How to Handle Your First Wrinkle

Skin protection and anti-aging tips.

Photograph by Kip Dawkins. Image via Shutterstock. Image via Shutterstock. Image via Shutterstock Image via Shutterstock. Image via Shutterstock. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock. Image via Shutterstock. Image via Shutterstock. Photography by Kate Warren Cinnamon Pittman, Scott Nash, and Tracy Bernstein. Photograph by Andrew Propp Image via Shutterstock. Photograph by Shutterstock/Halay Alex. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock | Image via Shutterstock. Illustration By Dan Page Image via Shutterstock. Photograph courtesy of FiLIP Technologies Photographs by Natalie Chitwood, Styling Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency, Makeup/Hair Patti Nelson for THE Artist Agency Illustration by Alex Green/Getty Images. Image via Shutterstock. Photograph by Jeff Elkins Image via Shutterstock/Kzenon Image courtesy of Shutterstock Image via Shutterstock Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock. Photograph of kitchen by Stephen Simpson/Getty Images. Photograph of mudroom by Angie Seckinger; design by Marika Meyer. Photograph by Weikerken Altema Photograph by Fuse/Getty Images Photograph by Julie Fischer McCarter Photography by Kate Warren Courtney Cox, with her kids Carter and Virginia, leads an afternoon of cookie baking in the brightly lit kitchen. Cox had the skylight built to capture even more natural light. Photography by Kip Dawkins Photograph of The Young and the Restless by Monty Brinton/CBS Photograph of The Millionaire Matchmaker’s Patti Stanger by Randee St. Nicholas/TY KU/Bravo Photograph of The Biggest Loser by Trae Patton/NBC Photograph of Orange Is the New Black courtesy of Lionsgate Photograph of Scandal by Richard Cartwright/ABC Photograph of Homeland’s Claire Danes by Jim Fiscus/Showtime Property Brothers by Caitlin Cronenberg/HGTV Photograph of Kim Kardashian by Brian Bowen Smith/E! Entertainment Photograph of Mark Wahlberg at Kids’ Choice Awards by Lester Cohen/WireImage/Nickelodeon Photograph of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills by Joe Pugliese/Bravo Photograph of Shameless courtesy of Showtime Photograph by Kate Warren Image via Shutterstock. Photograph by Gary Houlder/Getty Images Image courtesy of Shutterstock | shutter Photograph by Scott Suchman Image courtesy of Shutterstock | Photograph by Scott Suchman Photograph by Gary Houlder/Getty Images. Photograph by Dan Saelinger/Trunk Archive Photograph by Scott Suchman Photograph by Robert Daly/Getty Images Photograph by Kip Dawkins. Photography by Kip Dawkins; Styling by Marcie Blough Photograph courtesy Bloomingdale’s Photograph by Ray Kachatorian/Getty Images Photograph by Paul Bradbury/Getty Images DC Yoga Week. Photograph of Yoga class by Scott Belton. Photograph of Round HIll by Ed Foley; Lorien Hotel & Spa by Fred Licht; Salamander Resort by Jim Hanna Photograph by Kate Warren. Image via Shutterstock. All photographs by Rodney Bailey. Photograph by Scott Suchman Photograph courtesy of SWASH Image via Shutterstock.

It seems to happen overnight. Your skin feels a little dryer, summer freckles and discoloration no longer fade in the fall, and fine lines and wrinkles seen in the morning start to persist throughout the entire day.

The first signs of sun damage and aging will eventually affect us all, but the time to start thinking about skin protection, anti-aging products, and treatments is different for everyone. Most commonly, the earliest signs of aging appear in a woman’s late 30’s or early 40’s, but excessive sun exposure, skin color, smoking, and genetics all factor into how our skin ages.

Even if you’re not overly concerned about wrinkles and the signs of aging, it is still important to protect the skin using broad-spectrum sunblock, hat, sunglasses, and sun-protective clothing to reduce the risk of skin cancer. But if slowing down the skin aging process while protecting your health is your goal, here are a few good tips.

Most important: Reduce sun exposure.

Since the majority of the signs of “aging,” such as wrinkles, brown spots, red spots, and dull skin, are due to sun exposure rather than true aging, the first step in a rejuvenation regimen is a good sun protection plan. In addition to broad-spectrum sunscreen (which covers both UVA and UVB light) at least SPF 30, hats and clothing to cover the skin are a must.

The next step: Anti-aging skin care products.

The number of “anti-wrinkle, anti-aging” creams and products grows exponentially every year. A visit to the local drug or department store can leave your head spinning! With claims that seem too good to be true (“smoothes even deep wrinkles in 2 weeks!”), what is the best way to figure out what will work for you? In general, some of the best, most scientifically-studied, anti-aging ingredients include retinoids, glycolic acids, and anti-oxidants such as vitamin C and idebenone. Doctor-prescribed retinoids (tretinoin, tazarotene) are the strongest, most effective anti-aging products available. However, people with sensitive skin may not be able to tolerate these creams due to prolonged skin irritation and increased facial redness. If sensitivity is an issue, it’s best to have an evaluation and personalized skin care regimen outlined by a dermatologist.

Beyond anti-aging creams: a visit to the doctor’s office.

Once you’ve committed to a good sun protection plan and maximized skin care products, what is the next step to help slow the aging process? The most effective treatments are available at the doctor’s office. The best treatment will depend on the specific issue. Sun spots do well with light or laser treatments and chemical peels. Broken capillaries and facial redness respond to a series of laser treatments. Grooves between the nose and corner of the lips (nasolabial folds) or lip and chin (marionette lines) become less noticeable with dermal fillers such as hyaluronic acid. Wrinkles on the upper third of the face respond beautifully to botulinum toxin (otherwise known at Botox, Dysport or Xeomin). When wrinkles are new, only small amounts of botulinum toxin are needed to deliver a soft, natural-looking result without the overdone “frozen” look.

Bottom line: Start early and maintain.

In my practice, I tell patients the best way to preserve a youthful look is to combine a good sun-protection program, skin care products, and in-office treatments to deliver natural-looking results. When started at the earliest signs of aging, a less-is-more approach to treatments is best. With today’s most advanced products and treatments, there are more options than ever to keep skin fresh and vibrant. Consider the start of a new skin care routine at the earliest signs of aging as an investment in beautiful, youthful-looking skin for years to come.

Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi the co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, DC.


Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi is a board-certified dermatologist and co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Surgery.