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Why you get wrinkles (and what to do about it)

We’ve all been there: One day you look in the mirror, and all of a sudden…you’ve got wrinkles. Whether that fateful day was a week ago or a few decades ago, you can probably remember that first trip to the anti-aging aisle of the drug store, hunting for any magic potion that promised to bring back your lost glow.

While aging is inevitable, showing the signs of aging on your face isn’t. The answer doesn’t involve witchcraft or potion-making, just some careful TLC.


Why do we wrinkle and sag?

According to Scientific American, three components in our skin are responsible for keeping us youthful-looking: “collagen (which provides skin firmness), elastin (which supplies skin elasticity and rebound) and glycosaminoglycans or GAGs (which keep the skin hydrated).” Once our teenage years are over, we produce 1% less collagen per year, says Scientific American. Our skin’s ability to keep itself moisturized and elastic also decreases. These changes are all totally normal parts of the aging process, and we can’t really change them.

However, there are plenty of environmental factors, which we do control, that impact our skin. This “premature” or “extrinsic” aging is different from the “intrinsic” aging we all experience. It’s caused by stress, sun exposure, tobacco use, and exposure to pollution, according to research. Interestingly, while your ethnicity doesn’t impact intrinsic aging, it does impact how your skin shows premature aging caused by environmental factors, say researchers. Due to both lifestyle and genetic factors, caucasian women are most likely to experience wrinkles.


What can you do about wrinkles?

Whether you’ve tended to your skin religiously for years or are just now getting the memo about sunscreen, there are steps you can take to minimize the impact of both natural and premature aging. 

  • Proper skin care: While it won’t reverse the effects of environmental aging, your first step should certainly be to prevent further premature aging. Use an SPF 30 sunscreen daily with UVA and UVB protection to prevent sun damage, quit smoking and choose antioxidant-rich moisturizers or creams to combat pollution and prevent dryness. And of course, a spa day to counteract that stress wouldn’t hurt.
  • Over-the-counter topical treatments: A topical over-the-counter treatment isn’t guaranteed to help, according to the Mayo Clinic, but it may be a good place to start for those who are newer to the anti-aging game. The over-the-counter ingredient with the greatest evidence for improving skin aging is retinol. In addition, popular antioxidants to look for include vitamin C, tea extracts, grape seed extracts, and niacinamide. Hydroxy acids (like AHA and BHA) are exfoliants that help reveal smooth, glowing skin, and coenzyme Q10 may help counteract fine wrinkles. If you’d like to go this route, a dermatologist can help you craft a safe, effective combination of treatments.
  • Prescription topical treatments: Prescription retinoids, such as Retin-A and Tazorac, contain the same active ingredient as over the counter retinol, says Mayo Clinic, but in higher concentrations. Unlike over-the-counter products, these treatments are regulated by the FDA and deemed to result in visible improvements to skin.
  • Injections: Before heading to the plastic surgeon, it’s worth noting that there are a whole slew of newer, less invasive treatment options you can get directly from your dermatologist. Most of us are already familiar with Botox (which is both safe and effective). It works by relaxing the muscles under the skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The other common type of injection is soft tissue fillers, which range from drastic results, filling deeper wrinkles and lines, to simple plumping (think: the Kardashians’ lips).
  • Noninvasive treatments: Needles not your thing? Your dermatologist may also offer chemical peels, dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, skin tightening, laser, or other treatments to remove older skin and promote new skin growth.
  • Surgery: We often hear “facelift” as the catch-all term for facial plastic surgery, but there are actually several different options, including a brow lift, forehead lift, and facelift. Your dermatologist can help you determine whether you may be a candidate for one of these treatments, or whether a less invasive option will do.

Whether you decide to go under the knife or just hit up your local CVS, the important thing to keep in mind is that you do have control over your skin’s aging. With SkyMD it’s even easier to get your dermatologist’s advice on which of combination of treatments is right for you.  Just submit a virtual anti-aging consult to your dermatologist from the comfort of your own home.  You may not be able to stop time, but with your dermatologist backing you up, your face can remain youthful and full.

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