When it comes to fighting wrinkles, knowledge is power. From crow’s feet to laugh lines, this natural part of ageing is nothing to smile about for many people. There are several factors that play a part in wrinkle formation. It all boils down to how the skin and body’s functioning changes with age, and how well you have taken care to keep your body in optimum health.
Wrinkles are a frustrating part of life. The causes of wrinkles may seem mystifying, but by better understanding the causes of wrinkles, you can arm yourself with the tools to slow down the ageing process and retain youthful, healthy, and supple skin for as long as possible.
Ageing, paired with environmental factors and certain lifestyle choices, can all lead to impaired skin functioning. In the late 20s when the first signs of wrinkles most often appear, you may begin to wonder if all those questionable diet choices and skipping SPF one too many times have started to catch up to you.
A good place to start in the battle against wrinkles is understanding how and why wrinkles occur. So what exactly causes wrinkles? Let’s breakdown six key areas that will help better explain why those pesky wrinkles develop in the first place.
1.Environmental factors such as pollution, smoking, and diet diminish the health and function of the skin
The environment, along with certain lifestyle choices, are a key factor in how skin ages. In youth, skin is at its most resilient. Healthy, young skin is able to function at peak level. With age, however, the skin is less able to carry out its normal functioning. With each passing year, skin loses its ability to protect itself from environmental and lifestyle stresses.
Suboptimal conditions such as pollution, poor diet, smoking, and stress can exacerbate the ageing process.1. Making healthy choices such as choosing not to smoke, protecting the skin from harsh environmental factors, practicing good skincare, and eating a nutritious diet can all help keep skin in peak condition.
If you have a sweet tooth, it’s important to note that a high-sugar diet isn’t doing your skin any favors. Consuming too much sugar, in particular processed foods or refined sugars, can promote ageing and weaken the skin’s ability to protect itself.
The reason eating too many sweets can weaken the skin is due to how the human body digests sugar. When sugar is consumed, the body begins a process known as glycation. During glycation, sugar molecules from food bind with molecules of protein in the body, creating a potentially harmful compound known as advanced glycation end product, also known as AGEs.11
Cakes, doughnuts, and other sweet treats contain sugar, which can disrupt collagen production in the skin by way of AGEs. Healthy collagen is essential to strong, healthy skin. However, collagen that has been damaged by glycation does not function properly due to decreased flexibility and reduced tissue permeability and cell turnover.3 The loss or degradation of collagen is one of the main reasons that wrinkles form in the first place, so think twice before adding another packet of sugar to your morning coffee or saying yes to that second helping of dessert.
While the body is able to combat normal amounts of AGEs, when too many AGEs are present, the body simply can’t keep up. As AGEs accumulate in the body, it results in oxidative stress, which is bad news for healthy and overall health and wellness. 3
Consuming foods such as vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean protein instead of sugary foods can reduce the need for the body to perform glycation and thus limit the number of AGEs present in the body. Many of these foods have the added benefit of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, all of which can improve skin and general health.
Improving your diet is an excellent place to start when considering what you can do to help your skin stay healthy. Beyond reducing sugar, there are a number of common dietary habits that can help combat wrinkles. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a great starting point. Foods containing Vitamin C, E, A, and other antioxidants like lycopene, lutein, and flavonoids, for example. promote healthy skin function. Tomatoes, carrots, goji berries, and nuts are excellent sources of antioxidants. Drinking plenty of water also helps keep skin in tip-top shape.
Skin needs to be nourished from the inside out. If you haven’t already taken steps to ensure that the skin is well-nourished, remember that it’s better late than never, even if a few wrinkles have begun cropping up. Sure, it is better to have had a healthy lifestyle before any wrinkles begin to appear, but you can always start today to reduce the likelihood of further wrinkles in the future.
2.Diminished collagen and elastin production lead to the loss of structural integrity in our skin
The first sign of wrinkles is a cause for alarm in many adults. It can be worrisome to see that youthful, supple skin is giving way as the skin’s structural integrity weakens with age. Creases in the skin indicate diminished collagen and elastin production, which is a natural part of growing older.
Collagen and elastin are both proteins which are vital for maintaining skin’s structural integrity. While collagen makes up the basic structure of the skin, elastin is a highly elastic protein found in the dermis that gives skin flexibility and bounce. Both are most abundant in youthful skin. Elastin production decreases with age, much like collagen. Production of these two components usually begins to slow in the mid-to-late 20s.9
Sun damage, free radicals, and diet can also decrease collagen and elastin production. For this reason, protecting skin from the sun by wearing SPF is essential. To aid in collagen production, you may consider adding Vitamin C to your diet. It can stimulate collagen production since Vitamin C is a precursor to collagen. Consider adding oranges, spinach, red bell peppers, and other foods that contain high quantitie
s of Vitamin C to your meals. Amino acids also help build collagen. Omega-3 fatty acids from nuts and seafood are also a good choice. Finally, regularly consuming protein like lean meats and fish can increase collagen and elastin production internally. The goal is to maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep skin’s collagen and elastin production at an optimal level for as long as possible.
3. Reduced vascular delivery of nutrients and oxygen result in slow cell regeneration
Skin cells need to regenerate regularly to maintain a healthy appearance. The body is constantly turning over new cells. The uppermost layer of the skin eventually sloughs off, and new skin cells replace them. In order for the body to create new skin cells, however, skin must be well hydrated and must receive adequate vitamins and antioxidants.
Healthy skin also requires oxygen and nutrients to function properly in order to carry out cellular regeneration. The dermis is full of small blood vessels known as capillaries, which deliver this essential nourishment to the skin via red blood cells.5 Without proper nutrition, skin is unable to fight free radicals, reduce oxidative stress, or prevent deterioration of skin cells. Oxygen is necessary to remove toxins from skin cells, so vascular delivery of oxygen is another important factor. Lack of oxygen and proper nutrients result in a weakened dermal structure, leading to visible signs of ageing such as wrinkles, sagging, and dull appearance.
The skin’s appearance indicates internal health at a glance. Vascular delivery of nutrients and oxygen may be limited due to exposure to pollution and poor diet and lifestyle choices, which in turn can result in a weak skin structure. The presence of free radicals from exposure to toxins, poor eating habits, smoking, and other lifestyle choices are detrimental to skin cells and slows cell renewal.2 Blood vessels weaken over time, which causes skin cells to receive less nutrients and oxygen. Skin cell regeneration also slows without adequate delivery of skin essentials. The skin is damaged as a result and may look aged, tired, or saggy.
In conclusion, cells must regenerate regularly to maintain a youthful appearance. Reduced delivery of oxygen and nutrients from the bloodstream to skin cells slows down skin cells’ ability to regenerate, which creates a tired, aged appearance. Adequate delivery of nutrients, oxygen, and antioxidants is essential to maintaining healthy, wrinkle-free skin.
4.Excessive sun exposure leads to free radical damage resulting in elastosis wrinkles
Sunny days are a reason to smile for many people. From beach getaways to relaxing poolside, many people enjoy the sun. Regular sun exposure from walking the dog or commuting to work is often overlooked, but this time exposed to the sun’s rays adds up.
The sun is said to be responsible for up to a whopping 80 percent of skin ageing and wrinkles. 1 Frequent sun exposure leads to photo ageing, or the premature appearance of wrinkles, in addition to sun spots and uneven pigmentation. Prolonged ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure, including the use of tanning beds, degrades skin health by way of free radicals. Free radicals from sun exposure cause damage the skin and result in fine lines and other forms of visible ageing. Sun exposure is known to encourage free radical development.7. Simultaneously, sun damage can decrease antioxidant effectiveness within the body.8 These two factors occurring concurrently create the perfect conditions for wrinkle formation.
So how else does the sun damage the skin exactly? Repeated exposure to UVA light in particular is at the root of the problem. UVA light penetrates deep into the skin and activates receptors that break down collagen.4 Fine lines and wrinkles develop as a result of collagen loss and exposure to free radicals.
The sun can also cause solar elastosis (also known as actinic elastosis) which is an accumulation of damaged elastin in the skin. Solar radiation penetrates deep layers of the skin including the papillary dermis, which is where most elastin and collagen occurs.10 When these deep layers of skin are damaged, the integrity of the skin is compromised. Skin affected by solar elastosis is wrinkled and typically has a thickened, yellowed appearance.
We are exposed to sunlight every day. While moderate exposure to the sun is beneficial, sunbathing and having regularly unprotected skin is not. The lesson here? Make good use of antioxidants to fight sun damage and free radicals. A broad-spectrum daily sunscreen can help reduce the effect of the sun on the skin and keep collagen levels from being affected. Wearing a wide-brim hat can also protect the face from the damaging rays of the sun. Tanning beds are also best avoided.
5. The loss of skin and muscle structure results in newly formed folds as cheeks, eyes, and jawline begin to droop
Ageing is responsible for many changes to both the skin and muscle structure of the face.6 As we age, muscle structure weakens, causing skin to take on a sagging, droopy appearance. As a result, the contours of the face change, especially on the cheeks, eyes, and jawline. Common features of aged skin include sagging, hollows and bags underneath the eyes, flattened cheeks with less volume, and the formation of what is commonly known as a “double chin” caused by the loss of fullness in the skin in the lower part of the face.
Skin structure also changes over time. Youthful facial skin has healthy pads of fat just below the surface, which help give the face a young and full look. Turns out fat can be a good thing after all! Who knew? Fat pads in the face are most prominent in the cheek area, forehead, and around the eyes and mouth. They help keep skin tight and supple.
Unfortunately, fat pads in the face lose volume with age, and gravity certainly doesn’t help matters. As the fat pads lose fullness, the face loses contour and tends to take on a more tired, aged look. The skin is no longer tight and full, so wrinkles form much more easily. The skin gets loose and may sag and droop as a result.
Gravity also doesn’t help matters. It causes the skin’s fat pads to shift downwards, furthering changes in the appearance like a sagging jawline and flattening of the cheeks. In addition, the loss of skin elasticity adds fuel to the fire.
6. Expression lines develop due to constant creasing of certain areas over time
There are 43 muscles in the face. It is truly incredible how many expressions the human face is capable of making with these 43 muscles! We laugh, smile, frown, and express delight and surprise. Facial muscles contract when we speak, laugh, and make all sorts of facial expressions. But as face muscles move, the skin moves along with it. Over time, repeated contraction of facial muscles cause folds and creases in the skin to form and eventually become permanent features.
Raised eyebrows result in furrows across the forehead. The frontalis muscles, which are located in the forehead, are some of the largest and most commonly used muscles of the face. We can raise and lower our eyebrows thanks to this pair of muscles. In doing so, the skin crinkles together and horizontal lines eventually develop across the forehead in what is often the earliest sign of skin ageing.
Another area prone to expression lines is the eye area, which has thin and delicate skin. The most common type of eye wrinkle is known as crow’s feet. Crow’s feet typically begin developing in the mid 20s, and they only worsen with age. As years pass, simple, repetitive eye muscle movements etch wrinkles and fine lines into the skin. Laugh lines, as they are affectionately known, are another unfortunate result of ageing. Nasolabial folds may also develop as a result of repeated facial expression.
Dynamic wrinkles are the often the first sign of skin ageing due to expression. Immediately after making facial expressions, youthful skin easily bounces back to its original position like a spring thanks to elastin. Dynamic wrinkles are temporary. They go away once the face is at rest. However, dynamic wrinkles give way to more permanent static wrinkles over time.
Static wrinkles occur when creases in the skin from facial movement are present even when the face is at rest. Have you ever noticed wrinkles or lines that are present upon waking or when you haven’t been making any facial expressions? Those are static wrinkles, and the reason is repetitive facial expressions, along with the loss of muscle tone and degenerating skin structure that occurs with age. Static wrinkles tend to be more difficult to treat.
A variety of topical treatments and medical procedures exist to address these types of wrinkles. Keeping skin hydrated and limiting facial expressions can help reduce the likelihood of expression lines. A healthy lifestyle and using SPF daily will also help reduce expression lines and keep skin healthy and strong.
There are many factors that influence how skin ages, both internal and external. Wrinkles are a part of life and a natural part of ageing. However, with good skincare, healthy lifestyle choices, and an understanding of how the body changes with age, you can take steps to delay or offset wrinkle formation and enjoy a more youthful appearance.
Sources and References
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- Ganceviciene, R., Liakou, A. I., Theodoridis, A., Markrantonaki, E., & Zouboulis, C. C. (2012, July 1). Skin anti-aging strategies. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583892/
- Gkogkolou, P., & Böhm, M. (2012, July 1). Advanced glycation end products. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583887/
- Hobbs, B. (2015, November 17). What UV light does to skin to cause sunburn, wrinkles and cancer. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2015-11-18/how-uv-light-damages-our-skin/6856742
- How does skin work? (2016). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072439/
- Kaur, M., Garg, R. K., & Singla, S. (2015, June). Analysis of facial soft tissue changes with aging and their effects on facial morphology: A forensic perspective. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2090536X14000501
- Lohan, S. B., Mink, K., Tscherch, K., Ishmaeel, F., Lademann, J., John, S., & Meinke, M. C. (2016, May 25). Free radicals induced by sunlight in different spectral regions – in vivo versus ex vivo study. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26910569
- Poljšak, B., & Dahmane, R. (2011, December 26). Free radicals and extrinsic skin aging. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2012/135206/
- Sherratt, M. J. (2009, December 31). Tissue elasticity and the ageing elastic fibre. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2813052/
- Stocum, D. L. (2012). Repair of skin by fibrosis. Retrieved March 24, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/veterinary-science-and-veterinary-medicine/papillary-dermis
- Van Putte, L., De Schrijver, S., & Moortgat, P. (2016, December 5). The effects of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) on dermal wound healing and scar formation: A systematic review. Retrieved March 25, 2018, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2059513116676828