Wrinkles are not all the same—we discuss the four distinct types of wrinkles and lines, explaining the anatomy of the skin and the two essential proteins that protect against wrinkle formation.
Furrows, ridges, or creases in the skin—not all wrinkles are born equal. Whether brought about by a long, hot soak in the bath, or a lifetime of sun exposure, they’re never particularly desired. Facial wrinkling, in particular, closely linked to our attitudes towards aging, is a pressing concern for many people.
Researchers at the University Hospital of Liège published a study that divided age-related wrinkles into four main types:
Also known as atrophic crinkling rhytids, crinkle lines are relatively shallow. They run in parallel to each other, often on the forehead, and disappear when the skin is stretched.
This type of wrinkle is associated with pale complexions and heavy sun exposure. Characterized by deep lines in the skin, they occur at points where the skin creases naturally, such as the base of the neck, the lips, and the cheeks.
These are caused by habitual facial expressions, combined with the skin’s loss of elasticity. The more you frown over the years, the tighter and more toned facial muscles become, even when not in use. This draws the skin into frown lines on the brow, crow’s feet around the eyes, and laugh lines above the mouth.
As the skin loses firmness with age it begins to sag, pulling away from the underlying fat and muscle. This creates folds that are particularly prominent on the neck, chin, and jowls.
Wrinkles can appear anywhere on the body. However, as wrinkling is strongly associated with exposure to sunlight. Areas that get a lot of sun, such as the face, hands, and neck, tend to suffer the worst.
Wrinkled skin can have a wide range of causes, running the full gamut from genes through environment to lifestyle choices. But whatever its specific cause, lying behind each wrinkle are two basic factors—the skin’s loss of firmness and elasticity.
Think of the skin as layered—at the surface is the epidermis, entirely renewed each month as dead skin cells slough off to be replaced by new cells. While the epidermis thins and is replaced more slowly as we age, and may begin to appear slightly translucent, this visible layer of the skin isn’t where wrinkling originates.
Beneath the epidermis is the dermis itself, a thick layer that contains all the skin’s essential components. Blood vessels, receptors for the senses of heat and touch, sweat glands, and hair follicles to name but a few, not to mention the fibroblast cells that synthesize the structural proteins collagen and elastin.
Around 80% of the dermis is made of collagen, in a framework of connective tissue that gives the skin its firmness, woven in with the elastin that provides the skin with its ability to stretch and reform.
The skin constantly repairs and reinforces its own structure, with fibroblast cells generating new collagen and elastin. But over the years, continued exposure to harmful factors causes the skin’s connective tissue to become disordered, and its capacity for self-renewal to decline. So, as the skin’s strength deteriorates, it begins to wrinkle when stretched or compressed, as well as snapping back into shape less readily through a loss of elasticity.
There is a certainty to this deterioration: however carefully you live, if you live for long enough, your skin will eventually grow less firm and elastic, and wrinkles will appear. But with so many different factors influencing wrinkle formation, there are many healthy and beneficial steps you can take to delay or prevent the appearance of wrinkles, as well as a host of anti-aging treatments, and wrinkle-fighting products that can help to lessen their appearance.