In a positive light, facial wrinkles represent a life lived — but that fact alone might not stop you from wanting to lessen their appearance. Why do wrinkles occur? Long story short: It’s a mix of intrinsic aging (the natural aging process regardless of outside influences) and extrinsic aging (external forces, such as sun and environmental damage).
Though we can’t control intrinsic aging (not yet, anyway), extrinsic aging can be mollified through lifestyle changes, a proactive skin care regimen and dermatological treatment options, all of which can help to slow wrinkle formation. Here, a breakdown of what causes lines to form on your face and how to minimize what exists and prevent what’s next.
The Problem: Expression Wrinkles
When we talk about that “life lived,” we should also look at a life “expressed.” Yes, for every facial expression we’ve made over the years, tiny lines have solidified on our face, a reminder of our happiness, sadness, stress and more. “Expression wrinkles are caused by repetitive motion from — you guessed it — expressing yourself!
“Think: crow’s feet around the eyes, laugh lines around the mouth, as well as forehead lines from furrowing your brow,” says Dr. Michele J. Farber of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. She points to Botox as the most effective fix for these types of wrinkles, but explains that adding creams containing retinol or peptides to your skin care routine is a smart alternative for those who aren’t ready for the needle. (More on that below.)
For nasolabial folds — those deeper smile lines that run from the nose to the corners of the mouth — Farber suggests fillers, such as Juvederm. “As with all types of wrinkles, daily sunscreen and a hydrating moisturizer will help minimize the appearance and is crucial for prevention,” she adds.
The Problem: Elastotic Wrinkles
If you baked in the sun as a teen or even skipped a hat here and there, you may have elastotic wrinkles. These wrinkles occur from cumulative sun damage, which causes a loss in collagen, and are mainly seen on the cheeks, upper lip, and the base of the neck. “It’s best to start combatting these early with sunscreen, but if you already have some, it’s not too late to step up your skin care routine,” Farber says.
Choose a moisturizer with sunscreen, and apply it faithfully. “Ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides can help to plump the appearance of fine lines, and adding a prescription-strength retinol can help reverse some of the damage as well,” she says. If you want to go a step further, invest in laser resurfacing, which works to stimulate collagen production, and that in turn lessens the appearance of lines.
The Problem: Gravitational Wrinkles
Gravitational wrinkles — found mainly around the mouth, cheeks, and jawline — are the result of gravity’s effects on skin as it loses collagen, fat, and elastic tissue due to aging. Depending on their severity, gravitational wrinkles can be treated in various ways.
“Finer wrinkles can be improved with a healthy skin care routine, but cosmetic procedures can produce more dramatic improvement,” says Farber. “Fillers can help lift the cheeks and fill wrinkles around the mouth, and skin-tightening lasers like Ultherapy can also be useful, depending on the wrinkle location.”
If wrinkles are more severe, she points to a face lift to work out the kinks, noting, “You should choose the best option with your doctor based on your personal goals.”
The Problem: Compression Wrinkles
Are you a stomach or side sleeper? You may be deepening your creases as you enjoy your beauty sleep. “Compression wrinkles are from mechanical stretching of the skin over time, and they become more visible because of loss of elastic tissue with age,” says Farber. Mainly seen on the face, neck, and chest, these wrinkles can be treated with retinol creams, and you might want to consider sleeping on your back to halt further compression. If the creases persist, Farber suggests in-office treatments like Botox or fillers to help relax and fluff out the lines.
The Problem: Atrophic Wrinkles
“Atrophic wrinkles are most prominent over the upper brow, due to thinning of the skin over time and decreased collagen,” Farber explains. That furrow between your brows? They’re atrophic wrinkles that are particularly sensitive to sun exposure. To treat deep-set “elevens,” as they are often called, you’ll need Botox and laser resurfacing, says Farber.
The Ultimate Solution: Prevention
You may believe your wrinkles are too far gone, but Farber assures us, “It’s never too late for wrinkle prevention.”
Her advice: Integrate sunscreen into your daily routine and never look back. “The sun is a huge offender, as it directly causes damage to collagen,” she says. Then, make time in your schedule for stress reduction, adequate sleep, and exercise, which Dr. Farber says are important for skin health. “Your cumulative stress will wear on your face; it definitely contributes to wrinkles!”
Try These: No-Needle Alternatives
“While in-office procedures such as Botox and skin-resurfacing lasers will be most effective, taking care of your skin starts at home,” says Farber. Here, she offers three over-the-counter alternatives for wrinkle relief.
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream: “Adding in a retinol product is one of the best over-the-counter options to help stimulate collagen, smooth the skin’s surface, and improve the appearance of wrinkles. This cream is an effective option for fine wrinkles; just be sure to pair it with a good moisturizer and sunscreen.”
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Vitamin C Serum: “Creams or serums containing antioxidants, such as vitamin C and E, help reduce environmental damage and stimulate collagen production. This serum helps neutralize environmental free radicals.”
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream: “Moisturizers containing hyaluronic acids and ceramides can reduce the appearance of fine lines. One of my favorites is CeraVe, as it’s hydrating but won’t clog pores.”