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Planning Retirement Online


                            October 2008


I have a friend in America who occasionally writes to me and says things like “getting older sucks”. Now, I am not entirely sure what that phrase means but it is clearly not a positive!

Being American, she is also well ahead of most of her British counterparts in knowledge of new research and treatments for all the various conditions that seem to hit us as we get older.

Recently, she has been on about lines – she has discovered lots of new lines and wrinkles on her face - and that is something everyone over 50 can associate with. Wrinkles give away your age and can make you look – and therefore feel - older than you are. This can affect your general well-being, so paying attention to wrinkles is actually quite important.


What are lines and wrinkles?

When lines and wrinkles start appearing, it indicates that the cells in your skin are becoming less elastic and less able to repair themselves. They will become most obvious in your face and neck but as we age, you will also notice lines on your arms, upper legs and elsewhere on your body.

Why does this happen? There are, as always when talking about health, a myriad of factors that join together to produce lines and wrinkles. One key aspect is that as we age, we tend to produce less collagen. This important protein comprises 80% of our skin and provides strength and elastic fibre, so a reduction in collagen makes us more susceptible to lines and wrinkles as the skin is less able to return to its original state after various movements such as frowning and laughing.

Too much outside weather exposure can also increase the appearance of wrinkles and lines. Along with causing damage to the collagen producing ability of skin, sun and wind help to dry out the skin. As we get older, the number of sebaceous glands in the skin is reduced, which means our natural oils decrease and the skin can’t hold as much moisture. Dryer skin is more susceptible to lines and wrinkles.

External drying of the skin can be damaging, but so can internal dryness. Without enough water in the body, your skin can become drier and less pliable and won’t produce as many new cells as it would if it were properly hydrated.

Smoking also increases the risk of wrinkles as nicotine has a damaging effect on skin.

All this adds together to the fact that as we get older, these lines and wrinkles will start to appear. Many people say lines show a person’s character.

We have all heard the term “laugh lines” and this refers to the wrinkles alongside the mouth that deepen over time because of repetitive smiling over the years. Frowning, something we often to unconsciously, can create those three of our little wrinkles between one’s eyebrows. Squinting can result in “crow’s feet” at the side of ones eyes – really any habitual facial expression will result in some lines or wrinkles as we age as the skin becomes less elastic and less able to repair itself.

The phrase “lived in” face really means just that, an older person with lots of lines and wrinkles may have spent a life experiencing many different emotions such as laughter and puzzlement which show up in facial expressions.

However, many of us would much prefer to look younger than “lived in”! So what is the best way to prevent or repair these lines and wrinkles.


So what do to?

Well of course the first thing would have been to take extra preventative measures in our twenties and thirties. But now we are over 50, what should we do?

New treatments are coming in all the time. Creams are the easiest and often the cheapest product. There are numerous wrinkle creams and lotions available with a host of active ingredients such as isoflavones, kinetin, copper peptides or more natural ingredients such as tea tree and grapefruit seed extracts as well as simple vitamins. The choice and claims are endless and one needs to read the small print carefully and make an individual choice. Many dermatologists – the doctors who specialise in skin – say that cosmetic creams and lotions can only achieve temporary moisturisation but other companies indicate that their ingredients can in fact alter the structure of the skin.

Then there are a growing number of new injectables that are marketed in giving temporary or permanent relief from lines and wrinkles.

We will look at all these treatments in more depth in later editions of Laterlife, but in the meantime it is definitely useful to keep your skin well moisturised and protect it from harsh elements such as wind and sun. Ultraviolet light from the sun’s rays is a major cause of damage to the skin, so a good basis for the future is to always use an SPF15 cream every day. A healthy diet and stopping smoking will also help your skin repair itself to regain at least some of its youthful glow.


Websites with interesting facts on wrinkles and lines include:



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