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Every woman, and most men, want to have a smooth skin. Americans spent billions of dollars each year trying to erase wrinkles caused by aging processes. They bought products that claim to "revitalize aging skin." However, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, over-the-counter "wrinkle" creams and lotions may soothe dry skin, but they do little or nothing to reverse wrinkles.


There are three layers in the skin: epidermis (outermost layer), dermis (middle layer), and subcutis (innermost layer). The dermis is the thickest of the three layers (1.5 to 4 mm thick), making up approximately 90 percent of the thickness of the skin. The dermis is held together by collagen, a tough, insoluble protein. The dermis also contains elastin, which is the protein that allows the skin to spring back into place when stretched and keeps the skin flexible. The two proteins are important in preventing wrinkles.

Over time, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light damages elastin and collagen, resulting in wrinkles. Cigarette smoking also contributes to wrinkles. People who smoke tend to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers of the same age, complexion, and history of sun exposure. The reason for this difference is not clear.


Although wrinkles cannot be completely prevented, the following can slow the skin aging.

  • Minimize exposure to sunlight.
  • Use cream or lotion to moisturize skin.
  • Do not smoke.


At this time, the only products that have been studied for safety and effectiveness and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat signs of sun-damaged or aging skin are tretinoin cream and carbon dioxide (CO2) and erbium (Er:YAG) lasers.

Tretinoin cream (Renova), a vitamin A derivative available by prescription only, is approved for reducing the appearance of fine wrinkles, mottled darkened spots, and roughness in people whose skin doesn’t improve with regular skin care and use of sun protection. However, it doesn’t eliminate wrinkles, repair sun-damaged skin, or restore skin to its healthier, younger structure. It hasn’t been studied in people 50 and older or in people with moderately or darkly pigmented skin.

The CO2 and Er:YAG lasers are approved to treat wrinkles. The doctor uses the laser to remove skin one layer at a time. Laser therapy is performed under anesthesia in an outpatient surgical setting.

The FDA currently is studying the safety of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which are widely promoted to reduce wrinkles, spots, and other signs of aging, sun-damaged skin. Some studies suggest that they may work, but there is concern about adverse reactions and long-term effects of their use. Because people who use AHA products have greater sensitivity to the sun, the FDA advises consumers to protect themselves from sun exposure by using sunscreen, wearing a hat, or avoiding mid-day sun.



National Institute on Aging, USA