What causes wrinkles?
There are many reasons why skin wrinkles. The most common are:
Wrinkles are a by-product of the aging process. With age, skin cells divide more slowly, and the inner layer, called the dermis, begins to thin. The network of elastin (the protein that causes skin to stretch) and collagen fibers (the major structural proteins in the skin), which support the outer layer, loosen and unravel, causing depressions on the surface. With aging, skin also loses its elasticity, is less able to retain moisture, oil-secreting glands are less efficient and the skin is slower to heal. All of these contribute to the development of wrinkles.
Facial muscle contractions
Lines on the forehead, between the eyebrows (frown lines), and lines jutting from the corner of the eyes (crow's feet) are believed to develop because of small muscle contractions. Smiling, frowning, squinting and other habitual facial expressions cause these wrinkles to become more prominent. Over time, the expressions coupled with gravity contribute to the formation of jowls and drooping eyelids.
Excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation (too much sun) can result in premature aging of the skin. Premature aging of the skin is called photoaging. The ultraviolet sunrays that cause photoaging damage collagen fibers and cause the excessive production of abnormal elastin. When ultraviolet light damages skin tissue, an enzyme called metalloproteinase is produced. This enzyme creates and reforms collagen. During the process, however, some healthy collagen fibers are damaged, resulting in a disorganized formation of fibers called solar elastosis. Wrinkles develop when the rebuilding process occurs over and over, less efficiently each time.
Healthy skin constantly regenerates. While old collagen is broken down and removed, new collagen is produced. Researchers have found that smoke causes a marked reduction in the production of new collagen. Decreased collagen results in the development of wrinkles.
What are the treatment options for wrinkles?
There are numerous over-the-counter treatment options for wrinkles. Removing skin layers to reduce wrinkles or irregular depressions is an effective way to regain smoother, more youthful looking skin. Dermabrasion (sanding layers away) and chemical peels (dissolving skin away) are two of the traditional methods used in skin resurfacing. Laser skin resurfacing with an erbium or carbon dioxide laser rejuvenates skin by stimulating the body’s repair mechanisms. Other nonablative laser procedures work by heating the skin to stimulate the production of collagen. Replacing loss of subcutaneous fat or bone volume with fillers and softening muscle contractions with toxin injections are the latest techniques developed to repair prematurely aging skin and wrinkles.
If you are considering treatment for your wrinkles, ask your doctor which procedure is right for you. There is no replacement for your doctor's professional advice. Each person has his or her own individual needs; similarly, each procedure fulfills its own specific need.
- National Institute on Aging. Health & Aging: Age Page: Skin Care and Aging Accessed 4/22/2015.
- American Academy of Dermatology. What causes our skin to age? Accessed 4/22/2015.
- Walsh J, McNamara M. Chapter e6. Women’s Health Issues. In: McPhee SJ, Papadakis MA, Rabow MW, eds. CURRENT Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2012. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2012.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 4/20/2015...#10984