If you think fine lines and wrinkles happen only after you’ve become a grandmother, think again. In most people, the skin’s youthful elasticity starts to diminish as early as their 30s. Look to your parents for a clue as to when fine lines and wrinkles may start to appear; how quickly your skin ages is partly genetic. You can’t predict exactly when your age will start to show, but habits and your environment can also provide a clue.
Why They Appear
Generally, fine lines and wrinkles happen because the skin loses collagen, elastin and its ability to hold as much moisture as it ages. This loss of elasticity leads it to become more susceptible to gravity—causing wrinkles, sags, bags, folds and lines. The sun speeds up the effects of aging, as does repetitive muscle movement—such as squinting when you don’t wear sunglasses. Oftentimes, fine lines and wrinkles show up asymmetrically because of smiling more on one side or sleeping patterns. Injury, surgery, acne and other skin diseases can also cause wrinkles and lines. Smoking also accelerates the development of fine lines and wrinkles and makes those already existing worse.
After you reach the ripe age of 20, your skin produces 1 percent less collagen each year. During your 20s, the ability of the skin to slough off dead skin cells also decreases by about 28 percent—so the collagen becomes looser. As you reach your 30s, the skin loses its natural ability to transport moisture between its layers, and fat cells begin to shrink, making it thinner and duller in appearance. After the age of 40, your body no longer produces collagen and what you do have starts to noticeably lose its elasticity. As you reach 50, the skin is quite dry and bruises easily; wrinkles are apparent. In women, menopause makes the sensitivity and elasticity of the skin worse.
The characteristics of your skin can also help you determine when lines might appear. Paler skin tends to wrinkle and show lines sooner than darker skin. Black skin resists photo aging more than pale skin, so sun exposure doesn’t hasten the development of wrinkles. People with very dark skin have some protection against wrinkles and scarring when compared to porcelain-skinned redheads, but they aren’t immune completely and could be more susceptible to signs of aging like skin discoloration and age growths known as seborrheic keratosis.
Evaluating Your Aging
Observe your parents’ faces—they’ll give you a good indication of when to expect fine lines and wrinkles to form. If you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun or picked up a cigarette habit, expect your lines and wrinkles to appear sooner. Generally, you can expect to see some changes in your face by the time you reach the age of 30.
This article has been reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Emmy Graber.