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What are wrinkles?
Wrinkles are lines that form on your skin. They're a natural part of your body’s aging process. Wrinkles on your skin look similar to the wrinkles you get on a shirt that needs ironed. They appear as folds, creases or ridges. They're most often found on your face, neck and arms, but wrinkles can appear anywhere on your body.
Who do wrinkles affect?
Everyone who ages experiences wrinkles. You may be more at risk of getting wrinkles early in life if:
- You have sun-damaged skin or your skin is frequently exposed to the sun.
- You smoke tobacco products.
- Your body loses collagen, which gives your skin elasticity and support.
What age do I start getting wrinkles on my body?
As your body ages, you’ll notice fine lines start to appear on your body. This can start after age 25. The most common age group for people who look for wrinkle treatment is between ages 40 to 55. Wrinkles become more prominent after age 65.
Symptoms and Causes
What do wrinkles look like?
If you look at the palm of your hand, you have lines in your skin. As you age, lines like those in your palm will form on other parts of your body’s skin.
Symptoms of wrinkles include:
- Lines, creases or folds on your skin.
- Loose or droopy skin.
Wrinkles are apparent when you’re at rest, but they may become more noticeable when you move your facial muscles by smiling or frowning.
Where on my body will I have wrinkles?
Wrinkles can appear anywhere on your skin but are most common on your:
What causes wrinkles?
Slow skin cell production, thinning skin layers and a lack of collagen proteins causes wrinkles to form on your skin.
Collagen is a protein within your body that gives your skin structure. It provides stretchiness or elasticity so you can move easily. Your skin is similar to a rubber band. If that rubber band stretches or moves too much, the rubber band becomes loose and loses its ability to snap back to its normal size and shape. When your body’s cells age, their ability to produce proteins slows down. This makes it more difficult for your rubber band to snap back to its original shape, which causes wrinkles.
There are several factors that cause your skin to wrinkle.
Wrinkles are a by-product of the aging process. As people age, skin cells divide more slowly, and the middle layer of your skin — the dermis — begins to thin. The dermis has a network of elastin and collagen fibers, which offer support and elasticity. As this network loosens and unravels with time, depressions form on your skin’s surface. Aging skin is also less able to retain moisture, less efficient in secreting oil and slower to heal. All of these factors contribute to the development of wrinkles.
Facial muscle contractions
Lines on your forehead, between your eyebrows (frown lines) and jutting from the corners of your eyes (crow's feet) develop because of small muscle contractions. Smiling, frowning, squinting and other habitual facial expressions cause wrinkles to become more prominent. Over time, these expressions coupled with gravity contribute to the formation of wrinkles.
Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can result in premature aging of your skin, also known as photoaging. Exposure to UV light breaks down collagen fibers and leads to the production of abnormal elastin. When ultraviolet light damages skin tissue, your body produces an enzyme called metalloproteinase. This enzyme creates and reforms collagen. During the process, however, some healthy collagen fibers receive damage, resulting in solar elastosis — the disorganized formation of fibers. Wrinkles develop when the rebuilding process occurs over and over, less efficiently each time.
Healthy skin constantly regenerates. Old collagen breaks down and removes itself from your body, which makes room for new collagen. Researchers found that smoking causes a reduction in the production of new collagen. Decreased collagen results in the development of wrinkles.
Pollutants in the air in your environment can cause your body’s collagen to break down as pollution enters your pores. The most common pollutants in your environment that cause wrinkles include:
- Particulate matter: Particulate matter is a mixture of microscopic solids and liquids in the air which includes dirt, dust and smoke.
- Soot: Soot is a carbon-based microscopic, solid material that forms when something burns. Soot occurs in the environment from vehicle exhaust and manufacturing facilities.
- Nitrogen dioxide: Nitrogen dioxide is a gas that exists in the environment. It’s most common near vehicles, industrial manufacturing facilities, construction sites and in some lawn and garden equipment.
Does makeup cause wrinkles?
If you don’t remove makeup, it can clog your pores, which restricts your body’s ability to produce collagen proteins. This could cause premature aging and wrinkles if you never remove your makeup. It’s important to remove makeup at the end of the day with a cleanser to make sure your pores are clean to prevent wrinkles. If you forget to take off your makeup a few times before you go to bed, it’s OK, but habitually leaving makeup on can damage your skin by clogging your pores.
Does caffeine cause wrinkles?
While research is still ongoing to understand more about how caffeine — including coffee — affects your skin, caffeine has some benefits to your skincare routine that are short term. This means that caffeine can temporarily change the appearance of wrinkles, but long-term use of caffeine products doesn’t cure wrinkles. Caffeine is an antioxidant, which can protect your skin from elements that damage the collagen in your skin that causes wrinkles.
Diagnosis and Tests
How are wrinkles diagnosed?
A visual examination of your skin diagnoses wrinkles. You don’t need to visit your healthcare provider to diagnose wrinkles on your skin since they are visibly noticeable. If you want treatment to reverse the effects of wrinkles on your skin, you can talk to your provider or a dermatologist who specializes in skincare.
Management and Treatment
How are wrinkles treated?
Wrinkles are part of your body’s aging process and they don’t need treatment. If you don’t like how wrinkles look on your skin, you can talk to your healthcare provider or a dermatologist about treatment options that may include:
- Anti-wrinkle creams with retinoids or over-the-counter skin care products to improve hydration and texture and support the production of collagen proteins in your body.
- Skin resurfacing techniques like microdermabrasion (sanding away layers of skin), dermabrasion (scraping layers of skin away) and chemical peels (dissolving skin away) to repair prematurely aging skin.
- Laser skin resurfacing to reduce facial wrinkles and skin irregularities caused by sun damage or acne.
- Botulinum toxin type A (Botox®) injection therapy, which is a medicine that blocks the chemical signals that cause muscles to contract and cause wrinkles.
- Fillers made of hyaluronic acid to fill in or lift up folds or deep wrinkles.
- Facelift surgery to remove excess skin and fat from your face and tighten tissue layers to give your skin a youthful look.
Are there side effects of the treatment?
There are potential side effects and complications that could arise with any treatment for wrinkles. Talk to your healthcare provider about the side effects before starting treatment, and discuss any skin care routines, medicines or supplements that you currently use or take to make sure the treatment doesn’t interact with it.
Some of the most common side effects of wrinkle treatment includes:
- An allergic reaction to the medicine.
Do I need multiple treatments to get rid of wrinkles?
Some wrinkle treatments are permanent and other treatments need multiple procedures to maintain your results. Your healthcare provider will discuss options to help you meet your goals for treatment and help you choose the right treatment for your skin.
What foods and drinks help reduce wrinkles?
The nutrients you eat and drink help your skin stay healthy. Keeping your skin healthy prevents wrinkles. Add the following to your well-balanced diet to keep your skin healthy and minimize wrinkles:
- Vitamins A and C.
- Protein (poultry, fish, eggs and lean meats).
While they may be tempting and delicious, avoid eating foods that are high in fat and sugar as they could damage collagen in your skin.
How can I prevent wrinkles?
Your body naturally produces wrinkles as you age. While you can’t prevent wrinkles, you can reduce your risk of getting wrinkles early by:
- Wearing sunscreen daily to prevent sun damage.
- Not using tanning beds.
- Moisturizing your skin daily.
- Washing your face or using a cleanser to remove makeup.
- Not smoking.
- Staying hydrated.
- Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Outlook / Prognosis
What can I expect if I have wrinkles?
Wrinkles are a sign that your body is aging normally. They don’t need treatment, but you can choose to get treatment for wrinkles if you don’t like how they look or if you want to make wrinkles less noticeable. While treatment can temporarily stop signs of wrinkles, there's no way to entirely prevent wrinkles from forming on your skin.
When should I see my healthcare provider?
Visit your healthcare provider if you want to start a wrinkle treatment plan. Your provider will help you reach your goals and find a treatment that is unique for you and your skin needs. If you receive a wrinkle treatment procedure and your skin isn’t healing, becomes infected, or you have severe pain, swelling, bruising or discomfort, contact your provider.
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?
- Will wrinkle treatment interact with any medicines I currently take?
- If I have acne, can I get wrinkle treatment?
- What is the recovery time for my wrinkle treatment?
- How often can I undergo wrinkle treatment?
- How do I improve how much collagen I have in my body?
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the difference between fine lines and wrinkles?
Fine lines are the start of wrinkles and look like small creases on your skin. They're closer to the surface of your skin, whereas wrinkles are deeper into your skin. You’ll notice fine lines on your face where you make repetitive movements, like around your eyes and your mouth when you smile or squint. Fine lines met with age and gravity form wrinkles. Wrinkles are deeper creases or folds within your skin that can form anywhere on your body.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Wrinkles are a sign that your body is aging as it should. If you experience wrinkles early in life, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to improve how your cells produce collagen to keep your skin looking and feeling youthful. While it may be unsettling to see you have wrinkles on your skin, you don’t need to treat wrinkles unless you want to change your appearance.
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