Wrinkle treatments

About wrinkles

As you get older, your facial muscles slacken and your skin becomes less elastic. This creates folds and lines called wrinkles. They are found where your facial muscles move and you can get frown lines, forehead lines and squint lines at the corners of your eyes (crow's feet).

Causes of wrinkles

Wrinkles are part of the natural ageing process. However, environmental factors, such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and smoking, can dry your skin and make wrinkles appear at a younger age. An unhealthy diet, and possibly stress, may also cause wrinkles to appear at a younger age.

Sun damage

Wrinkles usually appear on areas of your skin that are most exposed to the sun, such as your face, neck, backs of your hands and upper arms. This is because UV radiation from the sun damages the DNA in your skin cells, which causes your skin to age. Some sunlight is important because your skin uses it to produce vitamin D, which helps to build and maintain strong bones. However, too much sun is harmful and people who spend a lot of time in the sun, particularly without protecting their skin, may develop fine lines and wrinkles at an earlier age.

Smoking

Cigarette smoke affects your skin in several ways. It dries your skin out and it constricts your blood vessels. This reduces the supply of oxygen and vital nutrients to your skin. Research suggests that smoking may also cause an increase in the production of an enzyme that breaks down collagen – the part of your skin that keeps it looking firm. As a result, people who smoke are more likely to have facial wrinkles at a younger age. Puckering up your lips when you smoke also causes lines to form around your mouth and eyes.

Treatment of wrinkles

You can help to delay getting wrinkles by protecting your skin in the sun, not smoking, looking after your health and taking good care of your skin. Eventually, the natural ageing process, plus the effects of environmental factors, will lead to facial lines and wrinkles.

Wrinkle treatments can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and make your skin look smoother and more youthful. Some of the most common wrinkle treatments are discussed here.

Skin creams and gels

There are many creams that claim to reduce the appearance of fine lines but they can’t remove wrinkles and most haven't been scientifically proven to work. There is evidence that fine lines and some of the milder signs of ageing skin may be improved with over-the-counter or prescribed skin creams and gels that contain retinoids (a form of vitamin A).

These creams help to tighten your skin so fine lines are less visible. However, they do have side-effects. The creams can irritate your skin and make it more prone to burning in the sun, for example. Read the patient information leaflet that comes with your cream or gel and if you have any questions, ask your GP or pharmacist for advice.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels that contain glycolic acid or lactic acid aim to improve and smooth the texture of the skin on your face. They remove the damaged outer layers of your skin, and may help reduce lines and fine wrinkles.

Laser facial resurfacing

Depending on your skin type, laser facial resurfacing can be very effective at reducing mild scarring, or the effects of sun damage, including lines and fine wrinkles.

A laser (a beam of high-energy light) is used to remove the outer layers of the skin on your face and stimulate the growth of new collagen fibres. As the area heals, new skin forms that is softer and less wrinkled or scarred.

Botulinum toxin injections

Botulinum toxin injections can reduce facial expression lines and wrinkles such as frown lines, forehead lines and squint lines at the corners of your eyes.

Botulinum toxin is a protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. If you have botulinum toxin treatment, the protein will be injected into specific muscles in your face. It will relax these muscles and reduce their effect on lines and wrinkles. Untreated areas of your face will continue to move as normal and you will be able to laugh, smile and frown, but with less wrinkling of your skin in the treated areas. It may take three to seven days for the treatment to take effect and the full results of the treatment will show after around two to three weeks and should last for three to six months. You will need to have repeat injections if you want to maintain the effects.

Botulinum toxin injections aren’t suitable if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding or have a neurological disorder, such as myasthenia gravis.

Dermal filler injections

Dermal fillers plump up your skin and make it appear fuller and smoother. Dermal fillers are often used to reduce lines around your chin and your lips, and to enhance your lip shape. There are a range of dermal fillers available and they can be permanent or temporary. Your clinician will usually recommend using a non-permanent dermal filler made from a tissue-friendly gel that closely resembles a naturally occurring acid in your body. He or she will inject the dermal filler into the affected area with a tiny needle.

The effect of treatment with non-permanent dermal fillers can last from three to 12 months, depending on the area you have treated. You will need to have repeat treatments if you want the effects to last.

Cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery can help to reduce deep wrinkles and sagging skin. Facelift surgery involves lifting up your facial skin and tissues and/or the underlying muscle, to make your face tighter and smoother. The operation can be done on your whole face (a full facelift) or on your brow area (brow lift), lower face or neck only.

Your face will continue to age after you have a facelift. The best results are achieved if you maintain a stable body weight, have skin with good levels of elasticity and have a strong bone structure. In older people, or people who spend a lot of time in the sun or smoke, the results don't last as long because of the natural loss of skin elasticity.

Deciding on treatment for wrinkles

It's important not to rush into a decision to have cosmetic treatment. It's sensible to discuss your options with your GP or a doctor who is suitably qualified. Before deciding to have treatment, discuss what you're hoping to gain from the treatment and the result you can realistically expect. It's important to note the below.

  • Botulinum toxin injections won't improve deep wrinkles caused by ageing and sun damage.
  • Dermal fillers can't correct sagging skin or deep wrinkles.
  • Laser facial resurfacing can cause changes in your skin pigment (colour), so the treatment may not be suitable if you have a darker complexion.
  • Cosmetic surgery is only a suitable option if you want to remove sagging skin, extra fat and deep wrinkles.

Many different places, such as clinics and beauty therapists, offer wrinkle treatments. However, some of the treatments available aren't regulated, so it’s important to gather as much information as you can before you start your treatment. Find out as much as you can about any treatment you're thinking of having and what kind of training and experience the person who will give the treatment has. Speak to your GP, who may be able to recommend a suitably qualified cosmetic surgeon or a health professional trained in facial aesthetic treatments. It's important to remember the following.

  • Botulinum toxin injections are prescription-only and must be prescribed by a doctor or dentist.
  • Clinics that offer laser treatment must be registered with the Care Quality Commission. Always ask for proof of registration before you have any treatment.

Prevention of wrinkles

You can help to delay getting wrinkles by protecting your skin in the sun, not smoking, looking after your health and taking good care of your skin. But, eventually, the natural ageing process, plus the effects of environmental factors, will lead to facial lines and wrinkles.

How can I prevent wrinkles?

Answer

Protecting your skin from the sun, not smoking, looking after your health and taking good care of your skin may help to delay the appearance of wrinkles.

Explanation

Wrinkles are part of the natural ageing process. However, environmental factors, such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, pollution and smoking, can dry your skin and make wrinkles appear at a younger age.

There are a number of things you can do to protect your skin and delay signs of ageing.

  • Protect your skin from UV radiation. Some sunlight is important because your skin uses it to produce vitamin D. But too much sun is harmful and can damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. If you’re going to be out in the sun for long periods of time, use sunscreen and seek shady areas. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to stop you from squinting in the sunlight and don't use sunbeds.
  • Give up smoking and spend less time in smoky atmospheres. Cigarette smoke dries your skin and chemicals you inhale when you smoke constrict your blood vessels and reduce the supply of oxygen and vital nutrients to your skin. Scientists also believe that cigarette smoke increases the production of an enzyme that breaks down collagen – the part of your skin that keeps it looking firm.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Your body needs a good supply of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Vitamins A, C and E are essential for maintaining healthy skin.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated and use a daily moisturiser.
  • Keep active. Simple activities, such as walking, improve circulation and help deliver more oxygen to your skin.

Do facial exercises help reduce wrinkles?

Answer

Facial exercises can help tone the muscles in your face and may delay the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Explanation

Your face has over 22 muscles (in your forehead, your cheeks, around your eyes, in your chin and around your lips). Like other muscles in your body, they slacken with age and your face can start to sag.

Toning your facial muscles by tensing specific areas may make your skin feel tighter and may help delay the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove that facial exercises are effective at reducing wrinkles.

Does stress cause wrinkles?

Answer

Research suggests that long-term stress can make people look older.

Explanation

Stress can cause psychological and physical symptoms such as poor sleep, irritability and feeling anxious. It's also thought that stress can cause people to look older. Extreme or prolonged stress can harm your health. If you're stressed, it's important to try and identify the things in your life that are causing you to be stressed and try to deal with them.