What causes wrinkles? A detailed look at the cause of skin wrinkles

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that we age over time.

While some of us are happy to accept ageing skin as a measure of a life lived, most are willing to do something to maintain healthy skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Of course, wrinkling isn’t the only sign of ageing.

As we get older, fine lines, creases, crow’s feet, pigmentation and sunspots can all appear.

In this article, we’re going to focus on what causes wrinkles and ageing of the skin, and how best to prevent it.

While ageing simply cannot be stopped, it is possible to delay the physical signs of it. To better understand how to prevent the signs of ageing, you first need to understand what causes wrinkles. Understanding the scientific aspects of wrinkles will help you to become better equipped to prevent them.

Understanding different layers of skin

Our skin is composed of three different layers: subcutaneous tissue, the dermis and the epidermis. Different conditions can have different impacts on each layer.

1) Epidermis

The epidermis is the outermost layer of skin. It contains an abundance of keratin, a substance that provides water resistance and durability. This layer of skin is where dead skin cells are shed, and where a dark pigment called melanin is found. The primary role of the epidermis is to act as a barrier for the underlying layers of skin. Ultimately, the epidermis is the body’s first line of defence.

2) The dermis exists beneath the epidermis.

It’s a thick layer that is composed of fat, nerves, elastin, blood vessels and collagen. Collagen is a protein that accounts for the majority of connective tissues in the body and makes up around 80% of the dermis. It provides strength, while the elastin in the dermis provides your skin with an elastic quality, allowing it to stretch.

3) Subcutaneous tissue

The deepest layer of skin is known as the subcutaneous layer and is primarily composed of fat. It is responsible for holding internal organs in place and keeping us warm during cool conditions by helping to retain heat.

Structural changes which take place within each of these layers of skin are responsible for causing the visible signs of ageing. There are two distinct processes that can lead to changes that cause wrinkles in the skin: intrinsic and extrinsic ageing.

Intrinsic ageing

Intrinsic ageing, or chronological ageing, happens over the natural span of your lifetime, regardless of lifestyle choices or external factors. As a natural process, it tends to happen upon a pretty predictable timeline, although this can vary from person to person based on things like genetics and heredity.

At approximately age 20, our bodies begin to produce slightly less collagen each year. As collagen fibres become looser over time, the skin starts to become brittle and loses elasticity at a rate of approximately 1% year on year. When the skin moves back and forth with reduced collagen, this can cause a visible wrinkle in the skin to form.

By the time we reach our 30s, moisture transfers between the dermis and epidermis begin to slow down. This causes fat cells to shrink, causing them to appear dull and lifeless. Around this time, the body also begins to produce less oil, known as sebum. This can also cause wrinkles, as it means the texture of the skin becomes much drier than previously. This is particularly common around the eyes, where you may notice crow’s feet.

At approximately age 40, the production of collagen stops and wrinkles begin to form when fibres stiffen and break. The turnover of skin cells also begins to slow, as it becomes more difficult for these cells to regenerate.

By 50, we begin to lose fats which are normally stored within the subcutaneous tissue. This causes the skin to appear thinner. In women, estrogen loss due to menopause can also contribute to this thinning of the skin, and decreasing circulation/a declining number of blood vessels can also affect complexion.

Each of these intrinsic ageing factors causes the skin to appear older. However, the natural ageing process is quite slow, and only really causes wrinkles on a small scale. The majority of wrinkles are actually caused by extrinsic ageing.

What causes wrinkles? Extrinsic ageing explained

Skin health is largely dictated by environmental influences, as well as how we look after ourselves in terms of eating and exercise. Here are the most common extrinsic ageing factors:

1) Repeating facial expressions

When you smile, this causes creases to form at each corner of the mouth. This is because the lips move and pull up into the cheeks. Facial expressions like this can cause wrinkles known as expression lines. While these are perfectly natural, some people turn to treatments or even medically invasive procedures to help prevent expression lines from becoming too prominent.

2) Sun exposure

Most of the changes which occur to the skin are caused by exposure to the sun. It is estimated that some 80% of wrinkles are caused by UV rays that penetrate deep into the dermal layer of the skin, causing elastin and collagen to break down. In addition to wrinkles, the sun also causes rough patches, pigmentation issues and sunspots. In some instances, it can lead to the development of skin cancer. It is therefore recommended that a person wears sunscreen measuring at least SPF15 when exposed to sunlight - especially during the summer months.

3) Smoking

Smoking is incredibly bad for your health - and it’s also incredibly bad for your face, too. The repeated motion of muscle movement each time you take a drag on a cigarette can cause expression lines, and the nicotine within cigarettes causes the blood cells on the outermost layer of the epidermis to narrow. The knock-on effect is that vital nutrients and oxygen cannot be delivered to the skin, which causes it to wrinkle and sag prematurely.

4) Pollution

Free radicals are molecules that cause damage by pulling on electrons from other molecules within the body. This causes alterations to chemical structures and can accelerate the ageing process. Pollutants, such as car emissions, are a major source of exposure to free radicals. To protect against these free radicals, it is a good idea to use skincare products that have antioxidant properties.

5) Food

Free radicals are also found in processed food products. Try to avoid foods rich in refined sugar, and instead stick to a healthy diet that is high in vegetables, fruits and berries, as these are all rich in natural antioxidants which help to reduce free radicals and help care for the skin in a natural way.

How to prevent wrinkles and other signs of ageing

Unfortunately, there is no real-life fountain of youth. However, there are lots of things people can do to prevent or reduce the visible signs of ageing without the need for medical surgery. To keep your complexion looking as radiant and as youthful as possible, try following these simple yet effective steps:

1) Drink lots of water

It is incredibly important to stay hydrated on the inside, as the body is primarily made up of water. Research suggests that we should aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day to help flush out toxins, which explains how it helps to keep skin looking youthful.

2) Get enough sleep

As the body rests, blood flow to the skin is increased. This explains how sleep helps to assist with the regeneration of the skin. You should aim for approximately 8 hours of sleep a night, and should never sleep with makeup on as this could dry out the skin, which in turn contributes towards the formation of wrinkles.

3) Keep your skin hydrated

While hydration is important for the body, it’s also important to counteract the effects of moisture loss that are associated with intrinsic ageing. To do this, use a good quality moisturiser. Remember that there are several different skin types (dry, oily, sensitive and normal, for example) and your moisturiser should match your skin type.

Moisturisation is incredibly important, as dry skin is one of the leading causes of wrinkles. Skin can become dry for all sorts of reasons, like sun exposure, drinking too much coffee or even low humidity in the air. Aim to counteract this with a daily moisturiser.

4) Wear sunscreen when exposed to sunlight

The importance of sunscreen cannot be stressed enough. UV rays are capable of penetrating the skin and causing damage in a matter of minutes, so it is crucial to apply sunscreen before leaving the house or any other situation where you may be exposed to sunlight. Some moisturisers include UV protection as part of their formula, and these will also have the added bonus of hydrating your skin.

Find out more

If you’d like to know more about how to prevent skin damage and lessen the appearance of wrinkles, why not contact Dr Adil Sarwar and the Skin 65 team today to discuss your requirements?

Alternatively, take a look at the skincare products on offer below - we’re certain you’ll find premium quality items designed specifically for your skin type.

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