Why Do We Get Wrinkles?

In this edition of It’s Not a Stupid Question, a dermatologists explains how wrinkling works, then shows us how to prevent face creases.


We can all expect to resemble raisins someday—it’s unfortunately just a natural part of human aging. What’s happening to our skin that causes it to wrinkle, though? And is there really anything we can do to slow that process? Dermatologist Shari Lipner gave us the lowdown.

Wrinkles develop because, as we get older, our skin naturally produces less collagen and elastin,” Lipner explains. Collagen provides firmness, while elastin allows the skin to stretch, then return to its original shape—such as when we smile—so as you can imagine, when these fibers aren’t abundant, the skin starts to droop and wrinkle. Lipner points out a few environmental factors that can potentially hasten the decline of collagen and elastin (and thus, the onslaught of wrinkles), too:

  • Extended exposure to UV rays—i.e., the sun—breaks down collagen and elastin fibers in the skin.
  • Smoking tobacco reduces the amount of blood supplied to the skin, which accelerates the aging process.
  • Regular alcohol consumption dehydrates the skin, and dry skin is more likely to wrinkle.
  • Continuously contracting your facial muscles—for instance, by squinting—may result in permanent grooves (or wrinkles) if your skin doesn’t contain enough elastin to bounce back.

Of course, there are a few obvious preventative measures you can take to lessen the effects of these environmental factors: 1) Practice proper sun safety (i.e., wear sunscreen every day), 2) quit smoking, 3) lessen your alcohol intake and 4) wear sunglasses to avoid squinting day in and day out. Also, as we learned in our exploration of the effects of moisturizer on the skin, regularly moisturizing can decrease the amount of wrinkles you develop by as much as 30 percent. Lipner also adds that eating a well balanced diet and exercising regularly can boost your circulatory system, which in turn, will provide your skin with the nutrients it needs to stay firm.

If you’re already wrinkling, your options are a little more intense. Dermabrasion, for example, is a surgical procedure that involves the controlled wearing away of the upper layers of skin (and their wrinkles) with sandpaper or other mechanical means. Botox injections—a more common option—block chemical signals sent from nerves to muscles. As a result, the affected muscle can no longer contract, which causes wrinkles to soften and flatten.

Most importantly, however, just remember that aging is a natural process, and eventually, everyone is going to look like a prune some day, no matter how relentless their anti-aging efforts are. So rather than spending too much time fighting the inevitable, let’s just be glad we’re not also turning purple any time soon.