Body, Bath & Beauty Blog

The Science of Wrinkles

Posted on: August 19, 2008

From the New York Times Health section today:

“A recent review in The Archives of Dermatology concludes that three anti-aging treatments are proven clinically effective: the topical application of retinol; carbon dioxide laser resurfacing; and injection of hyaluronic acid, a moisture-retaining acid that occurs naturally in the skin.”

I thought I’d summarize this article because it’s great and it stated facts, in a day when so much wrinkle reducing buzz is going around.

In the last ten years, research has revealed what treatments for reducing wrinkles actually work and why. Three have been proven to actually work: topical application of retinol, carbon dioxide laser resurfacing, and injection of hyaluronic acid. All rely on the interaction of fibroblast skin cells with the collagen they produce.

Theory and experiment back these treatments, the authors (of the review) write. Fibroblasts — connective tissue cells — secrete a complex group of polysaccharides and proteins that creates collagen, which gives the skin shape and elasticity and supports the blood vessels that permeate it. The network of collagen tissue is maintained by its mechanical tension with these skin cells.”

Skin deteriorates as it ages, but its exposure to sunlight inhibits the ability of fibroblasts to produce collagen. Ultraviolet radiation induces production of the same enzymes that degrade collagen with age. Age and light result in fragmentation of the collagen and impairment of the ability of the fibroblasts to create collagen. As fragmented collagen increases, new collagen production decreases and the skin begins to wrinkle.

Retinol makes new collagen in aged and damaged skin. Many over-the-counter retinol products don’t list the percentage of retinol in the product though, and often don’t contain enough retinol to produce results. Retinol also makes the skin more susceptible to damage from ultra-violet light, so you must protect yourself from the sun if you are using a retinol product. I’ve noticed the lotion that I use now comes with an SPF 15, probably to compensate for this side effect. Though SPF 15 doesn’t even give my fair skin a fighting chance as it is!

Carbon dioxide laser resurfacing removes thin layers of skin without damaging surrounding tissue. It does create a wound that takes two or three weeks to heal. As it heals the skin produces new collagen. the treatment induces high levels of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP), an enzyme that destroys fragmented collagen. Then it reduces MMP and the production of new and undamaged replacement material. Results last many years and the procedure is usually only done once. Similar laser techniques are less invasive, but the effectiveness is doubtful.

Finally there are hyaluronic acid injections. Hyaluronic acid is similar to a substance normally produced by skin into the dermis under wrinkles. The injection stretches the dermis, and the fibroblasts respond by producing more collagen and less MMP. Studies show that increased collagen production is visible within a month after injection, and it lasts about six months. Topical application of hyaluronic acid is not effective in increasing collagen production though, which is why the results don’t last.

Any wrinkle treatment will have side-effects and risks. It’s important to weigh out your options before pursuing treatment and deicide if it’s worth it to you or not.

 

Click here to read the full article

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3 Responses to "The Science of Wrinkles"

Botox is also a clinically proven treatment for the relaxation of dynamic wrinkles. Sue Ibrahim

After reading this article, I feel that I need more information on the topic. Could you share some more resources please?

I understand the feeling Samuel. This is merely a summary of one article among so many, on an extensive subject that is continuously making new discoveries. I’m assuming you read the full article from the New York Times already (link at the bottom of this post). The NYT also has an excellent health guide on the subject of wrinkles. Also on the guide, make sure to check out the “web links” on the left side. It includes links to some good resources.

NYT Health Guide – Wrinkles

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