What Causes Wrinkles?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

There are a number of causes for wrinkles, folds which appear in the skin over time. Though they're often a natural part of aging, there are some steps which people can take to reduce them, and some products purport to limit wrinkling and erase lines. These products work with varying degrees of success, and people who are interested in them should consider talking to a dermatologist about their options.

As humans age, their skin starts to lose its natural elasticity.
As humans age, their skin starts to lose its natural elasticity.

As people age, their skin undergoes a number of changes. The cells in the epidermis, the upper layer of the skin, start to divide more slowly, making it difficult for the skin to repair itself, and the epidermis thins. Both process make skin more papery and fragile, and they contribute to water loss. When the skin is not able to stay as moist, dehydration can contribute to the formation of wrinkles.

Collagen supplements are commonly used to get rid of wrinkles on the face.
Collagen supplements are commonly used to get rid of wrinkles on the face.

Wrinkling is also associated with a loss of skin elasticity, another thing which occurs over the course of time. Muscle movements can also hasten the formation of wrinkles, with habitual muscle movements creating creases which will eventually become permanent. The face and hands are often heavily wrinkled for this reason, because they are used abundantly over the course of someone's lifetime.

Cumulative exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays causes wrinkles to form around the eyes, mouth and other areas.
Cumulative exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays causes wrinkles to form around the eyes, mouth and other areas.

The skin's supply of nutrients is also interrupted by the aging process, and activities such as smoking can make this problem even worse. This contributes to wrinkles. They also become pronounced because fat cells shrink with age, and they no longer act as a form of natural filler which keeps the skin plump and tight.

Damage from sunlight is a big cause of wrinkles, especially in areas where the ozone layer is thin. Wearing sunscreen can protect people from lines and prevent skin cancers. Natural hormonal changes which occur with age are also a cause of wrinkles, especially in women, as changing hormone levels can lead to issues such as skin dryness.

Caring for the skin well in youth can reduce the ravages of aging. Regular moisturization is strongly recommended to keep the skin moist and elastic, and using a moisturizer with SPF protection can also prevent sun damage. In sunny climates, wearing hats and loose-fitting garments with lots of coverage will also reduce exposure to UV radiation and the development of future lines.

Shrinking fats cells contribute to aging skin's wrinkly appearance.
Shrinking fats cells contribute to aging skin's wrinkly appearance.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I am 74 and would like to give this a try.


I'm 61 and look at least 10 years younger. I've stayed out of the sun, ate sugar, didn't smoke, used a light cream day and night and hardly have a wrinkle except for small laugh lines around my eyes. So you think the laughing kept me looking young?


I noticed in the article it says that the epidermis thins. I thought it was the dermis that thins over time. Anyone know which one it is?


@Bhutan - You can also use wrinkle cream. I use a nighttime exfoliating cream that is supposed to remove the dead layers of my skin and even out my skin tone. It does make my skin tone look even and it makes me have smoother and prettier skin.

My makeup also goes on better and I feel younger. I also know that exercise is supposed to help with the skin’s elasticity. I read that when you work out and your face becomes flushed because the blood is rushing to your face and after a while a little glow tends to appear on your skin even when you are at rest.


@Suntan12 - I also heard that eating sugary foods does age your skin. I think that if you eat foods rich in antioxidants it will make your skin look supple. When I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables as well as drink a lot of water, I immediately notice a difference in my skin.

I know that antioxidants are supposed to break down the toxins that age your skin and not allow them to develop on the surface. This is why your skin looks so good after a while.


@BrickBack- I agree. I have tried self tanners and I love them. I get a nice tan without any of the negatives associated with it. You can also get a spray tan but that isn’t cheap so it is not something that you can do every day.

I also wanted to say that many people develop facial wrinkles, particularly lip wrinkles when they smoke. Smoking also had a way of prematurely aging your skin. It also ages your teeth and makes them turn yellow. I also heard that eating a lot of sugary foods can also age your skin too.


@SZapper -I agree with what you are saying. My sister in law used to go to tanning beds when she was in her twenties and now in her early thirties she has a lot of visible sun damage. She has a lot of brown spots on her face and a little set of wrinkles around her eyes and on her forehead.

I think that facial wrinkles are the first that you notice when you look at someone with major sun damage. I am twelve years older than her and she looks older than me. They say that sun damage really doesn’t show up until ten to fifteen years later.

I think that a better alternative to tanning beds is using the self tanners. Self tanners work really well and if you exfoliate your skin beforehand they will really give you a nice even glow.


@starrynight - I don't go tanning either for the same reasons! However, I still have some wrinkles at what I feel is too early of an age. I think the fact that I didn't take very good care of my skin in my teens and early twenties has a lot to do with it.

I used to sleep with makeup on all the time and never moisturized. I always thought I would start taking better care of my skin "later." I wish I had started earlier and my skin would probably look at lot better now!


Wrinkles are one of the reasons I don't go tanning. I know tanning is very trendy right now but I refuse. A lot of older ladies I know that have been tanning for many years look just awful. Also I know more than a few people that have developed skin cancer or pre-cancerous lesions because of sun damage.

I know pale isn't a very popular look but I would rather be pale now then be tan and sporting the leathery look later on in life.

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