Wrinkles are a roadmap of your life.”

We’ve all heard this old cliché, but many of us would rather not be reminded of the distance we’ve traveled.

So, what can you do? First, understand what causes wrinkles. Then, if you still want to reduce wrinkles, explore your treatment options.

Like it or not, our skin changes as we age. With time, aging skin develops wrinkles, lines and furrows. With age, skin cells divide more slowly, and the inner layer, called the “dermis,” begins to thin.

The network of elastin (the protein that causes skin to stretch) and collagen fibers (the major structural proteins in the skin) that support the outer layer loosen and unravel, causing depressions on the surface.

Aging skin also loses its elasticity, is less able to retain moisture, oil-secreting glands are less efficient, and the skin is slower to heal. All of these contribute to the development of wrinkles.

Q. I know aging causes wrinkles, but are there other factors?

A. Absolutely – most importantly sun exposure. UV radiation from sunlight or indoor tanning booths can both cause wrinkles.

Also, family history plays a significant role. Because your skin type is inherited, a parent whose skin was prone to wrinkles at an early age can pass that trait onto their children. Smoking can also cause wrinkles.

Q. Are there different kinds of wrinkles?

A. Yes. In fact, some types of wrinkle are so common that they have been given their own names. Here are a few:

Furrows are deeper lines and can be either “dynamic” when they appear as different muscles move, or “static” if they remain unchanged with muscle movement. Eventually, dynamic lines become static furrows.

Crow’s Feet appear around the eyes. These are due to smiling and activity of the eyelid muscles.

Worry lines appear on the forehead. These come from contraction of muscle used when raising the eyebrows.

Frown lines appear between the eyebrows and are due to contraction of muscles when concentrating or angry.

Smile lines frame the lips. These are created by the contraction of muscle from smiling.

Q. How can wrinkles be treated?

A. There are a variety of cosmetic products, medications and procedures that can lead to younger looking skin. These are often combined for best results. They include: Topical retinoids, chemical peels, dermabrasion, laser rejuvenation, laser resurfacing, botulinum toxin (Botox), and dermal fillers.

Q. Is there anything I can do to help prevent wrinkles?

A. Wrinkles are a fact of life, but there are some basic measures that can prevent their premature development. These are:

  • Stop smoking, or don’t start.
  • Do not use indoor tanning booths.
  • Use sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days or when the sun penetrates through glass. (UVA rays are a part of the UV spectrum that can pass through glass. Though these UVA rays do not burn, they are responsible for causing premature aging of the skin.)
  • Practice other sun protection measures, such as avoiding sunlight during peak hours and wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

Dr. Oswald Lightsey Mikell, certified by the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, is the owner of Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry.