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June 30, 2013 at 5:19 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

The Best Advice for Wrinkles

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

I had a look in the mirror the other day, and I noticed the accumulating gray hair that has been a fixture for quite some time. But, as I navigated my face with the razor, another herald of age caught my eye, crow's feet - wrinkles!

Since then, I've been reflecting on society's strong interest in wrinkles. While wrinkles are inevitable, those concerned about them do have options. And while botox, collagen injections, and "erasing creams" are available, I thought I'd put in my two cents worth as a primary care doctor who tends to focus more on prevention. Three major steps can play a large part in minimizing wrinkles over a lifetime.

#1: Don't smoke

After about 10 years of smoking, wrinkles become evident. Smoking tobacco gives a double punch to firm, youthful skin. First, components of the burned, inhaled, and absorbed tobacco break down collagen and elastin fibers. Collagen and elastin are proteins located under the skin that provide structural support and elasticity.  Broken collagen fibers equals baggy, wrinkly skin. There are over 4000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke that influence this process, some of which are radioactive!   

The second way in which smoking affects the skin is via nicotine. Nicotine is a stimulant and the "good" stuff that people seek when smoking. While it may yield a "zip" when inhaled, it causes contraction of arteries. This raises blood pressure through the clamping down of the arteries and affects delivery of blood to tissues. As a result, oxygen and vitamin/nutrient delivery to the skin is negatively impacted, causing malnourished skin and age acceleration. While the damage done to skin via smoking is permanent, quitting can halt any worsening.

#2: Use sunscreen in the sun. Better yet, use it every day

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight penetrates through the skin and damages collagen and elastin. While the direct effects of the radiation damage these proteins, the dehydrating (drying) effects also cause damage. Sunscreen blocks these harmful rays from damaging the skin

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rates a sunscreen's ability to block these rays: The higher the SPF number, the more complete the blockage and thus, the better in preventing wrinkles. Using sunscreen regularly, not just on beach days, may add to the wrinkle prevention. 

A new study out of Australia showed that daily sunscreen use does reduce wrinkles. In the study, 903 adults were asked to either use sunscreen at their own discretion or use it everyday. After four years, the control group had findings as expected, while the every day sunscreen group had no detectable changes. It's clear that the more UV that is blocked, the more youthful the skin in the long run. If you use a daily moisturizer, make sure it has a decent SPF rating, or use a sunscreen as your moisturizer.

#3: Avoid large fluctuations in weight

Weight gain causes a stretching of the skin. In fact, rapid weight gain can leave scars or stretch marks from the rapid stretching. If weight is lost, there is some contraction of the skin. However, beyond this limit of the skin to contract, the skin will remain loose when adipose (fat) tissue beneath the skin is reduced. For this reason, significant weight loss can leave wrinkly or baggy skin. The simple wisdom here is to avoid gaining weight beyond this point where loss would cause wrinkles. Sadly, many individuals are beyond this. My advice when this concern is raised is that it is much healthier to shed the weight, all things considered. To maximize the skin's ability to contract, avoid rapid weight loss - 2-4 pounds per month is ideal.

Wrinkles are a fact of life, to some extent. However, they can, in large part, be prevented. It really boils down to preventing the collagen and elastin fibers beneath the skin from chemical damage, UV radiation damage, and excessive stretching/contraction. 

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1 Comment

  • thanks for the advice! It's too bad when we're young (like in our teens and twenties) we don't think anything of getting a tan - baby oil was our tanning oil of choice when I was a kid! But many years later it catches up to you that's for sure.

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