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Wrinkles

Wrinkles are creases in the skin. The medical term for wrinkles is rhytids.

Considerations

Most wrinkles come from aging changes in skin. Aging of the skin, hair and nails is a natural process. There is little you can do to slow the rate of skin aging, but many things in the environment will speed it up.

Frequent exposure to sunlight results in early skin wrinkles and dark areas (liver spots). It also increases the chances of getting skin cancer. Exposure to cigarette smoke can also make the skin wrinkle sooner.

Causes

Common causes of wrinkles include:

  • Genetic factors (family history)
  • Normal aging changes in the skin
  • Smoking
  • Sun exposure

Home Care

Stay out of the sun as much as possible to limit skin wrinkles. Wear hats and clothing that protect your skin and use sunscreen daily. Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Wrinkles are not usually a cause for concern unless they occur at an early age. Talk to your health care provider if you think that your skin is getting wrinkled faster than normal for someone your age. You may need to see a skin specialist (dermatologist) or a plastic surgeon.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will ask questions, such as:

  • When did you first notice that your skin seemed more wrinkled than normal?
  • Has it changed in any way?
  • Has a skin spot become painful or does it bleed?
  • What other symptoms are you having?

Your provider will examine your skin. You may need a skin lesion biopsy if you have any abnormal growths or skin changes.

These are some treatments for wrinkles:

  • Tretinoin (Retin-A) or creams containing alpha-hydroxy acids (such as glycolic acid)
  • Chemical peels, laser resurfacing, or dermabrasion work well for early wrinkles
  • Creams with growth factors may make fine lines and wrinkles look better
  • Botulinum toxin (Botox) may be used to correct some of the wrinkles that are caused by overactive facial muscles
  • Medicines injected under the skin can fill in wrinkles or stimulate collagen production
  • Plastic surgery for age-related wrinkles (for example, a facelift)

Alternative Names

Rhytid

References

Patterson JW. Disorders of elastic tissue. In: Patterson JW, ed. Weedon's Skin Pathology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2016:chap 12.

Perkins SW, Waters HH. Management of aging skin. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 26.

Review Date 10/31/2016

Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.