Wrinkles: What Can I Do?

Michele Joyce

by Michele Joyce | August 16, 2010 @ 03:00PM

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What Causes Wrinkles?

As we age, our bodies lose fat just below the surface of the skin. This fat loss is the primary cause of wrinkles. Repeated facial expressions, such as squinting, frowning, and smiling, cause folds and deeper creases to form in certain areas. Other factors also accelerate the process – including sun exposure, lack of antioxidants in the diet, weight fluctuations, and other factors.

Fortunately, you don't have to put up with wrinkles. Plastic surgeons and dermatologists offer a wide variety of skin-perfecting treatments. Whether you have just a few, fine surface wrinkles or many deep creases, there are treatments available to effectively reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve your skin.

For information and advice about the most appropriate treatment for you, we recommend that you consult a dermatologist or plastic surgeon with experience in the type of treatment they recommend for you.

Tiny Surface Wrinkles

If you have just a few fine lines or a crepe-paper look in some areas of your face, skin resurfacing treatments may be a great option for you. These treatments can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by removing the outermost layers of skin. Newer, smoother, younger-looking skin will form as the dead surface layers drop off. There are four major types of skin resurfacing methods available today: chemical peels, laser skin resurfacing,dermabrasion, and mircrodermabrasion. Milder alternatives include topical creams that you apply at home. These include cleansers or creams that include hydroxy acids, pH-balanced vitamin C (such as Cellex-C or Citrix cream with 15% vitamin C) , or retinols (such as the prescription cream, Renova or Retin-A, or non-prescription creams like Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream or Estee Lauder's Diminish Retinol Treatment). Ask your dermatologist for his/her recommendation.

Chemical Peels - Chemical peels are used to treat wrinkled skin, some kinds of pre-cancerous growths, uneven pigment, sun damage, and blotchiness.

There are three kinds of chemical peels. The strongest of these, called phenol acid peels, generally produce more impressive results, but they also cause the most discomfort and require the longest recovery time. See "Advanced Stage Wrinkling" below for information on these peels.

The mildest chemical peels are Alphahydroxy peels (AHA) made of glycolic, lactic, and fruit acids. They take about 10 to 15 minutes. Trichloriacetic acid (TCA) treatments are a little stronger. They produce more dramatic results, but with longer healing times.

Laser Skin Resurfacing - This relatively new resurfacing method is a great option for removing fine wrinkles, especially if they are concentrated around the eyes or mouth. In fact, laser resurfacing has become so popular that it has all but replaced an older treatment called dermabrasion, and is often preferred over chemical peels as well. As with these other methods, the laser is used to remove the damaged skin so that younger looking skin can form in its place. Different kinds of lasers may be used to penetrate the skin differently. In some cases, laser treatments offer the additional benefit of tightening and firming the skin as well.

Procedure times vary (from 15 minutes to over an hour) depending on the size of the area to be treated and the severity of the problem. Generally, some swelling and discomfort can be expected. The skin may be pink or red for several weeks but, after about two weeks, this can be covered up with makeup.

Microdermabrasion – Often called a "lunchtime peel," this relatively new, fast, easily tolerated, non-invasive skin resurfacing method is becoming increasingly popular. A small hand-held device, like a dentists polishing instrument, is used to spray crystals on to the skin and then immediately vacuum them back up along with the tiny particles of dead skin that are removed. It is a great option for clearing up wrinkles and improving the overall texture of your skin, but it cannot correct deep wrinkles or loose skin.

Microdermabrasion is also used to address problems with white heads, black heads, and stretch marks. The whole procedure may be completed in just 15 to 30 minutes. And, unlike most other resurfacing treatments, you can immediately apply makeup and return to your daily activities. In most cases, no one will be able to tell that you have had the procedure. The treatment is usually repeated to achieve desired results.

Deeper Lines and Sagging Skin

Young people have a fuller facial appearance due to a larger amount of fat in the face that helps to define facial features. These contours help define the "beautiful" face. Recently, doctors have devised a way to inject fat, collagen, and other materials into the skin to smooth the surface and reestablish more youthful contours. These injections are a great option for correcting deeper lines and wrinkles on the face. They work best with two kinds of wrinkles, those caused by muscle movements (such as frown lines) and those caused by gravity (like sagging skin).

Injectables - There are many different kinds of injectables. Each works differently and carries its own particular risks and benefits. The following are some of the most popular injectables:

  • Alloderm: a material produced from human skin. Compared with other injectables, Alloderm tends to be long-lasting and a small portion may even remain in the skin and continue to improve its appearance permanently.
  • Botox: used to treat wrinkles by partially paralyzing muscles in the face, so that wrinkles cannot form. It is also used to treat wrinkles that have already formed. It is most popularly used in the forehead and around the eyes, but it may also be used in lips, nose, chin, and neck areas.
  • Collagen: a popular injectable material prepared from the connective tissue of the human body. In some cases, patients may use the collagen called autologen, which comes from their own body. While some injectables move around the site of injection, collagen remains in place. It usually lasts between three to five months.
  • Silicone: an infrequently-used injectable. The main advantage of using silicone is that it is not absorbed by the body. However, it tends to stick to the skin and may cause scarring, or in some cases, fibrosis. The material may also cause infection and be rejected by the body.

There are other less frequently used fillers on the market, and new ones are introduced regularly. Ask your doctor what he/she thinks are the best alternatives.

Advanced-stage / Combination Wrinkles

Even in the most advanced stages of wrinkling, there are several solutions that can improve the condition of your skin. If you have a combination of sagging skin, deeper lines, and surface wrinkles, discuss the following options with your plastic surgeon or dermatologist.

  • Fat Injections: may be injected in greater quantities than other injectables, and is therefore a better solution for deep wrinkles. The material is harvested from the patient's own body so that there is little chance of adverse reactions when the material is re-introduced into the body. Although results vary, fat injections are often reabsorbed by the body. Some of the fat may remain permanently.
  • Phenol Chemical Peels: the deepest chemical peel available, Phenol peels are generally quite effective in diminishing advanced wrinkles. The treatment is not repeated, but repetition is not necessary because the results are generally dramatic and long-lasting. Phenol peels on small areas of the face may take between 10 and 15 minutes, but full facial peels take about one or two hours to complete. A drawback is the longer healing period required.
  • Dermabrasion: a less widely used technique to correct deep wrinkles, scars, uneven skin tone, severe sun-damage, and some kinds of pre-cancerous growths. In general, it is not recommended for individuals with dark skin tones. The damaged skin is removed through a controlled surgical scraping using a rotating brush or a burr that contains small diamond particles. The treatment may take between 30 and 60 minutes. Many doctors who once performed dermabrasions are now choosing laser resurfacing or other treatments instead.
  • Facelifts: the most popular plastic surgery procedure in the United States. Facelifts do not alter the texture of the skin, but instead tighten baggy skin, especially in the lower areas of the face (jowls and neck), leaving a more attractive and youthful appearance. Facelifts are often combined with skin resurfacing techniques to improve the overall look of the skin. The scars from this procedure may last a few months (during which time they are often covered with hair), but the results are long-lasting. Some people only have one facelift in a lifetime while others repeat the surgery seven to 15 years after the initial procedure.
  • Forehead Lift (Brow lift): like facelifts, forehead lifts can leave the face looking 10 years younger. Forehead lifts are most popular among people between the ages of 40 and 60. By altering the muscles and tissue that cause wrinkling or baggy skin around the eyes, the procedure can create a more attractive, youthful appearance.

Other tips:

Keep in mind the fact that healthy, younger-looking skin is moist skin. Use a moisturizer daily, preferably while skin is still damp from washing, showering or swimming.

Use a non-comedogenic (that means it doesn't plug pores!) sunscreen to help keep wrinkles from forming.

Consider Botox as a preventative measure.

The information on this website is only intended as an introduction and should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor as a guarantee of the result. The best method of determining your options is to consult qualified surgeons who are able to answer specific questions related to your situation. 

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