What causes wrinkles... and can you do anything about it?

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1. Skin deep

They say your skin tells a story of your life. The trouble is, the story is not always accurate. Why do some people look older and some people younger than their actual age? Discovering the answer could hold the key to younger looking skin.

What does the science say? What actually ages our skin? And, most importantly, is there anything you can do about it? As a plastic surgeon, I know the results that surgery can bring. Now I want to explore what's possible without going under the knife.

2. CLICKABLE: What causes wrinkles?

Click on the labels to find out how and why your skin wrinkles as you get older.

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3. Protect yourself from the sun


We're all aware of the risk of sunburn, but it's just one of the dangers the sun holds for our skin. Sunlight contains different types of UV rays and the effect they have depends on their wavelength.

Sunburn is caused by UVB rays. They have a short wavelength which means that they can burn the top layer of our skin but can't penetrate deeper into the epidermis or dermis. UVA rays have a much longer wavelength and penetrate much deeper into the skin. These UVA rays degrade the collagen holding our skin together, which leads to wrinkles.

What can you do?

Simple... wear sun protection. But not just when you're out in the sun. Because of their longer wavelengths, UVA rays can even penetrate through glass, meaning you could be accelerating the ageing of your skin as you drive to work or sit by the window. Be sure to look out for the UVA star rating as well as the SPF on your sunscreen bottle – a rating of five stars offers the best protection against the sun's ageing UVA rays.

4. Eat the right foods


Every time you breathe, a tiny fraction of the oxygen you inhale gets into your cells and attacks your DNA.

These rogue oxygen molecules are known as free radicals. The damage they cause, especially to the collagen-making fibroblasts in your skin, accumulates over time. And that leads to wrinkles.

What can you do?

Well you need to breathe, obviously, so there's no option on that front. But scientists are convinced that eating the right foods can help reduce the damage caused by free radicals and have come up with some key rules to follow:

Rule 1: Look for bright colours

Tomatoes, for example, are a great source of a powerful anti-oxidant called lycopene. Lycopene gives red tomatoes their distinctive colour and it is also excellent at preventing the oxidative stress which accelerates ageing.

Rule 2: Look for bitter tasting fruit and veg

Vegetables like broccoli or radishes are a rich source of a type of antioxidant called glucosinolates. By eating these ingredients and getting them deposited in the skin, you can boost its natural defences.

Rule 3: Eat lots of oily fish

The vital ingredient in oily fish like mackerel is Omega 3. This fatty acid dampens down inflammation in the skin cells and again helps to slow oxidative stress.

Other lifestyle factors, such as smoking, also accelerate the ageing of your skin.

5. Watch your blood sugar


Scientists exploring the link between blood sugar and skin ageing have discovered that people with high levels of blood glucose look up to two years older on average.

So what exactly is going on? Excess sugar in our blood becomes attached to the collagen in our skin. Once attached, it makes the collagen more brittle and it's harder for the skin to repair itself. The net result? More wrinkles.

What can you do?

Well, nothing too drastic. Blood sugar is produced naturally when you digest food and is an essential part of the process by which the body acquires the energy it needs to function. But regular exercise and cutting the amount of carbohydrates you eat can help to avoid high blood sugar levels and the associated ageing implications for your skin. If you have a pre-existing medical condition like diabetes, talk to your doctor first.