Be an Advocate for Your Skin
Wrinkles are a natural part of aging. From sun exposure to changes in our skin cells, they’re difficult to avoid entirely. And while it’s perfectly normal to develop wrinkles, there are ways to reduce their appearance.
Why do we get wrinkles?
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light is the primary cause of early wrinkling. In fact, most of the damage is well underway by the age of 20. Any time you’re exposed to UV light, it starts to break down the collagen and elastin fibers in your connective skin tissue, which are in the deeper layer of your skin. And without fully functioning connective skin tissue, your skin starts to lose its ability to stay strong and flexible.
Smoking can also speed up the aging process of your skin because of its impact on blood flow. When you smoke a cigarette, the nicotine narrows the blood vessels that lie closest to the outer layer of your skin. And the weaker your blood flow is, the less oxygen and nutrients your skin gets.
While we can control things like limiting our exposure to sunlight and not smoking, there are some causes of wrinkles we cannot control:
- Loss of elasticity. The deeper layer of our skin loosens and unravels over time, making it harder for the skin to stretch and return to its original position. The result is sagging and furrowed (wrinkled) skin.
- Facial expressions. Over the course of our lives, we repeat our facial expressions — a lot. Frowning, smiling, squinting, laughing … these all use facial muscles. And when these muscles contract over and over again, lines develop in our skin.
- Gravity. You can thank gravity over time for sagging and drooping skin. While this is not quite the same as wrinkles, you can expect to see gravity’s effect on your skin, too.
How can we prevent wrinkles?
People our age are going to see at least a few wrinkles — we are not immune. But there are steps we can take to reduce their appearance. It all comes down to a healthy lifestyle and protecting ourselves from sun damage.
- Wear sunscreen. This is so important. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, use at least 30 SPF and broad spectrum so both types of UV rays are covered (UVA and UVB), and reapply sunscreen throughout the day (at least every 2 hours). Seeking shade during 10am-2pm and wearing protective clothing are also recommended. As little as five minutes in the sun can cause damage.
- Eat healthy. Foods that are rich in antioxidants (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils) can limit our body’s production of oxidants (free radicals), which damage our body’s cells.
- Exercise. Healthy skin requires oxygen. Exercising every day keeps our blood flowing — giving our skin the proper exposure to oxygen.
- Don’t smoke. As mentioned earlier, smoking is a quick way to damage your skin. You also want to avoid exposure to constant secondhand smoke.
Remember, wrinkles are not entirely preventable. But you can take these steps to reduce the amount you may get and provide overall better protection for your skin.