Wrinkles just seem to pop up out of nowhere. Their sudden appearance can leave you thinking about what causes wrinkles and if you can slow down the process. Here’s why they occur and how to do your best to take care of your skin in the process.
What causes wrinkles anyway? Here’s what happens to your skin as you age
Let’s be honest: wrinkles are inevitable. They’re simply a natural part of the aging process, and there’s no way to grow old without earning a few. In fact, as early as age 25, fine lines start to show up on the skin. Over time, the progression and deepening of those fine lines is what causes wrinkles.
So how and why do we go from fine lines to wrinkles? As we grow older, skin cell division slows down. All of the different layers of our skin begin to change and show the collective results of that. For example, changing levels of estrogen and progesterone reduce the amount of hydration in tissues throughout your body. The epidermis holds less moisture. Meanwhile, a middle layer of the skin (the dermis) begins to lose its strength. Made up of collagen and elastin, the dermis is a network of fibers that’s strong when we’re young. But, over time, it weakens and becomes more stretched out, or less elastic. Also, the subcutis layer loses fat that helps keep the skin looking plump and taut.
Are there lifestyle factors that increase aging and cause wrinkles?
Lifestyle factors definitely belong on the list of what causes wrinkles. While some of them can be avoided, many of them are an unavoidable part of living. For example, not a single one of us will be able to escape gravity or go through life without making facial expressions. Yet, both contribute to wrinkles. However, some factors you do have some control over. The sun plays a big role in wrinkling because ultraviolet light increases the number of free radicals in the skin. These free radicals then harm the elastin fibers of the dermis and reduce its strength, compounding the natural aging process. Using quality sun protection throughout the years can help.
Other factors that you have some say in is whether or not you smoke and how much you’re choosing to nourish your body with a wide variety of colorful, whole foods. Also, you can limit your contact with environmental toxins and endocrine-disruptive chemicals. Though they’re everywhere in our modern world–from makeup to mattresses, food, personal care products, deodorant and more–there are areas of your life where a few simple tweaks can greatly reduce your exposure, helping to minimize wrinkles and keep yourself healthy.
I feel like my skin is wrinkling early. Is that true?
Hey, we’re with you. Wondering if you have too many wrinkles too early isn’t the best of feelings. Like we mentioned earlier, you’ll probably start to notice some fine lines in your mid-twenties. In your thirties, it’s perfectly normal to have some deeper wrinkles, like crow’s feet around the eyes, parentheses in the nasolabial folds, and creasing across the forehead. By the time you get to your 40s and 50s, the number of changes you see will increase and feel like it’s happening faster. In these decades, most people notice more changes in their face than ever.
But just because that’s when most people notice changes doesn’t mean that’s what is or will be normal for you. Aging is a highly individual process, and that means highly individual factors, like genetics, are at play. Certain health conditions can also accelerate aging some. Hypothyroidism is a term for an under-active thyroid. Your thyroid hormones have so many important roles in your body. If you don’t have enough of them, the skin becomes dry and wrinkles show up sooner. On the other hand, there are also conditions like eczema that don’t actually cause wrinkles but can make the ones you have look more pronounced.
Are there lifestyle changes that can help with what causes wrinkles?
There are things you can do that help you slow wrinkles down or help them not look so deep. For one, you’ll want to a lot of whole foods, protein (collagen is protein!), and whole grains. Be sure to hydrate and get plenty of essential fatty acids too. (They’re so important to your skin!) Use sun protection when you know you’ll be outdoors. It’s unpopular advice, but limiting the amount of happy hours, nightcaps, and alcohol you drink overall can help lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. If you smoke, talk to your physician for support that can help you quit and stay a non-smoker.
Another good idea is limiting your exposure to environmental toxins. These endocrine-disruptive chemicals can affect your hormones, health, and aging. They exist a lot of places we can’t control: in our car upholstery, mattresses, carpet, many personal care items and beauty products, foods, and other items. But you can drastically limit your exposure to these toxins just by tweaking a few of your purchases and making a few changes in your routine. (Our interview with Dr. Shala Salem is incredible and eliminates the overwhelm about reducing toxic exposure with simple, doable tips.)
What other steps can I take to naturally lessen the look of wrinkles or try to limit how many I get?
Lifestyle changes go a long way toward not encouraging extra wrinkles. If you want to go a step further, we recommend setting up an appointment with an esthetician. They offer treatments that restore the skin’s natural barrier, so you can improve the look and feel of your skin.
Another really great and mild option is facial rejuvenation acupuncture. You can also schedule time to talk with a dermatologist about topical retinoids and other treatments. Retinoids are topical vitamin A. Because our skin cells don’t divide as quickly as when you’re younger, retinoids do a great job of making skin cells turn over faster. They also interfere with collagen breakdown in the dermis, so they work on wrinkles (yay!).
What if I just want to accept my wrinkles?
Whether you want to do something to reduce wrinkles or not, learning to accept them is a positive thing. As hard as it is, a mindset shift is the best way to view your wrinkles as okay or better than okay. While your face might not look the same as when you were in your early 20s, you’re not the same as you were in your early 20s either. You’ve grown, become wiser, learned to love harder, handled your fair share of challenges, and endured–and that’s amazing. If we can look as wrinkles as representing our growth, they begin to look more and more beautiful instead of being something to fear.