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Wrinkles are inextricably tied to aging. Middle-aged adults regularly check for wrinkles the way teenagers check for pimples. Skin creams, medical techniques, and foods are all marketed to help reduce the effects of aging, promising to reduce or even prevent wrinkles, altogether. Whether you wear yours proudly or seek to smooth them away, you might wonder how wrinkles come about and how to slow their development without discovering the fountain of youth.

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Root Cause of Wrinkles: Lack of Collagen

The root cause of all wrinkles is a lack or breakdown of collagen. After the age of 20, the human body produces one percent less collagen every year. Collagen lies between the epidermis and the subcutaneous tissue, in the area known as the dermis. About 80% of the dermis is made up of this connective tissue. When collagen weakens and breaks, the skin loses structure. There are many reasons why collagen bonds weaken.

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Cause: Exposure to the Sun

Exposure to sunlight is not exactly the cause of wrinkles; instead, collagen breakdown can be a side effect of exposure to ultraviolet or UV rays that cause wrinkling, age spots, pigmentation, and loose skin. These rays also enable the development of free radicals, molecules with an odd number of electrons, which are severely harmful to cells. Ultraviolet rays also harm capillaries and veins in the skin, making these especially noticeable in delicate parts of the body.

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Cause: Stress

A certain amount of stress is unavoidable, and it is one factor that contributes to wrinkling skin. The stress hormone cortisol suppresses collagen production and also damages existing collagen due to the glycation process, which can weaken the skin quickly. This is why even short periods of extreme stress can affect the skin's appearance. The more cortisol your body produces, the more collagen production is inhibited. In the long-term, the body cannot rebuild the weakened skin.

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Cause: Unhealthy Lifestyle

Unhealthy lifestyles are another cause of wrinkles. Smoking, for example, causes wrinkles. Nicotine narrows blood vessels and reduces blood flow, which means that your skin, especially the sensitive skin on your face, is unable to access vital nutrients from the blood. An unhealthy diet, too, can cause wrinkles, since the body lacks vitamins and nutrients to fortify the skin. Cigarettes aren't the only danger to skin: popular smoking alternatives such as electric cigarettes and pods may also contain nicotine.

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Cause: Pollution

Another often unavoidable cause of wrinkles is pollution. Pollution from traffic is the most toxic substance for skin and can cause inflammation, which makes enzymes absorb too much collagen -- more than the body can produce in time. The effects of too little collagen show up in sagging and wrinkled skin. Additional skin problems can also arise from pollution, such as eczema and redness.

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Prevention: Protection from the Sun

Exposure to the sun can be beneficial, but to prevent wrinkles, one must take protective measures. Since UV rays are harmful all year, most people should apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 35 whenever they expect prolonged exposure to the sun. Ultraviolet rays are most dangerous during the middle of the day, so avoid exposure to the sun during this time. Sunglasses and protective clothing are also beneficial.

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Prevention: Reduce and Manage Stress

Since cortisol can interfere with collagen production and cause wrinkles, stress management is an important part of the anti-aging process. Exercising is a great way to reduce stress, as it naturally lowers cortisol and releases endorphins, chemicals that relax the body and improve mood. Spending time with friends and setting aside time for other enjoyable activities, as well as removing avoidable stressors, can also reduce stress and, by extension, prevent premature wrinkling.

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: Prevention: A Healthier Lifestyle

A healthier lifestyle contributes to a lack of wrinkles. Unfortunately, sugar aids in the process of glycation, which promotes wrinkles. A diet with lower sugar and more protein can also help prevent wrinkles. Protein is key to better skin, but vegetables do their part too. Dark, leafy greens contain vital minerals and electrolytes such as iron, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These greens also contain beta-carotene and chlorophyll, which fight harmful free radicals. Exercise and good hydration through proper water consumption are also great for the skin.

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Treatment: Chemical Skin Masks

Face masks and skin creams that contain AHAs or alpha-hydroxy acids remove dead skin cells and can lessen the appearance of wrinkles and cosmetic blemishes. Stronger AHAs may boost collagen production, although diet will most likely have a greater effect than topical products. Any product that can safely remove a layer of skin will help treat wrinkles, as the next layer of skin to grow will be unblemished and smoother than the previous, as long as you continue to practice healthy habits. Chemical masks should always be used cautiously and with prior knowledge of your skin's tolerance to chemicals or abrasive products.

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Treatment: Skin Care Routine

Taking care of your skin is the best way to both prevent and treat wrinkles. Regular washing, moisturizing, and deep cleansing will help treat fine wrinkles and prevent more from appearing. Some people may be sensitive to the chemicals in their tap water, and in such cases may use filtered water. Adults often benefit from applying oil or cream to the face after washing to prevent the skin from drying out.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.