10 Things You Should Know About Wrinkles

Got Wrinkles? If your skin smarts aren't at genius level (whose are?), then read on for expert answers to women's skin care and anti-aging questions.

Q. Are smile lines caused by smiling?

A. Not entirely. "Smile lines are the result of age-related collagen loss, which causes cheeks to lose elasticity and sag, producing those telltale folds," says Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, M.D. "But repeated muscle movements exaggerate them." A skin doc can inject hyaluronic acid fillers to lift the cheek; or, for a quick, temporary fix, use a topical wrinkle filler. One to try: Boots No7 Instant Illusion Wrinkle Filler ($19, Target).

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Q. When is the best time of year to start using a retinoid?

A. Spring or summer. This gold standard wrinkle reducer is often irritating, an effect that can be exacerbated by dry air and cold temperatures. Your skin is better able to tolerate the powerful ingredient in moister, warmer weather, but keep in mind that retinoids increase sun sensitivity, so slather on a lotion with SPF every day. "If you find that your skin gets red or flaky when the mercury drops, try decreasing your retinoid use to every other day, or layering a retinoid under a plain moisturizer," advises Heidi Waldorf, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. One retinol product to try: Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer ($21, drugstores).

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Q. On which side of your face do wrinkles usually show up first?

A. The left side. "Collagen breakdown and wrinkling typically happen more rapidly on that side of the face for Americans," says dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D., of Yale School of Medicine. The culprit? Driving. The sun's aging UVA rays penetrate the car's window glass. Solution: Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen 365 days a year; try SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50 ($32, skinceuticals.com).

Q. Do fair-skinned women wrinkle more easily than those with dark complexions?

A. Yes - at least when it comes to photoaging. While sun exposure ages all skin tones and ethnicities, the specific effects may vary a bit. "Darker skin has a higher amount of melanin, which slows the development of fine lines and wrinkles resulting from sun exposure," says Jeanine Downie, M.D., a dermatologist in Montclair, NJ. "Caucasian women (whose skin has less melanin) tend to develop more lines than African-Americans, who usually experience more sun-induced spots and patchy discoloration."

Q. Does skin type impact the pace of wrinkling?

A. Skin type actually has nothing to do with how fast you develop wrinkles, reports Dr. Waldorf. "Women with oily skin have more sebaceous glands. While this might create the appearance of denser or firmer skin, it won't affect the development of lines," she explains. Where and when you start to see fine lines is a result of both lifestyle factors - whether you smoke or drink and how much sun exposure you've had, for example - and genetics.

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Exfoliating too much can damage skin Q. Will scrubbing soften the look of fine lines?

A. On the contrary - too much exfoliating can lead to skin damage and dryness, which paradoxically makes fine lines look more pronounced. But sloughing can preserve skin's glow and help improve the penetration of anti-aging treatments, says Dr. Waldorf. The key is to stick with a gentle daily exfoliator (check labels) or a once-a-week scrub. "If your skin is very sensitive, consider opting for a chemical exfoliant, like a moisturizing wash with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which is gentler than a scrub," she says. Try M-61 Brilliant Cleanse ($32, Bluemercury).

Q. Can layering makeup help cover up wrinkles?

A. Nope. "Too many women try to fill in fine lines with layer after layer of foundation and concealer," says celebrity makeup artist Carmindy. "But all that does is create cakiness and accentuate skin imperfections." The best bet for mature skin is a sheer, light-reflecting liquid foundation, like Almay Wake Up Liquid Makeup SPF 20 ($13, drugstores). "Luminescence makes skin look young by eliminating the dark shadows in wrinkles," she says.

City dwellers are more prone to wrinkles Q. Who wrinkles faster - city dwellers or country girls?

A. Urbanites. They're exposed to a higher concentration of air pollution, a major factor in skin's aging, according to a recent German study. Luckily, protecting your skin against soot is simple. "Wash your face every night so environmental pollutants don't sit on your skin," says Dr. Gohara. Also, since pollutants decrease the atmosphere's protective ozone layer (upping free radical exposure), it's wise to use a daily antioxidant serum. Of course, the sun's a leading cause of wrinkles, so women who live in a sunny climate, like California's, are the most prone to skin aging.

Apply anti-aging serums at night Related:5 Ways to Fake an Eye Lift

Q. When should I apply my most potent anti-agers?

A. At night. While you catch some zzz's, skin cells are hard at work repairing themselves and can make the most of anti-aging ingredients like retinoids, AHAs, or peptides. For this last type, try L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Concentrated Serum ($25, drugstores). Another benefit: "You can use more of the treatment and don't have to worry about its being diluted or affected by layers of other products like sunscreen or makeup," says Dr. Hirsch. And you're not exposed to the sun, which can interact with certain anti-agers, like retinoids, and make them less effective.

Q. Does powder make lines look worse?

A. Not as long as you choose an age-appropriate formulation and apply it correctly. "Use one that's sheer and very finely milled so that it doesn't cake or crease in wrinkles," says Carmindy. We like Sephora Collection Smoothing Translucent Setting Powder ($16; Sephora). And rethink how you powder your nose: "Dragging a powder puff across your face deposits way too much product. Instead, for sheer coverage, dust it on lightly with a big, fluffy powder brush. Apply only to areas where you tend to get shiny, like your T-zone, and avoid places where you have prominent lines, like around your eyes," Carmindy suggests.

How do you fend off wrinkles and other signs of aging? Let me know in the comments!

-By Melanie Rud

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