Each year, Americans spend more than $12 billion to treat a dermatological condition that is purely cosmetic, with no risk for health complications: signs of aging. The effects that fine lines have upon our self-image are profound; these tiny furrows that form in the skin for many signify a loss of youth and have far greater emotional symbolism than their skin-deep appearance.
What Causes Fine Lines?
Fine lines are simply uneven areas in the top layers of the skin or the epidermis. Often, dehydration or a lack of water in the skin tissue can accentuate the uneven texture. A number of factors dry your skin and make fine lines more apparent, including smoking, poor nutrition, year-round arid climates and dry, winter air.
Severely dehydrated skin has the potential to bear fine lines on the complexions of people of all ages, but the older you are, the more likely you are to develop fine lines. This is because as you age, your skin goes through numerous changes that affect its strength and elasticity. One of the largest of these is shrinkage in the fat cells at the base of the skin that support the dermis and epidermis. As these fat cells naturally decrease in size, the lower layers of your skin lose some of their elasticity, allowing an uneven texture to appear in the top layer.
In addition to changes to the fat cells, your body naturally produces less sebum as you age. Sebum is responsible for keeping your skin tissue lubricated and moist, and without an adequate supply, dryness sets in. As the skin becomes dry, repetitive movements like frowning, blinking and furrowing your brow place strain upon the tissue, which cannot rebound to its usual form as easily; fine lines gradually develop from this repetitive straining of the skin.
In younger people who prematurely develop fine lines, ultraviolet light is usually to blame. This harmful energy found in sunlight has a damaging effect on elastin and collagen proteins found in the dermis layer of the skin. These proteins play a vital role in giving the skin the structure and strength required to remain supple. When the proteins become damaged, the skin ages more rapidly, usually beginning with the appearance of fine lines.
What Are the Clinical Treatments for Fine Lines?
Although fine lines pose no health risks, their effects to your self-esteem warrant their treatment. Talking to your family doctor or dermatologist about your skin care concerns is an excellent way to begin to tackle the problem of aging skin.
If fine lines are severely affecting the way you feel when you look in the mirror, your dermatologist or general practitioner may be able to help by prescribing a retinoid cream. Derived from vitamin A, retinoids combat signs of aging by helping your body replace your skin cells more rapidly. Although doctors do not fully understand why, retinoid creams like tretinoin and tazarotene are usually most effective at treating fine lines caused by ultraviolet damage in the dermal layer of your skin. Because it is usually not possible to know if sunlight is the reason for fine lines, some women who try retinoids are disappointed to receive only minimal results from the treatment. Others experience dryness or severe skin irritation that makes it necessary to stop using the cream.
A number of herbs are believed to counteract the effects of ultraviolet damage to the skin...
Skin injections are another treatment method for fine lines available from medical practitioners. Restylane, Juvederm and other skin filler injections involve imparting the area affected by fine lines with a mix of fat, collagen and a moisturizing agent known as hyaluronic acid to plump the tissue and make the lines less visible. An alternative to skin filler injections is botulinum toxin type A or Botox, which paralyzes the muscles that cause the skin to contract, making it tighter and fine lines less noticeable. In addition to posing the risk for side effects, all skin injection require multiple treatments and their effects are usually only temporary.
Face-lifts are major surgical procedures, where a plastic surgeon uses one of several techniques to eliminate the appearance of wrinkles. Like any surgery, face-lifts require an extended period of painful recovery time and carry risks of excessive bleeding during the procedure or infections afterward. The results of face-lifts typically last for 10 years, after which time signs of aging begin to develop again.
Are There Any Alternative Medical Treatments for Fine Lines?
A number of herbs are believed to counteract the effects of ultraviolet damage to the skin, including St. John's wort, kava kava and yohimbe. Before beginning a natural medicinal treatment, always consult your doctor for advice. Although these herbs are derived from natural plant sources, they do pose a risk for side effects. Natural herbs also have the potential to interact with prescription medications that you already take. For instance, St. John's wort can cause severe reactions in patients taking some types of antidepressants.
What Are the Over-the-Counter Treatments for Fine Lines?
Since they cause fewer side effects than most medicinal treatments and are less costly than many cosmetic surgical procedures and injections, cosmetic treatments are extremely popular for treating fine lines. In recent years, cosmetics and skin care companies have introduced a wide array of products that use different approaches to reducing the appearance of fine lines. Often, you may need a combination of products for maximum results or to experiment with different ones to find the most effective skin care regimen for you.
Many skin care products contain an over-the-counter version of retinoid...
Many skin care products contain an over-the-counter version of retinoid, which poses far less risk for side effects than prescription forms of the drug. This ingredient can be found in a variety of treatment products and has the added advantage of reducing pore size and helping to promote clarity in acne prone skin. Because it increases the skin's sensitivity to the sun, it should always be used in combination with a daily sunscreen.
Exfoliating your skin helps to even out its surface, which makes fine lines less noticeable. If caught early, chemical exfoliators can improve the texture enough to make lines almost unnoticeable. A number of ingredients in skin care products are trusted to safely chemically exfoliate the skin and assist you in the fight against signs of aging.
Alpha Hydroxy Acid
Alpha hydroxy acids or AHAs loosen the bonds that hold the dead skin cells that cause an uneven skin texture to your face, allowing them to easily be removed. Studies have also found that AHAs boost collagen and elastin levels in the skin, though doctors have not yet determined precisely how. You can find this ingredient in a multitude of products including cleansers, moisturizers, toners and treatment products.
Glycolic acid is a specialized form of AHA obtained primarily from sugar cane. The acid functions similarly to AHAs, but penetrates more deeply into the skin than some other forms, making it more effective. Many over the counter treatments rely on glycolyic acid to stimulate skin cell turn over to address the problem of fine lines and other signs of aging.
Recent clinical studies have revealed that the common element copper has the ability to reverse damage to the skin, including fine lines and wrinkles. Copper also has protective capabilities and can help prevent fine lines from returning once treatment is successful. Look for a product containing copper along with other ingredients that work together to produce results for those suffering from fine lines.