Ever Wonder

Q: Why does skin wrinkle?
Q: Why does skin wrinkle?

A: It begins with one fine line, and then another appears, and another.

No matter how many creams, injections, peels and treatments a person gets, the fact of the matter it as people age, their skin wrinkles.

Normal healthy skin has a nice epidermis with a smooth outer layer that acts as a good barrier to water and environmental injury.

Skin color and tone is even and unblemished. the components of the skin are collagen, which provides skin firmness, elastin, which supplies skin elasticity and rebound, and glycosaminoglycans or GAGs, which keep the skin hydrated.

According to Suzan Obagi, assistant professor in dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center, under a microscope a biopsy of a wrinkle exhibits no telltale signs that reveal it to be a wrinkle.

So what causes the skin to look wrinkled? It is probably a multi-factorial process of intrinsic aging and extrinsic aging.

Intrinsic aging is the natural aging process that takes place over the years regardless of outside influences, Obaji said.

After the age of 20, a person produces about 1 percent less collagen in the skin each year.

As a result, the skin becomes thinner and more fragile with age.

There is also diminished functioning of the sweat and oil glands, less elastin production and less GAG formation.

Wrinkle formation as a result of intrinsic aging is inevitable, but it will always be slight.

Extrinsic aging occurs in addition to intrinsic aging as a result of sun and environmental damage like exposure to pollution and tobacco use.

Extrinsic aging shows up as thickening of the outer layer, precancerous changes such as lesions called actinic keratosis, skin cancer (including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, lentigo maligna melanoma), freckle and sun spot formation, and exaggerated loss of collagen, elastin, and GAGs.

Alone or in concert, these processes give the skin the appearance of roughness, uneven tone, brown patches, thin skin and deep wrinkles.

Source: Suzan Obagi, assistant professor in dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center

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