Why we're all 'wrinklies' by 33

February 2012

A recent study found that middle age begins at 35 – at least according to those under 20.

But it seems the key age is 33 when it comes to wrinkles. A sudden change in the mechanics of the skin in the early 30’s means shallow, fine lines become deep and prominent, according to new research.

In the study, scientists calculated the ‘skin wrinkling’ rate of 102 women. They measured the same area of skin in each of the women – near the temple- and gently pinched the skin to create temporary wrinkles.

Digital pictures were taken and the width and number of folds were chartered. Results showed that in the younger women there was no significant change in skin surface appearance and the skin stayed smooth throughout the compression process. But the older women’s skin showed distinct parallel lines of wrinkles that increased with compression.

‘Our results show a drastic change in the skin-wrinkling capacity and, therefore, the mechanism of formation of wrinkles with aging,’ says Dr Osamu Kuwazuru, who led researchers from the University of Tokyo. ‘Skin-wrinkling rate underwent a steep increase at the age of 33, which means the wrinkling morphologies (structures) of young and old skins are completely different.

Wrinkles are visible signs of aging, but while thicker and permanent wrinkles are visible in older skin, the process by which they appear has been unclear.

As we age, water loss from the skin increases and it also loses some of it’s elasticity, but much remains unknown because of the complexity of the skin structure.

The outer part of the skin, the epidermis, has five separate layers. The surface layer, the stratum corneum, prevents water loss, protects against trauma and is the first defence against ultraviolet light from the sun, which can damage the proteins collagen and elastin that keep the skin smooth and elastic.

Dr Richard Warren, consultant dermatologist at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and The University of Manchester says: ‘As our understanding of skin ageing improves, it remains important to emphasis that the best way to slow the wrinkle process is by using sunscreens and by not smoking.’

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Dr Richard Warren, Consultant Dermatologist

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