Wrinkle” is a four-letter word, claims one of my patients.
It hasn’t always had such a bad connotation. In the past, wrinkles were often called character lines. They reflected a lifetime of experience and
Today, many people seem to be conflicted about the subject. On one hand,
they resent the importance our culture places on looking youthful. But with the other hand, they’re buying up so-called wrinkle creams by the boatload and organizing Botox parties.
The editors at My Family Doctor believe in embracing the way you look, recognizing that wrinkles are signs of a life lived. At the same time, they realize that you’re being bombarded by advertisements, friendly recommendations and all sorts of make-up-counter claims about wrinkle-related products.
So they’ve asked me to present you with the facts. Do with them what you will.
Where They Come From
Wrinkles are a result of many factors: sun exposure, facial expressions, genetics, environmental pollutants such as smoking, and various lifestyle-related aspects, including sleeping on one side of the face. (Many times, patients tell me they have more pronounced lines on one side of the face than the other. When I ask which side they sleep on, they inevitably realize it’s the one with more wrinkles!)
There are essentially two types of wrinkles: those in the muscles and those
in the skin.
“Dynamic wrinkles” are caused by muscle contraction. When you’re young-
er, you can create wrinkles by doing things like smiling or furrowing your
eyebrows. When you relax your face, the lines go away. Over time, though,
just like a shirt lying on the ground will develop wrinkles, those facial lines tend to become more permanent.
“Static lines” are wrinkles associated with changes in the skin itself as it becomes wiser and more mature.
Damage from things like the sun and cigarette smoke, along with unavoidable genetics and plain old aging, cause a few important wrinkle fighters to diminish over time, including collagen and elastin (proteins that provide strength and flexibility), hyaluronic acid (a gel that helps moisturize your skin) and that thin layer of fat directly beneath your skin. Add gravity into the mix, and you can see why skin really doesn’t have a
choice but to wrinkle and sag.
How to Stop Them
It’s been banged into your head for years: Wear sunscreen! But there are two tricky things about sun exposure. First, 80 percent of a person’s total life time sun exposure occurs by age 18. By the time you’re mature or wise enough to understand the importance of sun protection, you’ve already soaked up the majority of your rays!
Secondly, the sun’s effects may not appear for years, but they could last a
lifetime—and not just in the form of wrinkles. When I see patients with skin
cancer, it’s really the result of a lifetime of sun exposure, not necessarily the sun they got in the previous week or the previous summer season.
This is why it’s so important for parents and grandparents to educate
younger family members on the importance of proper sun protection—and to protect children if they aren’t capable of understanding its importance. (By the way, this also applies to vision. Wearing sun- glasses with 100-percent UVA and UVB protection from childhood on can help prevent many
eye complications later. That said, you still have 2 0 percent of your sun exposure left after age 18, so you’re not off the hook. Sunscreens I recommend for my patients include those made by Vanicream and SkinCeuticals. Many companies also design products especially for children, including Coppertone and Bullfrog.
30 minutes before sun exposure and approximately every hour thereafter (more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming). Use a liberal amount.
“SPF” refers to… the amount of time you can stay in the sun without getting burned. For example, if you could normally stay out for 15 minutes before
burning, an SPF of 10 would allow you to stay out 10 times longer.
“Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”
—Samuel Ullman, “Youth”