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What Causes Wrinkles?



Aging is the primary source of all facial skin wrinkles. As we age, our skin becomes less elastic and the fat beneath our skin begins to atrophy. The combination of these two factors causes the overlying skin to sag. Due to this process, our facial expression lines become more pronounced in a process which is referred to as relative muscle hypertrophy.

Since aging is a fact of nature and will come upon us whether we wish it or not, the key to impeding the formation of wrinkles is altering and guarding ourselves against those factors that promote the aging process.

Sun Damage

As well as severely altering the function of skin, ultraviolet radiation (UV) is a known carcinogen. UV rays consist of three distinct layers UVA, UVB, and UVC. Though UVA and UVC rays are not harmless, it’s UVB radiation that is the most harmful in terms of skin damage. Overexposure to UVB is responsible for erythema, the painful reddening of the skin. UVB also damages the skin’s DNA which can cause pigment changes, skin growths, photoaging, and skin cancer.

Photoaging is the term used to describe the premature aging of the skin caused by long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Though thinning skin and deepening expression lines are a natural part of aging, photoaging severely damages the elastic fibers beneath the skin inhibiting its ability to bounce back from stretching causing deep dry wrinkles to develop.

Sun damage contributes to facial wrinkling.

Cigarette Smoking

Cigarette smoking is a known accelerant of facial wrinkling. Numerous studies have been conducted on the effect of smoking on facial appearance and consensus concludes that smoking, especially in relation to how frequently and how long an individual smokes, has a negative impact on facial appearance. In simple terms, those who smoke more are more likely to exhibit- facial wrinkles.

The facial wrinkles inherent to a smoker are generally located about the mouth and the corners of the eyes. In addition, many smokers exhibit a gaunt, grayish complexion and are often found to have chemosis, a swelling around the iris of the eye.

The studies are inconclusive as to the exact explanation for smokers’ experiencing increased facial wrinkling. Some studies suggest that the constant expressions of lip pursing and eye squinting from expelled smoke are the primary cause of the wrinkling others point to deeper problems that cigarette ingredients induce such as reduced blood flow and a significant decrease in skin moisture. Whatever the cause, one fact remains clear.

Smoking contributes to facial wrinkling.

Habits and Environmental Factors

In a recent article in the French medical journal for plastic surgery, Annales de Chirurgie Plastique et Esthetique an MRI study was noted that made it possible to demonstrate the anterior convexity curve of the mimic muscles. The article sets out to prove that these mimic muscles are responsible for the aging structure of the face through repeated contractions by way of facial expressions.

Though this theory is introduced as a precursor for a surgical procedure, it does bring to light that repeated facial expressions that can be limited, such as squinting from sunlight or pursing lips to smoke, may help to reduce exposure to facial wrinkling.



Ogden, S., and T.W. Griffiths. “A Review of Minimally Invasive Cosmetic Procedures.” British Journal of Dermatology 159.5 (2008): 1036-10. Print.

Pray, PhD; R. Ph, W Steven. “Minimizing the Danger of Sun Exposure.” US Pharmacist 27.6 (2002): n. pag. Medscape. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.

Thomas MD, FRCPC, D. Richard. “Sun Protection Using Sunscreens.” Skin Therapy Letter. US National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2014. <>.

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