This natural part of aging that causes creases in the skin is also affected by sun exposure and smoking. Learn about the treatment options at Mayo Clinic.
Wrinkles, a natural part of aging, are most prominent on sun-exposed skin, such as the face, neck, hands and forearms.
Although genetics mainly determine skin structure and texture, sun exposure is a major cause of wrinkles, especially for people with light skin. Pollutants and smoking also contribute to wrinkling.
If your wrinkles bother you, you have more options than ever to help smooth them or make them less visible. Medications, skin-resurfacing techniques, fillers and surgery top the list of effective wrinkle treatments.
Wrinkles, especially around the eyes, mouth and neck, are common with aging as the skin in these areas gets thinner, drier and less elastic.
Wrinkles are the lines and creases that form in your skin. Some wrinkles can become deep crevices or furrows and may be especially noticeable around your eyes, mouth and neck.
If you're concerned about the appearance of your skin, see a dermatologist. He or she can assess your skin and help you create a personalized skin care plan. A dermatologist can also recommend medical wrinkle treatments.
With repeated sun exposure, wrinkles can become very pronounced and deep, especially on the back of the neck.
Wrinkles are caused by a combination of factors — some you can control, others you can't:
Age. As you get older, your skin naturally becomes less elastic and more fragile. Decreased production of natural oils dries your skin and makes it appear more wrinkled.
Fat in the deeper layers of your skin diminishes. This causes loose, saggy skin and more-pronounced lines and crevices.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Ultraviolet radiation, which speeds the natural aging process, is the primary cause of early wrinkling. Exposure to UV light breaks down your skin's connective tissue — collagen and elastin fibers, which lie in the deeper layer of skin (dermis).
Without the supportive connective tissue, your skin loses strength and flexibility. Skin then begins to sag and wrinkle prematurely.
Here are some tips for protecting your skin and minimizing the appearance of wrinkles:
Protect your skin from the sun. Limit the time you spend in the sun, especially midday, and always wear protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and sunglasses. Also, use sunscreen year-round when outdoors.
Choose a skin-care product with a built-in sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or perspiring.
Several wrinkle treatment options are available to help smooth wrinkles or make them less noticeable.
Topical retinoids. Prescription medicine that contains retinoids, which is derived from vitamin A, may reduce fine wrinkles, splotches and roughness when applied to the skin. You may need to use the product for a few weeks or months before you notice improvement. Products include tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A) and tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), and a synthetic version called adapalene is also an option. Retinoids might cause temporary itching, redness, burning or dryness.
Because retinoids can make your skin burn more easily, you'll need to daily use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and wear protective clothing.
Nonprescription wrinkle creams. The effectiveness of anti-wrinkle creams depends in part on the active ingredients. Retinol, antioxidants and some peptides may result in slight to modest improvements in wrinkles. Products that contain alpha hydroxy acids — such as glycolic acid and lactic acid — may help remove the top layer of dead skin and stimulate new skin growth.
With nonprescription wrinkle creams, your results, if any, are limited and usually short-lived because these creams contain less of the active ingredients than do prescription creams.
A variety of procedures are used to smooth out wrinkles. Some studies indicate that a combination of treatments may yield the most satisfying results. Talk with your doctor about what's important to you and which approach would best meet your needs and expectations as far as recovery time and results.
Laser resurfacing. In ablative (wounding) laser resurfacing, a laser beam destroys the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and heats the underlying skin (dermis). This stimulates the growth of new collagen fibers. As the wound heals, smoother, tighter skin forms. Laser resurfacing can't eliminate excessive or sagging skin.
Laser resurfacing may be done as an outpatient procedure, usually with a local anesthetic. You may be fully sedated for extensive resurfacing. It can take several months to fully heal from ablative laser resurfacing. A newer method using fractional lasers has a shorter recovery time. Risks include scarring and lightening or darkening of skin color.
A technique called nonablative laser fractional resurfacing has a shorter healing time and fewer risks than does the ablative technique. Nonablative lasers are better suited to people with moderate wrinkles because results are subtle. This treatment needs to be repeated more often than does ablative treatment. This method also can be done with a fractional laser.
Dermabrasion. Dermabrasion sands down the surface layer of skin with a rapidly rotating brush. New skin grows in its place. You may need to undergo the procedure more than once.
Possible side effects include temporary redness, scabbing and swelling. It may take several months for pinkness to fade and for you to see results.
Microdermabrasion. Similar to dermabrasion, this technique removes only a fine layer of skin. You'll need a series of treatments over months to produce modest, temporary results. If you have rosacea or tiny red veins on your face, this technique could make the condition worse.
You may notice a slight redness or stinging sensation on the treated areas.
Botulinum toxin type A (Botox). When injected in small doses into specific muscles, Botox keeps the muscles from contracting. When the muscles can't tighten, the skin appears smoother and less wrinkled.
Botox works well on frown lines between the eyebrows and across the forehead and on crow's-feet at the eye corners. It takes one to three days to see results. The effect typically lasts a few months. Repeat injections are needed to maintain results.
Face-lift. The face-lift procedure involves tightening the underlying muscle and tissues. It may be done in a hospital or an outpatient surgical facility, with a local anesthetic, sedation or general anesthesia. Healing times can be lengthy after a face-lift. Bruising and swelling are usually evident for several weeks after surgery.
Face-lift results are not permanent. You may choose to undergo another face-lift several years later.
Keep in mind that results vary depending on the location and depth of your wrinkles. Nothing stops the aging process of skin, so you'll likely need repeated treatments to maintain benefits.
These procedures aren't usually covered by insurance. Also, any of the procedures can have side effects, so be sure to discuss them with your doctor. Make sure your dermatologist or plastic surgeon is specially trained and experienced in the technique you're considering.
Many over-the-counter wrinkle creams and lotions promise to reduce wrinkles and prevent or reverse damage caused by the sun. But there is limited evidence from clinical studies that these products are likely to make a noticeable difference in your skin.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies these creams and lotions as cosmetics, which are defined as having no medical value. So the FDA regulates them less strictly than it does drugs. This means that products don't need to undergo rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness before approval to go on the market.
Because the FDA doesn't evaluate cosmetic products for effectiveness, there's no guarantee that any over-the-counter product will reduce your wrinkles.
When you make an appointment with a dermatologist, it's a good idea to prepare for your appointment by making a list of questions you want your doctor to answer. For wrinkles, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including: