.
- Chemical peel - a chemical solution is applied to wrinkly areas, causing dead skin to slough off and eventually peel off, hence the name. The regenerated skin is generally smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin. Some types of chemical peels can be bought and administered without a medical license. However, patients are advised have a medical health care professional perform the treatment.
- Face lift - also known as a rhytidectomy, this is a type of cosmetic surgery aimed at giving a more youthful appearance. A rhytidectomy usually involves removal of excess facial skin and fat, with or without tightening of underlying tissues. The skin of the patient's face and/or neck is redraped. According to the Mayo Clinic, USA, treatments usually last from 5 to 10 years. Healing times may be lengthy and the patient will experience bruising and swelling for a few weeks after surgery.
- Soft tissue fillers - these may include collagen, hyaluronic acid, or fat. They are injected into deeper face wrinkles, plumping and smoothing them out, giving the skin more volume. Patients may sometimes experience swelling, redness and bruising in the treated areas for a short period. As with Botox treatment, for lasting results the treatments will need to be repeated every few months.
Preventing wrinkles and linesThere is nothing we can do to stop the ageing process; eventually everybody will have wrinkles and lines, which become more prominent over time. However, the following steps may help slow the process down:
- The skin and sunlight - the more the skin is exposed to the sun the faster it will age. Protecting your skin by wearing hats, protective clothing and sun screens will reduce sunlight damage, and consequent developing of wrinkles. Remember that sunlight is a vital source of vitamin D for humans. A growing number of experts today are recommending a healthy balance of some sunlight skin exposure, while at the same time avoiding excess.
- Moisturizers - these will not prevent the wrinkling process, but may help temporarily make tiny lines and creases less evident.
- Smoking - smoking accelerates the ageing of skin. Even if you have been a long-term heavy smoker, giving up will help slow down the current ageing rate of your skin.
- Sleep - although this has not been extensively clinically proven, many experts say that people who get at least 7 hours good quality sleep each day will over the long-term enjoy better physical and mental health, as well as protecting the quality of their skin.