You can often get an idea of how old someone is by looking at his or her face —
specifically the skin. As people age, it's normal to get wrinkles. And a person who
has spent a lot of time in the sun,
at tanning salons, or smoking
cigarettes might have a lot of them.
the outermost layer everyone can see, called the epidermis (say:
the middle layer, called the dermis (say: DUR-mis)
the innermost layer, called the subcutaneous (say: sub-kyoo-TAY-nee-us)
When we're young, we don't have wrinkles because the skin does a great job of stretching
and holding in moisture. The dermis has an elastic quality thanks to fibers called
elastin that keep the skin looking and feeling young. A protein in
the dermis called collagen (say: KAHL-uh-jun) also plays a part in
But over time, the dermis loses both collagen and elastin, so skin gets thinner
and has trouble getting enough moisture to the epidermis. The fat in the subcutaneous
layer that gives skin a plump appearance also begins to disappear, the epidermis starts
to sag, and wrinkles form.
There's not a magic age (like 40) when everyone suddenly gets wrinkles. Some people
in their 20s have little wrinkles around their eyes (called "crow's feet") from squinting
or spending too much time in the sun.
Other people may be in their 50s or 60s before you can even see a wrinkle. This
is usually because they have taken good care of their skin
over the years and may have more sebum (say: SEE-bum), the skin's
natural oil. They may also have "good genes"
— which means their family members don't have many wrinkles.
Eventually, however, everyone will have at least a few wrinkles. It's a natural
part of aging.
Here are some ways to prevent getting many wrinkles at an early age:
Avoid spending too much time in the direct sun, especially during the hours when
the sun's rays are harshest (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Ultraviolet (UV) rays cause
many wrinkles. Sunblock helps, but it doesn't block out all the damaging UV rays that
cause wrinkles to the skin. Still, if you are outside a lot, be sure to wear a sunblock
with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher and reapply often (every 2 to 3 hours).
Always reapply after swimming or playing sports that make you sweaty!
Don't go to the tanning salon. The UV light from tanning booths is just as damaging
as the sun's — and sometimes worse.
Don't smoke! Smoking robs your skin of precious moisture and causes premature
(early) wrinkles. (Did you ever notice that most heavy smokers have wrinkles around