Wrinkles are a sign that your skin is losing its youthful luster. Many factors cause wrinkles, starting with the natural aging process during which the collagen and elastin fibers in your skin weaken. However, over the years, repeated facial movements eventually appear as crow's-feet, wrinkles around your mouth and on your forehead, and the permanent furrow between your brow.
The natural aging process takes a visible toll on the largest organ in your body -- your skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, or AAD, most of the changes you see are simply unavoidable. A host of other factors go into the making of wrinkles, with exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays being one primary cause. Gravity's pull, smoking and even the way you sleep on your pillow at night can result in lines and grooves. A less obvious cause of wrinkles are the repeated expressions you make.
Whenever you smile, frown, squint or scowl, you flex your facial muscles, which makes grooves form under your skin's surface. Lacking elasticity, aging skin can't bounce back like it used to when you were younger. Over time, expression lines become a permanent part of your face. Smoking cigarettes also causes repeated facial movements every time you take a puff and squint against a cloud of smoke when you exhale. The AAD indicates that you mainly see expression lines and grooves appear in parts of the face where you use your muscles a lot, namely your forehead and around your mouth.
Moisturizers won't get rid of scowl lines and other wrinkles, says the AAD, but they moisten and plump your skin, making wrinkles appear less noticeable. Some ingredients in skin care products may have a minor effect on facial wrinkles when used religiously, including retinol, alpha hydroxy acid and salicylic acid. Botulinum injections, also known as Botox, are a cosmetic treatment your doctor may use to temporarily smooth out frown lines and wrinkles that extend from between your eyebrows to the bridge of your nose. Botox is specifically approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat the wrinkles between your eyes, although it can be used on other parts of the face as well. When injected into a muscle, botulinum blocks the signal between nerve to muscle, giving your forehead a smoother, more relaxed appearance. The effects of Botox injections last around three to four months, after which time another injection is needed.
What to Avoid
Facial exercises are touted as a way to reduce wrinkles; however, the AAD indicates they have just the opposite effect. Skin care expert Paula Begoun cites a conversation with former AAD president Wilma Bergfeld of the Cleveland Clinic's Department of Dermatology, who indicated that there's no scientific research that show's they're helpful except in "controlled situations." Bergfeld went on to say that she would not advise excessive manipulation of the facial muscles, "because it would create more wrinkling, increasing the loss of elasticity in the skin."
The AAD lists numerous medical treatments to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging skin, including laser skin rejuvenation, chemical peels, dermabrasion and prescription topicals. A dermatologist can recommend the best way to reduce the appearance of expression lines and other signs of aging for you. However, you can protect your skin from premature wrinkles by avoiding the sun, including tanning beds. Wear a sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor of 30 that offers broad-spectrum protection whenever you go outdoors. If you smoke, kick the habit. Eat a skin-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.