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The war on wrinkles

December 13, 2019

No one likes wrinkles. We steam or iron them out of our clothes, put papers neatly in folders to prevent them from wrinkling, and spend approximately $50 billion on products and treatments to remove them from our faces. 

Unfortunately, this part of the aging process is inevitable, and as we grow older, these “character lines” start to take center stage on our appearance, and we begin to search for that magic cream that buys us a few more years of smooth, youthful skin. 

Do these anti-aging potions and lotions really work? Before one more dollar is spent on yet another jar of “miracles,” let’s take a closer look at some non-invasive, no-needle options and see which ones might actually live up to their miraculous claims.

What causes wrinkles in the first place?

Wrinkles come in two forms, and most people have a combination of both. The first type, known as dynamic wrinkles, is caused by muscle movement when you smile, laugh or squint. This type of wrinkling causes those annoying crow’s feet around your eyes and lines on your forehead. Static wrinkles are the second type and are a result of lost elasticity and collagen in your skin or damage caused by sun exposure or smoking. When this type occurs, the skin becomes thinner and drier, and the profile of your face changes due to loss of volume.

There are a few factors that play a role in how fast your skin ages, and whether your face ends up as smooth as a baby’s butt or more like the texture and look of badly maintained shoe leather. In a nutshell, the main ingredients to more wrinkles are sun exposure, smoking, skin type and heredity. 

However, according to some research, other factors might facilitate aging in the skin. A cohort study done in 2009 and published in JAMA Dermatology looked at identical twins and discovered some interesting lifestyle factors that affect how the face ages. According to the researchers, the longer a woman takes birth control pills or hormone-replacement therapy, and the higher the dose, the more likely she is to look younger. Researchers postulate that estrogen helps retain water and collagen, keeping the skin smooth. Also, twins in the study who drank alcohol showed more wrinkles than their non-drinking siblings, and more surprising, divorced women were judged to look an average of 1.7 years older than their married or single twins, possibly because of higher levels of stress.

So, is there anything that works to iron out the lines? Well, that depends on your ultimate goal, but truth be told, no topical cream or serum will deliver the results of a facelift. If you want to moisturize and reduce the severity of lines on the skin, the most promising ingredients to look for in an anti-aging product are as follows, with varying results depending on use and the amount of existing skin damage.

Retinoids are on the top of the list and are the first line of defense dermatologists prescribe. These vitamin A compounds, such as retinol and retinoic acid, work by causing the skin cells to ramp up their turnover rates and slow the loss of collagen. Although it may take six to eight weeks to see results, retinoids are proven to help repair sun-damaged skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) include glycolic, citric and lactic acid, and are helpful in exfoliating dead skin cells to expose newer, less damaged skin. Falling under the same genre of skincare compounds are beta hydroxyl acids and polyhydroxy acids. These have also been shown to be effective in reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

Coenzyme Q10 is a natural antioxidant in the body that some studies have shown helps reduce fine wrinkles around the eyes and protect the skin from sun damage.

Peptides are molecules that help the skin produce collagen, which provides structure and resilience. New formulations of these proteins are emerging, with some literature claiming they can create a Botox-like wrinkle-reducing effect.

Coffeeberry extract is an antioxidant that studies have shown significantly improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles without allergic reactions or skin irritations. Researchers at the Institute of Anti-Aging Research in Virginia and Dermatology Consulting Service in North Carolina saw an improved appearance of dark circles, fine lines and crows’ feet within 45 minutes of applying this extract.  

Finally, according to a paper published in GeroScience on Nov. 25, 2019, the latest to join the wrinkle fight is an immune-suppressing drug called rapamycin. Scientists had subjects apply a topical form of rapamycin or a placebo to the backs of their hands for approximately eight months. Most of the hands that had received rapamycin treatment showed an increase in collagen, a reduction in wrinkles and sagging, as well as improved skin tone.

Although wrinkles can be genetic, they can also be made worse by poor lifestyle choices, some of which cause harm way below the skin’s surface. They say beauty comes from within, so if you are concerned about current or future wrinkles, concentrating on a healthy way of life which includes diet, exercise and forgoing habits like smoking are ways to ensure both your beauty and health, goes way beyond skin deep.

Kimberly Drake can be reached at [email protected]

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