What Causes Wrinkles and Skin Aging?
Anti-aging creams and serums are only needed because wrinkles exist!
If our skin never wrinkled or aged, we’d never have to apply any lotions, creams, or treatments. But because aging is unavoidable, we’ve got to do everything we can in our power to stop it.
Wrinkles are ridges, folds, or creases in the skin that tend to develop as a result of multiple factors:
Facial Expressions – Every time you use a facial muscle, a tiny groove forms beneath the surface of your skin. Over time, that groove becomes deeper with the repeated use of those facial muscles, until the groove becomes visible—also known as a wrinkle. Squinting is the most common facial expression to cause wrinkles, but smiling, laughing, and frowning can also contribute to wrinkling. The simple act of pursing your lips to drink from a straw will contract the muscles around your lips, leading to wrinkles forming around your mouth.
Aging – When you’re younger, your skin can spring back and repair the damage done by facial expressions, smoking, and other factors (see below). However, as you age, your skin loses its elasticity and has a harder time repairing itself. The grooves worn into your skin become permanent thanks to your natural aging.
Your skin also becomes drier and thinner, which means it’s less effectively able to protect itself. Even minor damage can take far longer to repair than it did when you were younger. Grooves and wrinkles become more prominent thanks to this slower repair process.
Smoking – Smoking is one of the worst things you can do if you’re trying to avoid wrinkles! The position of your mouth while you smoke can lead to fine age lines, but that’s just the beginning! The toxins in the cigarette can damage the skin around your mouth, speeding up the wrinkling process. Then there’s the nicotine, which narrows your blood vessels and causes your skin to wrinkle faster, because there aren’t enough nutrients reaching your skin to make the repairs. Definitely not a good idea if you want to have healthy, beautiful skin!
Sleep Loss – When you don’t get enough sleep, you actually alter the pH balance of your skin negatively. This altered pH balance can interfere with your skin cells’ ability to absorb moisture and stay hydrated, leading to dry skin that is thinner and wrinkles more easily. A lack of sleep also means your skin doesn’t have enough time to flush out toxins.
The Sun – The UVA and UVB rays in the sun can destroy the collagen and elastin in your skin, preventing your skin from making repairs. The loss of collagen and elastin can result in visible wrinkling and slower skin repair.
Stress – Chronic stress will increase the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that will actually interfere with your body’s ability to hold and retain moisture. Stress can also damage the elastin and collagen that repair your skin, making it harder for your body to repair damage done, leading to more age lines and wrinkles.
Air Pollution – Environmental toxins and pollution can do a lot of damage to your skin! The free radicals found in pollution can interfere with healthy skin function, speeding up the decay and deterioration of skin cells. This is why people living in big cities tend to have more skin problems and wrinkles than those who live in rural areas with less pollution.
Sugar – When you digest sugar, your body tries to bind the glucose to different proteins (a process called glycation). Those proteins, unfortunately, also include elastin and collagen. The binding process weakens the proteins and makes them less effective at repairing skin damage. The toxic byproducts of glycation can also speed up the aging process, and without collagen and elastin to make repairs, your skin will begin to show damage.
Alcohol – Not only is there a lot of sugar in alcohol (see the above-mentioned damage), but alcohol itself also dehydrates your body and prevents moisture from reaching your skin. Basically, when you drink, you speed up the drying-out process that can contribute to skin damage.
Be warned: wrinkles aren’t the only signs that your skin is aging! You’ll find that your body starts to show its age in a number of ways:
- Rougher skin
- Lesions (like benign tumors) appear on the skin
- Skin becomes more transparent as the epidermis grows thinner
- Skin loses elasticity and hangs slack, the result of elastin loss
- Skin is more easily damaged and bruised, and tends to be more fragile
- Skin appears sunken or skeletal, due to a loss of fat below the surface of the skin
All these things are just your body’s way of telling you that you’re getting older.
When Should You Start Using Anti-Aging Creams?
There comes a time in every man or woman’s life when they need to start using anti-aging creams to reduce wrinkles and stop the aging process. The question is, “when”?
One esthetician recommends starting as young as 21. This is particularly important for skin care products that contain antioxidants. These products provide the antioxidants required to stop free radicals from destroying the skin.
For younger users (20s), acne is very much a concern to be aware of. You will likely need to use anti-aging creams and lotions that are non-comedogenic or that take into account the oiliness/dryness of your skin.
For older users (30s and beyond), acne is far less of a problem, so you can focus on creams and lotions with more active ingredients used to stimulate sebum production to reduce dryness.
Also, be aware that the older you are, the milder the exfoliants and scrubs you should use. While you’re young, your skin can recover more easily from the damage done by these abrasive, chemical treatments. But as you grow older, it will be harder for your skin to repair itself. Milder ingredients are more important as you and your skin age.
What are the Best Anti-Aging Ingredients?
If you’re looking to improve your skin health, here are the ingredients you want in your anti-aging creams, serums, and lotions:
Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that is able to protect your skin from free radical damage. Vitamin C is also critical for the production of both collagen and elastin in your body. It may even be able to speed up healing and reduce sun damage! Look for creams and lotions that contain Vitamin C—they’re some of the most effective for protecting your skin.
Vitamin A – Also called “retinol”, Vitamin A is potentially the most potent antioxidant to protect your skin from damage. It can neutralize the free radical molecules that cause microscopic damage to your skin and lead to the deterioration of skin cells. Free radicals produce unstable oxygen molecules that actually break down the skin cells. Preventing them from damaging your skin is critical for preventing wrinkles.
Hydroxy Acids – There are three types of hydroxy acids used in skin creams: alpha, beta, and poly hydroxy acids. All three of them are potent exfoliants, which means they eliminate the upper layer of dead skin cells and make way for new, healthy, pigment-rich cells. These hydroxy acids are critical for skin re-growth and repair, which makes them excellent to include in skin creams and anti-aging treatments.
Coenzyme Q10 – Also known as CoQ10, this enzyme is vital for protecting your skin from sun damage. It can also help to reduce the fine lines and wrinkles that form around your eyes. A lack of CoQ10 can lead to a lack of collagen and elastin, as your body needs this enzyme in order to produce these skin proteins. It’s a potent antioxidant that will help your body naturally produce more collagen.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid – Alpha-lipoic acid is a chemical naturally produced by the body, but in skincare products it can be highly effective as an antioxidant to eliminate free radicals. It may prove effective at reducing the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles, not to mention giving your skin a healthy glow.
Green Tea Extract – The polyphenols in green tea make for an excellent skincare product! The antioxidants found in green tea extract can reduce sun damage and protect your skin from cancer. Many people use green tea extract in tandem with sunscreen, doubling down on the protection from the sun and UV radiation. The antioxidants may also help to prevent wrinkles, sagging skin, and aging, leading to healthier skin overall.
Note: Some creams will use the extract of black or oolong tea rather than green tea. They are all derived from the same plant, so they provide the same antioxidants.
Caffeine – Caffeine is used to tighten your skin, and you may find that it will reduce the photoaging caused by UV radiation from the sunlight. It’s also a potent antioxidant that can stimulate blood flow to your skin, delivering crucial nutrients where they’re needed most.
Peptides – Peptides are used to improve the healing of wounds, as they provide the amino acids your skin needs to make repairs to damage. They can also reduce the visibility of wrinkles and stretch marks, leading to tighter, healthier skin.
Niacinamide – Niacinamide is an antioxidant with a structure similar to niacin, or Vitamin B3. This antioxidant can reduce water loss in the skin, encouraging better moisture-retention and preventing skin dryness. It may also increase the elasticity of your skin, helping it to “snap back” more easily after microscopic damage caused by facial expressions, age, and environmental damage.
Grape Seed Extract – Grape Seed Extract is rich in antioxidants that will help to fight free radicals, and it has anti-inflammatory properties that will reduce low-grade swelling in the body. It can also speed up recovery from wounds, both visible and microscopic. Basically, it will help your body make repairs faster and encourage better overall skin health.
Glycolic Acid – Glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliant derived from sugar cane, and it’s present in a wide range of foods. It can help to increase the production of both elastin and collagen in your skin, preventing the wrinkles and age lines that become more prominent as you grow older. Plus, it can remove the dead cells from the surface of your skin and smooth out your skin.
Lactic Acid – Lactic acid can help to both exfoliate and lighten the skin, similar to how glycolic acid works. It’s actually recommended for people with very sensitive skin, and it can help to increase the firmness of your skin while actually thickening the layer of dermis and epidermis. It’s an excellent mild ingredient for treating skin aging and will help to hold moisture in your skin.
Resveratrol – Resveratrol, an antioxidant derives from dark purple fruits, is a potent antioxidant that can neutralize the free radicals threatening to cause damage to your skin. It will also improve the appearance of your skin by combatting the wrinkles and fine age lines that become more visible as you grow older.
Tips for a Daily Anti-Aging Regimen
If you want to have healthy skin, anti-aging creams aren’t your only weapon against wrinkles and age lines! Here are a few tips to help you combat aging in your daily habits every day:
Protect Your Skin – The #1 biggest threat to your skin is the sun, followed by environmental toxins and pollutants. The latter can be treated by using a lotion to block out toxins, but to protect your skin from the sun, you need sunscreen! Make sure your daily skincare regimen includes the application of sunscreen—no lower than SPF 30—even if you’re just spending a few minutes in the sun every day.
If you’re going to spend hours in the sun, apply sunscreen regularly. Or, consider wearing protective clothing or hats that will stop the sun from damaging your skin.
Look for skincare products that include a built-in SPF 15 or higher. And make sure they block both UVA and UVB rays (labeled as “broad spectrum”) so your skin is thoroughly protected from the sun.
Quit Smoking, Reduce Drinking – Alcohol dehydrates your skin, so it will speed up the wrinkling process. Try cutting back to no more than 3-4 alcoholic beverages per week—it will do wonders for your skin!
Smoking is a huge no-no for those worried about wrinkles or age lines. Smoking speeds up wrinkle formation, destroys collagen and elastin, and floods your skin with toxins. It’s worth giving up smoking once and for all if you want to have healthy, wrinkle-free skin.
Moisturize – If your skin dries out, it will be more prone to damage. Not only that, but the dry skin cells will make even smaller wrinkles and lines far more visible. Moisturizing lotion won’t stop wrinkles from forming, but they can either conceal them by plumping up the cells or slow the rate of formation by preventing excess dryness.
Avoid Tanning – While golden, sun-kissed skin may look beautiful, it’s also more prone to forming wrinkles and age lines. Tanning—both in natural sunlight and in tanning beds—will speed up skin aging, making your wrinkles appear prematurely. They can even cause age spots, sun lines, and more marks of aging. It’s not worth it!
Be Careful With New Treatments – When trying a new anti-aging cream or lotion, be aware that it might not work with your particular skin type. Start with one at a time, applying it only to specific body parts to test them out. Once you find that there is no negative reaction (itching, burning, stinging, or tingling), you can use the product regularly for 3-6 weeks. Give it time to work—you’ll need at least a month or so before you start seeing visible results. Once you see those results, keep using the product regularly. The more you use it, the healthier your skin will be.
Drink More Water – Your skin needs more moisture in order to stay hydrated, and the easiest source of moisture around is water. Drink at least 2-4 liters of water per day, and you’ll find your skin is much healthier and richer for it.
Consider a Humidifier – If you live in a very dry climate, or a climate where you need air conditioning or heating at night, your skin will likely become very dry. Using a humidifier in your bedroom at night can help to raise humidity levels, infusing your skin with moisture from the outside. You’ll find that using a humidifier can help to plump up your skin in the morning, reducing age lines and wrinkles.
Be Aware of Your Facial Expressions – If you squint, get glasses. If you’re frowning all the time, try to lighten up. Loosen the facial muscles so there is no tension around your mouth and eyes. The contraction of these muscles are the primary contributors to wrinkles. Keep your face relaxed and give yourself regular facial massages to loosen up the muscles and stop those age lines from forming.