Understanding the Wrinkle Cycle
Aging is a natural part of the life cycle, yet you still might be caught off the first time you see the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles — and you’re not alone! The good news is there is something you can do about it, but first it’s important to understand how and why the skin changes with age so you can give your skin the TLC it needs.
Wrinkles are a result of aging skin, heredity, facial expressions, and how we take care of ourselves. These factors are categorized as intrinsic or extrinsic aging. In other words, the inevitable aging process (intrinsic) and the changes that occur due to lifestyle factors (extrinsic). Don’t panic. While you can’t completely prevent or erase existing wrinkles, there are some things you can do to slow down the clock a bit while still looking and feeling like your gorgeous self. Let’s take a closer look.
Between fluctuating hormones, the deteriorating effects of free radicals, and the body’s inability to completely repair skin damage, intrinsic aging is a natural, genetically determined process. Signs include loss of elasticity, thinning of the skin, uneven/dull skin tone, roughness, and (of course) the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Take a deep breath; knowledge is power. By learning more about intrinsic aging factors, you’ll have a better idea of how to control them.
- Glycation: Research shows that glycation is one of the number one causes of aging. Glycation is a chemical reaction that’s caused by eating too much sugar, as well as oxidative stress and UV radiation.
Oxidative Stress: Oxidative stress occurs when the body cannot neutralize harmful free radicals (think sun exposure, pollution, cigarette smoke, ozone, industrial chemicals) through the production of antioxidants due to an imbalance. Oxidative stress is a significant wrinkle contributor in both an intrinsic and extrinsic capacity, but luckily, there are measures you can take to combat it — keep on reading!
- Genetics: Scientists suggest that a specific set of genes inherited by mom influences our aging process. However, keep in mind that wrinkles pop up due to various intrinsic and extrinsic reasons, so don’t let genetics monopolize your mind. You also need to adopt proper skincare and lifestyle habits (more on that in a sec.)
Look, nobody’s perfect, however, some folks overlook the lifestyle factors that contribute to the extrinsic aging process because many are habit-based. Some are easy to change, and some are more difficult because, well, we’re only human.
- The Sun: Love catching a few rays in the summertime? Forgoing SPF to get some color? While there’s nothing wrong with getting a dose of vitamin D and enjoying your beach vacation, the sun is one of your skin’s worst enemies. UV rays damage vital skin cells, which in turn makes them less productive. The more time you spend in the sun, the more you’re putting your skin at risk for photo-aging, aka premature aging. Eventually, the skin won’t bounce back, and that’s when wrinkles, sun spots, and collagen loss become more prominent. Studies indicate that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light accounts for around 90% of all symptoms of skin injury.
Smoking: Lighting up sparks chemical changes in the body that expedite the aging process.
The nicotine in cigarettes narrows the blood vessels in the outermost layers of your skin, which in turn impairs blood flow to your skin. With less blood flow, your skin doesn't get as much oxygen and important nutrients, such as vitamin A, which leads to a sallow complexion. Did you know that several of the 4,000-plus chemicals in tobacco smoke also damage collagen and elastin, resulting in premature wrinkles and sagging skin?
- Facial Expressions: This is a tricky one because we all have some form of expression when we speak, smile, laugh, cry. These facial movements can become a person’s signature trademark,. After all, there are worse things in the world than laugh or smile lines.
- How You Sleep: Just as laugh and smoking lines, sleep lines also come to the surface over time — especially if you snooze on your side or stomach. While you have to feel naturally comfortable when you sleep, just know that this repeated pressure against the collagen causes it to break down, eventually leading to visible fine lines and wrinkles.
- Diet: A diet rich in sugar and processed carbs and meats (think pasta, processed lunch meat, white bread, chips, and baked goods) can damage skin collagen, which in turn causes loss of elasticity and then wrinkles. Alcohol is another skin killer because it causes puffiness and redness. As with smoking, booze zaps the skin of vitamin A, which is essential for new cell growth and the production of collagen. This is not to say you can’t enjoy a bowl of linguini, a slice of cake, and some cocktails on occasion. Everything in moderation.
- The Environment: Research shows environmental stressors (physical, chemical, and biological) combined with internal factors cause the skin to age. Like the sun, pollution, smoke, smog, and exhaust can destroy otherwise healthy skin cells. Even fluorescent lights, and computer screens can have a negative effect.
How to Prevent Aging Skin
If you haven’t been making good choices, don’t fret as it’s never too late to make better ones for the health of your skin.
- Wear SPF: A sunscreen with an SPF of a minimum of 30 that protects against UVA and UVB rays should be worn every day — even in the winter and on cloudy days. Don’t forget your ears, neck, and hands. Ideally, it should be reapplied every few hours. If you wear makeup, consider mineral powders and sunscreens to satisfy this requirement. Just look at sunscreen as a regular part of your skincare routine and before you know it, you’ll slather it on without even thinking about it.
- Wear Antioxidant Protection: Remember our little chat about the environment and oxidative stress? Here’s what you can do to combat the aging effects of both. Use a serum with antioxidant protection to help neutralize skin-damaging free radicals, correct the signs of age, brighten and tone, and help the skin repair itself. Look for ingredients like vitamin C, flavonoids, niacinamide, coenzyme Q10, resveratrol, and vitamin E. Retinoids are another top choice. What are retinoids? These topical vitamin-A based drugs reduce fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen production. They also get bonus points for fading skin spots and improving skin texture.
- Stop Smoking: Even if you’ve been a chain smoker for years, quitting will have noticeable improvements on your skin for the years to come. Don’t be embarrassed to reach out for help.
- Eat a Healthy Diet: Research suggests a healthy diet can promote healthy skin — after all, beauty comes from within. Aim to eat plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats (avocado toast, anyone?) and again, drink in moderation. As mentioned, glycation can occur when ingesting too much sugar. This doesn’t have to just be candy or sugary drinks. Start paying better attention to nutrition labels or better yet, stick to clean, whole foods. Motivate yourself by taking a cooking class or tuning into YouTube for inspiration.
- Change the Way You Sleep: Make an effort to sleep on your back. If this is a challenge, invest in a back pillow or bolster to put under your knees to make the position more comfortable. Worst case scenario, there are special pillowcases that prevent wrinkle formation if you can’t get comfortable on your back.
- Go Beyond a Basic Skincare Routine: There are several things you can do to soften existing wrinkles while slowing down the formation of new ones that don’t involve an injectable. For example, SiO Beauty silicone face patches have noticeable results after just one use, and when worn regularly, you can actually prevent future wrinkles from forming — even those stubborn ones that surface from sleeping on your stomach or side, or from having an overly expressive face. You can also consider chemical peels, facial massage, retinoids, laser resurfacing, cryotherapy (aka “Frotox), acupuncture, and microneedling, but chat with a skin pro first.
- Hydrate and Moisturize: Of course, one of the most basic things you can do to is to hydrate and moisturize so that you prevent moisture loss and keep your skin’s lipid barrier intact. When you cover these two bases, fine lines and wrinkles are less prominent — and who couldn’t get on board with that?