Middle and old age aren't what they used to be, thank goodness. With many baby boomers just hitting their stride, and lots of grandparents embarking on dynamic new adventures, there's no reason why the way we look on the outside can't reflect the vitality we feel on the inside.
This means addressing fine lines and wrinkles, the most common sign of aging skin. Some people are genetically predisposed to wrinkling. Sun exposure and smoking are the biggest environmental culprits, though stress can also be a factor.
There are many cosmetic antidotes that claim to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles — drugstores have shelves of them on display. Now that medical technology in this field is gaining more attention, consumers have started giving up on "lotions and potions," seeking scientifically proven methods of bringing out the beauty within.
Fine lines and wrinkles are signs of intrinsic or chronological aging; there's no way to entirely avoid them. As we grow older, our skin becomes thinner and drier. Weakened collagen makes the skin less elastic. Static wrinkles begin to appear. The rate of intrinsic aging occurs at a variable, genetically determined rate; the process is often first noticeable between the ages of 30 and 35.
We do have control over extrinsic aging, a result of exposure to the environment. Extrinsic aging is the critical element in determining who looks older or younger than their biological age. Over-exposure to sunlight is responsible for the majority of problems associated with extrinsic aging. Sun-damaged skin is photoaged from a decrease in collagen and other dermal proteins. This gradual process results in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Over time, these can progress into deep wrinkles and furrows. Photoaging also causes pigmentary changes; "age spots" (sun-induced freckles), uneven skin tone, spider veins and dilated capillaries.
The simplest way to see the contrast between intrinsic and extrinsic aging is to compare skin commonly exposed to the sun (face, hands, neck) and skin not exposed to the sun (usually on the breasts, inner arms, or buttocks).
There are a number of options for the treatment of fine lines and wrinkles, each with varied expense, recovery time, and results. The following are the most common conventional treatments used today: