Cosmetic Procedures and Wrinkles

Last Editorial Review: 7/24/2012

You've heard the saying that wrinkles are the roadmap of your life. Some of us, though, would rather not be reminded of the distance we've traveled. So what can you do? First, understand what causes wrinkles. Then, if you still want to reduce them, explore your treatment options.

Aging and Wrinkles

Wrinkles are a by-product of aging. With age, skin cells divide more slowly, and the skin's inner layer, called the dermis, begins to thin. That starts to undo skin's stretchiness and structure.

Aging skin also starts to lose its ability to hold on to moisture, makes less oil, and is slower to heal. That all contributes to the wrinkling process.

Facial Muscle Contractions

Lines between your eyebrows (frown lines) and lines jutting from the corner of your eyes (crow's-feet) are thought to result from facial muscle contractions. Smiling, frowning, squinting and other habitual facial expressions cause these wrinkles to become more prominent. Over time, those expressions, plus gravity, contribute to the formation of jowls and drooping eyelids.

Sun Damage and Wrinkles

Getting too much sun damages your skin. That leads to wrinkles. To prevent them, stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and get in the habit of wearing sunscreen every day, even in the winter and when it's cloudy.

Smoking and Wrinkles

Smoking curbs your skin's production of collagen, which is a key part of the skin's structure. The downturn in collagen paves the way for wrinkles. That's one more reason to quit smoking, or never to start.

What Are the Treatment Options for Wrinkles?

There are many over-the-counter treatment options for wrinkles, including creams and lotions. Prescription treatments, including the retinoid creams Renova and Retin-A, are also an option.

Removing skin layers is an effective way to regain smoother, more youthful looking skin. Options include:

  • Dermabrasion (scraping layers away) and chemical peels (dissolving skin away) are two traditional methods for improving the skin's surface.
  • Laser skin resurfacing with an ablative laser (such as an erbium or CO2 laser) is another technique that, like dermabrasion and deeper chemical peels, may require some downtime for healing.
  • Other lasers, known as non-ablative lasers, may also help treat wrinkles. These lasers work by heating the dermis and stimulating collagen growth. This process, which leaves the outer layers of skin intact, has no downtime associated with it. However, the results are not as dramatic as the ablative lasers, which actually remove the surface layers of skin.
  • Botox, collagen, and other filler-type injections can also help reduce wrinkles.

If you are considering treatment for your wrinkles, ask your doctor which procedure is right for you.

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American Academy of Dermatology.

Reviewed by Norman Levine, MD on July 24, 2012

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