We all know what a wrinkle looks like and how distressing it can be when you first find one on your own face. Fortunately, we live in a day and age when we can do much to both prevent wrinkles and smooth out ones that have already formed. It’s important to understand what causes a wrinkle to develop so we can better understand what can be done to prevent them.
There are actually two kinds of wrinkles. There are dynamic wrinkles which are only present when the underlying muscle is contracting, resulting in the skin folding over itself due the action of the contracting muscle. These can occur at any age, but are more common in more mature skin. When you hear of someone getting botox injections for wrinkles, you know they are getting treatment for dynamic wrinkles. Botox will paralyze the facial muscle beneath the wrinkle which means the skin doesn’t furrow when you make facial expressions.
The second type of wrinkle is a static wrinkle which is present even when the facial muscles aren’t contracting. Static wrinkles result from a loss of important skin components such as collage and elastin that maintain the integrity of the skin. When these components diminish, the skin is unable to snap back as readily when a facial expression is made. The result is a fixed wrinkle.
How does a static wrinkle actually form?
As we age, our skin decreases the frequency with which it regenerates new skin cells and sheds old ones. The result is a gradual thinning of the surface of the skin. The new thinner skin architecture is structurally changed so that it has a reduced ability to absorb important nutrients. This can result in the skin cells become less efficient. There is also a certain amount of free radical production occurring in these aging cells which results in further damage. Lack of nutrition also results in reduced collagen synthesis. Since collagen forms the structural network of the skin and helps to maintain its integrity, the result is loose, saggy, wrinkled skin. Another factor in wrinkle formation is the gradual loss of elastin, a component that maintains the skin’s elasticity. Elastin allows the skin to bounce back into place when it’s creased. Without the presence of elastin, a static wrinkle will develop.
What causes the loss of collagen and elastin?
Some collagen and elastin are lost gradually during the natural aging process which is partially determined by genetics. The majority of elastin is lost or damaged due to exposure to the sun which illustrates the importance of practicing good sun protection.
How do you prevent a static wrinkle from developing?
It would seem the most important way to prevent the formation of static wrinkles is to reduce the level of sun exposure over a lifetime by wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. This will help to slow down the loss of collagen and elastin fibers that give support to the skin. You can also use interventions that stimulate collagen production such as the use of prescription strength Retin A which has been shown to stimulate the cells that produce collagen. There are also various over the counter treatments that have been shown to have some wrinkles preventive properties such as AHA’s (alpha hydroxy acids) which are present in many cosmetic product, topical Vitamin C (also found in many skin care products), and topical Vitamin E which helps to reduce free radical damage to skin cells.
As you can see, there are some skin care intentions that can reduce the severity of skin wrinkling. Why not give them a try?
Contributing Arthur: Kristie Leong,M.D