We may not welcome them, but wrinkles are inevitable. In fact, we'd look pretty odd without them. The trouble is, with so many anti-aging creams pouring onto the shelves, all promising results, it's all too easy to become seduced by the dream that, with one application, it's bye-bye wrinkle. Sadly, this is not the case, and an increasing number of experts reckon we're too confused by the hype to know what's really best for our skin.
According to specialists of dermatology, you do not have to pay a fortune for great anti-aging skincare. Go for products you can afford and understand. There's an awful confusion about skincare, and some outrageous prices being charged for creams that lack vital ingredients, such as sunscreens and this is no good at all. The big question is, will any cream ever erase lines as well as Botox? Dermatologists say there's no such thing as a miracle in a jar. However, cosmeceuticals – cosmetics that have advanced medical-like effects – do contain active ingredients that can make a significant difference to your skin, and can help lay a good foundation to your beauty future.
According to dermatology experts, if you're worried about wrinkles you need to get serious about skincare, use the right creams for you and, crucially, give them time to work. A slapdash approach means you're wasting you're time. Lines and wrinkles can only be less by consciencious care and daily ritual. Another classic mistake is slathering skin care products on thickly. Do not over do it.
A pea-size blob of cream may be enough for your face without clogging pores. Be prepared to experiment with new formulas as your skin changes.
What makes the skin wrinkle?
Our skin is divided into three layers. The deepest is a layer of subcutaneous tissue, to which the whole skin structure is attached. The middle layer is the dermis, where cells called fibroblasts produce collagen fibers – supporting proteins that help to keep skin plump and elastic. Above this lies the top layer, or epidermis. Here, mast cells divide gradually and migrate upwards towards the skin's surface. These are surrounded by natural compounds called epidermal lipids (or fats), including ceramide, which forms a 'glue' that hold cells tightly in place, like cement in brick wall.
The collagen bundles in the dermis work like springs in a mattress to support the skin's surface. But when collagen is damaged, troughs open up between the bundles, the upper layers of tissue collapse into these troughs, and lines, wrinkles or folds can develop. By the time you see a wrinkle, undering skin has already lost collagen and elastin – its 'snap-back' factor. Collagen is damaged, by various factors. Some are inevitable (such as aging), and some can be lessened, if not prevented.
What are the main culprits, and what can you do about it?
CAUSE: The environment
EFFECT: Brow and eye creases, fine lines fanning over cheekbones, rings and criss-crosses at the back of the neck
New research by The British Skin Foundation found that 80 per cent of us do not always use a sunscreen abroad, let alone on a sunny day in UK. Sun damages DNA so cells can not replicate properly. If that cell blueprint is changed in any way, it can lead to blotchy skin, lines and wrinkles. At the same time, UV boosts enzymes known as MMPs, which help to tidy up old collagen, but can become so aggressive that they destroy fresh collagen, too.
Smoking in the sun is especially bad news. Even second-hand smoke is harmful to skin. Exhaled smoke contains significant levels of nicotine, tar, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide, which disrupt and weakens the skin's barrier, leading to collagen breakdown. Smoking causes blood vessels to constrict, which limits the amount of oxygen reaching the skin. This lack of oxygen reduces collagen and elastin production. Smoking stimulates the MMPs to degrade collagen – just like the sun does.
CAUSE: Facial expressions, stress
EFFECT: Frown lines, crows feet, smile lines
Expression lines equal character. Even Hollywood directors have started to complain that Botox has robbed some star's faces of real emotion. While cannellings the angst may help divas to win an Oscar, it does not do their skin any real-life favors. Stress triggers corrosive hormones including 'killer' cortisols that not only hamper immunity, but also increase moisture loss, leaving skin drier and more line-prone. Clenched muscles in the neck, shoulders and jaw – where so many of us hold our stress- limits blood and oxygen supply to the skin on our faces. But a furrowed brow is the most obvious sign of stress. Constantly pleating the skin through frowning causes micro-tears (minute stress tears). The knock-on effect is inflammation, which damages collagen, making skin appear less plump.
Not only expression lines are stress-driven, however. Where skin is constantly mobile – such as round the eyes and mouth – creases are inevitable. So what about damage limitation? Invest in sunglasses. Wrap-around frames with wide sides provide excellent UV protection, and can save a fortune in Botox!
EFFECT: Creepy skin, deeper eye creases, nose-to-mouth lines, marionette (mouth to chin) lines, lip lines, neck rings
Great skin is in your genes but even if you are one of the lucky ones, do not take it for granted. After all, hereditary aging may only account for 20 per cent of total skin aging. This intensifies from our mid-thirties, when protein levels in our skin begin to decline by a steady one per cent each year. Later, the oestrogen slump after the menopause more than doubles the rate at which protein declines – we lose a staggering 30 per cent of collagen proteins in the first five years, resulting in a two per cent loss of skin thickness.
As well losing collagen, skin also loses plumpness because cell division slows with age. This is because stem cells are no longer able to divide and replicate accurately, and become dormant. New research shows that one of the latest hi-tech ingredients in skin creams – poly-peptides – mimic growth factors in skin to wake up dormant stem cells and encourage fibroblasts to make more collagen. Although results look promising in the test tube, the use of growth factor peptides in anti-aging creams remains controversial.
In the meanime, retinoid-derived from vitamin A is still the only ingredient clinically proven to boost both collagen and moisturizing hyaluronic acid. This was confirmed by research at the University of Michigan Medical School earlier this year. Some peptides can help smooth fine surface lines within a couple of weeks. But you need retinoids for long-term cell growth and real anti-aging benefits. Like vitamin C, you also need to use them round the clock for up to two months before you see results, but it's worth the wait.