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 fair-skinned people. Other factors, such as 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, injectables and surgery top the list of effective wrinkle treatments.
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.
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 changes in the blood supply to your skin.
- 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.
Here are ways to make the most of your skin's appearance:
Protect your skin from the sun. Protect your skin — and prevent future wrinkles — by limiting the time you spend in the sun and always wearing protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and sunglasses. Also, use sunscreen when outdoors, even during winter.
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 built-in broad-spectrum sunscreen — meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
- Use moisturizers. Dry skin shrivels plump skin cells, which can lead to premature fine lines and wrinkles. Though moisturizers can't prevent wrinkles, they may temporarily mask tiny lines and creases.
- Don't smoke. Even if you've smoked for years or smoked heavily, you can still improve your skin tone and texture and prevent future 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.