Overview

Wrinkles, a natural part of aging, are most prominent on sun-exposed skin, such as the face, neck, hands and forearms.

Although genetics mainly determine skin structure and texture, sun exposure is a major cause of wrinkles, especially for people with light skin. Pollutants and smoking also contribute to wrinkling.

If your wrinkles bother you, you have more options than ever to help smooth them or make them less visible. Medications, skin-resurfacing techniques, fillers and surgery top the list of effective wrinkle treatments.

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Symptoms

Wrinkles are the lines and creases that form in your skin. Some wrinkles can become deep crevices or furrows and may be especially noticeable around your eyes, mouth and neck.

When to see a doctor

If you're concerned about the appearance of your skin, see a dermatologist. He or she can assess your skin and help you create a personalized skin care plan. A dermatologist can also recommend medical wrinkle treatments.

Causes

Wrinkles are caused by a combination of factors — some you can control, others you can't:

  • Age. As you get older, your skin naturally becomes less elastic and more fragile. Decreased production of natural oils dries your skin and makes it appear more wrinkled.

    Fat in the deeper layers of your skin diminishes. This causes loose, saggy skin and more-pronounced lines and crevices.

  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Ultraviolet radiation, which speeds the natural aging process, is the primary cause of early wrinkling. Exposure to UV light breaks down your skin's connective tissue — collagen and elastin fibers, which lie in the deeper layer of skin (dermis).

    Without the supportive connective tissue, your skin loses strength and flexibility. Skin then begins to sag and wrinkle prematurely.

  • Smoking. Smoking can accelerate the normal aging process of your skin, contributing to wrinkles. This may be due to smoking's effect on collagen.
  • Repeated facial expressions. Facial movements and expressions, such as squinting or smiling, lead to fine lines and wrinkles. Each time you use a facial muscle, a groove forms beneath the surface of the skin. And as skin ages, it loses its flexibility and is no longer able to spring back in place. These grooves then become permanent features on your face.

Prevention

Here are some tips for protecting your skin and minimizing the appearance of wrinkles:

  • Protect your skin from the sun. Limit the time you spend in the sun, especially midday, and always wear protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and sunglasses. Also, use sunscreen year-round when outdoors.

    Choose a skin-care product with a built-in sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or perspiring.

  • Use products with built-in sunscreen. When selecting skin care products, choose those with a broad-spectrum sunscreen — meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Moisturize. Dry skin shrivels plump skin cells, which can lead to premature fine lines and wrinkles. Moisturizing traps water in your skin, which helps mask tiny lines and creases. It may take a few weeks of regular use of the product before you notice any improvement in your skin.
  • Don't smoke. Even if you've smoked for years or smoke heavily, you can still improve your skin tone and texture and prevent wrinkles by quitting smoking.
  • Eat a healthy diet. There is some evidence that certain vitamins in your diet help protect your skin. More study is needed on the role of nutrition, but it's good to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Wrinkles care at Mayo Clinic

Dec. 18, 2019
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