Wrinkles: Causes, Treatment, Prevention

Wrinkles, medically known as rhytids, are a natural part of ageing. As you age, creases, folds and ridges in your skin appear. The primary reason why this happens is that the skin tends to become thinner and loses its suppleness and elasticity over time. The first areas where wrinkles tend to appear are on the face and neck. This is not only because these areas are most exposed to sunlight but also because the skin here naturally folds during facial expressions, stretching the skin more frequently throughout your life.

The other areas where wrinkles are likely to appear are the back of the hands, arms and any other body parts that have a higher exposure to sunlight. Most wrinkles, as mentioned before, come from ageing. However, there are environmental and lifestyle factors that may speed up this natural process and make wrinkles emerge before their time. 

(Read more: Home remedies for wrinkles)

Frequent exposure to sunlight is not only one of the leading causes of early wrinkles but also for dark spots and increased risk of skin cancer. This apart, smoking, tobacco use, alcohol abuse, stress and not maintaining a nutritious and balanced diet can lead to premature ageing of your skin. Life stages like pregnancy can also lead to wrinkles and stretch marks appearing on your stomach and abdomen. Obesity, weight gain and weight loss can lead to wrinkling as well.

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(Read more: How to remove stretch marks)

Given these factors that can contribute to wrinkles appearing prematurely, people tend to look for methods to avoid it. This is precisely the reason why the global anti-ageing product market has seen a boom in the last few decades. However, there are many natural and lifestyle methods to prevent excessive wrinkling of the skin which you can use. In this article, you can find out what are the major causes behind wrinkles, how to treat wrinkles and how to prevent wrinkles from forming prematurely.

  1. What are wrinkles and how are they formed?
  2. Causes of wrinkles
  3. Treatment of wrinkles
  4. Prevention of wrinkles

What are wrinkles and how are they formed?

Wrinkles are ridges or folds of skin that form as the skin loses moisture with age. The human skin has three distinct layers:

  • The outermost layer is called the epidermis 
  • The middle layer, dermis
  • The innermost subcutaneous layer 

Every time you form a facial expression and move your facial muscles, it leaves a crinkle in your skin. Young people have enough moisture in their skin along with two proteins called collagen (which maintains the structure of the skin) and elastin (which maintains skin elasticity) that quickly heal the crinkles and make your skin look smooth again.

However, with age, your skin starts to lose its natural reserves of these proteins and, as a result, is unable to smoothen the lines. As you use more of the same muscles, these lines gradually deepen and show up as wrinkles. Additionally, your subcutaneous layer (just below the skin surface) has fat deposits, which keep your skin plump. These deposits too diminish with age and your skin starts to sag under the effect of gravity.

(Read more: Home remedies for face skin tightening)

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Causes of wrinkles

While wrinkling is largely a natural process, there are a number of factors that may cause it to appear earlier than usual. It is also important to note that how and when you wrinkle may also depend on your skin tone and ethnicity. A study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology in 2016 suggests that people of Asian, Hispanic and African American descent not only have distinct facial structures but also a higher concentration of epidermal melanin and a thicker dermis layer. These ethnic differences not only affect how the skin of these groups may or may not be at risk of pigmentation but also makes facial lines, crinkles and wrinkles less noticeable. 

Despite these ethnic differences, the following are some of the common reasons why wrinkles emerge.

(Read more: Melanin deficiency)

  1. Ageing causes wrinkles
  2. Sun damage causes wrinkles
  3. Muscle contractions cause wrinkles
  4. Smoking causes wrinkles
  5. Air pollution causes wrinkles
  6. Dehydration causes wrinkles

Ageing causes wrinkles

Ageing is the only cause of wrinkling that is absolutely natural. As explained before, the dermis layer of the skin is composed of elastin and collagen fibers that provide the skin with support and elasticity. As you age, the skin cells divide more slowly and the network of collagen and elastin loosens and unravels. This creates depressions and crinkles on the skin surface which easily transition into wrinkles. Similarly, the skin’s ability to retain moisture, secrete oils, hold on to essential fatty acids and heal is also affected with age. All of these factors contribute to the natural development of wrinkles as you age.

(Read more: How to get glowing skin)

Sun damage causes wrinkles

Exposure to the sun, especially ultraviolet radiation from the sun, can cause sunburns and premature ageing of the skin. This is also known as photoageing. Photoageing occurs when the ultraviolet rays break down the collagen fibers in your skin or lead to the abnormal production of elastin. The skin cells also produce an enzyme called metalloproteinase that aids in the production of collagen. Ultraviolet rays can damage this process of metalloproteinase production and damage collagen fibers, which can, in turn, result in the disorganization of collagen fibers called solar elastosis. If solar elastosis occurs repeatedly due to prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, then wrinkles are bound to appear.

(Read more: How to treat sunburns naturally)

Muscle contractions cause wrinkles

Whenever you move your muscles, especially facial ones, it leads to the contraction of the muscles and therefore your skin. The contractions that occur in your face are known as small muscle contractions and lead to lines on the forehead, frown lines between the eyebrows and crow’s feet around the corner of the eyes. Micro- and macro-expressions like smiling, frowning, squinting and even winking can lead to these wrinkles becoming more prominent with time. Gravity also exacerbates the effects of these expressions and the muscle contractions they result in.

(Read more: Brow lift)

Smoking causes wrinkles

The skin regenerates itself constantly, taking approximately 27 days to regenerate completely. Collagen plays a very important role in skin regeneration. Studies show that smoking and smoking addiction causes a marked reduction in the production of new collagen, thereby slowing down the regeneration process and the development of wrinkles. Research also shows that nicotine may cause blood vessels to narrow, which reduces the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells. Other chemicals in cigarettes can also damage skin cells and affect their elasticity. Smoking causes people to repetitively purse or lick their lips, which contributes to wrinkles and lines around the mouth.

(Read more: How to quit smoking)

Air pollution causes wrinkles

Exposure to pollutants like ground-level ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter can cause oxidative stress. According to research published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, a peer-reviewed journal, in July 2019, "O3 (also) depletes the reserves of both enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants in the skin and decreases vitamin C and E levels." The same research goes on to say that exposure to O3 decreases the level of sirtuin 3 protein in the body which helps to eliminate free radicals. Free radicals can cause damage to the cells and hasten ageing.

Dehydration causes wrinkles

Not drinking enough water can cause dehydration, which can make fine lines appear on your skin. Dehydration also causes the skin to appear thinner and dryer, making it look more crepe-like with triangular fine lines. It also affects the ability of the skin to hold onto moisture, which affects the skin’s ability to look plump and bouncy. It is therefore very important that you drink enough water to prevent wrinkles.

Treatment of wrinkles

It is best to consult a doctor or dermatologist if you have wrinkles and want to know how to deal with them. Taking over-the-counter medications or treatments that may irritate your skin can do you more harm than good in both the short- and long-term. There are many types of treatments for wrinkles available across the world that a dermatologist may recommend for safe use. These may be expensive or aggressive depending on your individual needs. The following are some of the most popular treatments for wrinkles.

  1. Medications for wrinkles
  2. Chemical peels for wrinkles
  3. Dermabrasion for wrinkles
  4. Botox for wrinkles
  5. Facelift for wrinkles
  6. Fillers for wrinkles

Medications for wrinkles

Topical retinoid creams with vitamin A may reduce wrinkles, pigmentation and skin roughness. Vitamin A increases the production of collagen in the skin, thereby improving your skin health. However, using retinoids may cause your skin to be more damaged when exposed to the sunlight. So, applying a good sunscreen with retinoids is important. Many anti-ageing creams contain varying concentrations of retinol, alpha hydroxy acids, kinetin, coenzyme, copper peptides and antioxidants - all of which may be effective against wrinkles.

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Chemical peels for wrinkles

Chemical peels are recommended by dermatologists for a number of skin problems, including acne and wrinkles. A chemical peel involves the use of chemical solutions like alpha-hydroxy acid, trichloroacetic acid and glycolic acid on the affected areas of the skin. The application of the chemicals removes dead skin and the skin that regenerates anew is smoother than the old skin. It is, however, recommended that you get a chemical peel under the guidance of a certified dermatologist only. This is because the administration of any chemical can irritate your skin and therefore the practised hand of a professional is needed.

(Read more: Exfoliation)

Dermabrasion for wrinkles

Dermabrasion is a surgical procedure that involves controlled abrasion of the upper layers of the skin through a rapidly rotating device. This procedure is considered to be effective in removing fine wrinkles, acne and other types of scars. This procedure may, however, cause scabbing, swelling and changes in skin colour. Usually, these symptoms fade away after about a few weeks but you should consult a doctor if they persist or get worse. Microdermabrasion is a less invasive procedure than dermabrasion and equally effective. It may take a couple of sessions of microdermabrasion to make the skin feel firmer and appear more refreshed.

Botox for wrinkles

Getting botox for wrinkles is one of the most popular therapies known across the world. Botox is derived from botulinum toxin and is injected into the facial or affected muscles. The botox injection blocks the chemical signals which cause the muscles to contract, thereby preventing further wrinkling. It also smooths out the skin completely too. The effects of a botox injection may last for three to four months. In extremely rare cases, botox may have adverse effects like drooping. Only get botox injections from a certified dermatologist.

Facelift for wrinkles

A rhytidectomy or facelift is a type of cosmetic surgery that is supposed to make you look more youthful. A facelift usually involves the removal of facial skin or fat and may even involve the tightening of the underlying tissues depending on the procedure recommended to you by the doctor. Although there are no major side effects of getting a facelift, it may be more expensive and the healing time after the procedure may take weeks. It is also believed that the effects of a facelift last a long time - over five years at least - but may lose effectiveness around the neck.

Fillers for wrinkles

Fillers are synthetic chemicals, usually hyaluronic acid - a natural sugar polymer - used to treat the folds around the mouth, nose, chin and other facial areas prone to wrinkling. These depressed parts of the face are filled up with the fillers to lift up the skin. These fillers are usually temporary, which means their effects may last for four to six months before you need another round. There are a few side effects associated with fillers, including bruising, swelling and pain - all of which are likely to go away in just a few days. In case they don’t, you should call your doctor and get yourself checked again.

Prevention of wrinkles

Your genes, environment and lifestyle play a huge role in when and how wrinkles will start to appear on your skin. It is important to understand that at some age or the other wrinkles are bound to appear, and there is nothing you can do about it. However, there are quite a few things you can do from an early age to prevent the premature or early onset of wrinkles. The following are some of the methods that can help you prevent premature wrinkles.

  • Prevent sun exposure: Using a good sunscreen throughout the year is very important to prevent ultraviolet ray damage. You could also take to wearing wide brim hats and full-sleeved cotton clothes during peak summers to prevent sun exposure when you are outdoors.
  • Moisturize: Moisturizers play a huge role in keeping your skin hydrated and also help nourish the skin. This can go a long way in postponing the development of wrinkles as you grow older. Studies show that moisturizers with hyaluronic acid and vitamin C are especially good for your skin. (Read more: Home remedies for dry skin)
  • Drink water: Drinking plenty of water every day is a sure-shot way of keeping your skin hydrated and your body functioning properly. Drinking two litres or more of water daily can also help flush out toxins that can harm from skin. (Read more: How drinking water helps weight loss)
  • Get more vitamins: Vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin D are some micronutrients that can help postpone skin ageing and improve skin health. You should include plenty of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet. If you don’t get enough of these through your diet, then consult a doctor or nutritionist about getting the same via phytonutrients and dietary supplements.
  • Quit smoking: Not only does tobacco affect the production of collagen and elastin but the nicotine in cigarettes also constricts the blood vessels. Smoking limits the function of essential vitamins in the body, which can further harm your skin and cause wrinkles to appear prematurely. So, quitting can be one of the most beneficial things you can do for your skin.
  • Relax: Apart from stress and anxiety, facial expressions and associated muscle contractions can also contribute to the premature appearance of wrinkles. The best way to avoid wrinkles arising from these causes is to find a way to relax your mind and keep stress at bay. Meditation, yoga, dancing and other recreational activities may help you relax better.


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  2. Nemours Children’s Health System [Internet]. Jacksonville (FL): The Nemours Foundation; c2017. What Are Wrinkles?
  3. American Academy of Dermatology [Internet]. Rosemont (IL), US; WRINKLE REMEDIES
  4. American Academy of Dermatology [Internet]. Rosemont (IL), US; WRINKLES
  5. MedilinePlus [Internet] US National Library of Medicine. Bethesda. Maryland. Wrinkles.
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  7. Ganceviciene, Ruta. et al. Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 308–319. PMID: 23467476
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  9. Pinsky, Mark A. Efficacy and Safety of an Anti-aging Technology for the Treatment of Facial Wrinkles and Skin Moisturization. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017 Dec; 10(12): 27–35. PMID: 29399264
  10. Vashi, Neelam A. et al. Aging Differences in Ethnic Skin. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2016 Jan; 9(1): 31–38. PMID: 26962390
  11. Mukherjee, Siddharth. et al. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging. 2006 Dec; 1(4): 327–348. PMID: 18046911
  12. Ooe, Masahiko. et al. Comparative evaluation of wrinkle treatments. Aesthetic Plast Surg . 2013 Apr;37(2):424-33. PMID: 23397058
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