Wrinkles may be a natural part of the aging process, but that doesn’t mean there are no ways to treat them. Recent advancements in skin care technology make it possible to improve the appearance of wrinkles without going under the knife, through both topical treatments and noninvasive procedures like lasers and fillers.
Addressing wrinkles with lasers used to involve lengthy periods of downtime and multiple treatment sessions. Now, patients who undergo multiple sessions of laser therapy can enjoy results that last up to a decade. Laser therapy is a light treatment method that directs short, concentrated laser beams at damaged layers of skin, either encouraging collagen production in them or removing them to expose healthier inner layers. You can choose among several laser-treatment methods. Ablative lasers, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and fractionated lasers, focus on smoothing and tightening wrinkled, aging skin to produce a more youthful appearance. Non-ablative lasers simply stimulate collagen, smooth out the skin and do not damage or remove any skin layers.
Rather than tightening skin, dermal fillers use soft-tissue injection to plump out wrinkle-prone areas. Recovery times are short, and there are many filler choices available, including hyaluronic acid, poly L-lactic acid, polymethylmethacrylate, fat cells and calcium hydroxyapatite. Natural wrinkle fillers, such as collagen, tend to have fewer side effects, but synthetic fillers often last longer. Some produce temporary results; others are permanent and may require more than one treatment session. Think a filler might be right for you? To choose the best option, consider your budget, expected results and skin type, as well as the downtime you can afford to take.
Typically performed by a dermatologic surgeon, dermabrasion involves a rotating wire brush or a diamond wheel with rough edges that targets and removes several layers of skin and allows new, younger-looking skin to emerge. It can be a good option for deep wrinkles around the chin and lips. Because laser procedures can damage the eyes, eye protection is required while undergoing most dermabrasion treatment, so it’s not always suitable for eye wrinkles. Recovery from dermabrasion typically takes seven to 10 days and may be performed under local anesthesia. A gentler procedure is microdermabrasion, which does not improve wrinkles but can enhance the effectiveness of anti-aging topical products. Using a handheld device, it gently removes the top layer of skin and provides accelerated exfoliation without any required downtime. Microdermabrasion can be performed by an aesthetician, a dermatologist or even at home depending on the device and treatment. A dermatologist treatment goes a bit deeper into the skin and usually requires multiple sessions, ranging between five and 16 treatments.
Topical treatments or over-the-counter products are not effective at improving the appearance of deep wrinkles, but they can be effective for prevention before wrinkles appear or become very pronounced. Key topical products to use are exfoliators, moisturizers, broad-spectrum sunscreen and antioxidant creams and lotions, specifically those that include retinoids. Allow products at least six weeks of consistent use before you evaluate their effects.
This article has been reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Emmy Graber.