Ageing is something that, at least for the moment, we all have to experience. One of the most visible signs of ageing, and one that many of us obsessively try to avoid, is the formation of wrinkles. In the first instalment of this series, in which we take a deeper dive into how and why different tissues age, we will explore wrinkling at the cellular and molecular level. What causes wrinkling, and can you actually prevent them?
The skin is composed of three layers: the outer layer or epidermis, which creates a waterproof barrier; the middle layer or dermis, which contains connective tissue, hair follicles and sweat glands; and the inner layer or hypodermis, which contains connective tissue and fat.
It is mainly the middle layer, the dermis, that is concerned with the development of wrinkles. In the dermis, collagen (which forms the main structural component holding cells together) and elastin are what grants the skin most of its firmness and elasticity. Production of these molecules declines with age, causing the skin to lose its elastic properties.
This loss of elasticity, combined with a thinning of the skin due to loss of subcutaneous fat, causes wrinkles to form primarily around ‘expression lines’.
There is no way to stop wrinkles from forming, but there are lifestyle changes that can slow wrinkle formation and skin ageing in general. The most impactful precaution one can take to slow wrinkle formation is to avoid smoking. Smoking reduces blood flow to the skin, which damages collagen fibres in the dermis and accelerates the loss of elasticity.
Excessive exposure to sunlight without protection can also accelerate wrinkle formation. UV light damages DNA, which can kill cells or interfere with cell functions, ultimately accelerating skin ageing.
There are thousands of skin products claiming to prevent or reverse wrinkling, usually by delivering ingredients like peptides or vitamins with the aim of boosting collagen and elastin or reducing oxidative damage. There is evidence that some ingredients and supplements, such as vitamin A and collagen, can reduce skin ageing. However, many anti-wrinkle strategies lack sufficient evidence from which to draw a solid conclusion about their effectiveness. Many products therefore probably overstate their effectiveness.
Skin anti-aging strategies: doi: 10.4161/derm.22804
Ingestion of BioCell Collagen(®), a novel hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract; enhanced blood microcirculation and reduced facial aging signs: doi: 10.2147/CIA.S32836
Improvement of naturally aged skin with vitamin A (retinol): doi: 10.1001/archderm.143.5.606
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