Wrinkles are common with aging skin, but are often unwanted. Many people use dermal fillers or Botox to improve the look of preexisting wrinkles, but naturopathic doctors can help patients reduce the formation of wrinkles through identifying and avoiding risk factors associated with damage to the skin, and increasing the overall health of the person and their skin through diet and lifestyle modifications. Once a patient has wrinkles, naturopathic doctors can help reduce the visible signs by applying topical herbal medicines along with other lifestyle changes.
Typical methods for controlling wrinkles includes antioxidants, prevention of collagen breakdown, and improvement of collagen formation. The naturopathic approach to wrinkles would focus first on prevention, then treatment would likely begin with working with each person individually to establish a healthy foundation for skin health by working with diet, lifestyle, identification and removal of risk factors, and adding in wrinkle preventing foods and herbal medicine
Wrinkles are associated with sagging, dull skin with visible lines. Wrinkles are not painful, but can be an unwanted sign of aging or due to sun overexposure and other risk factors.
As we age, our skin becomes thinner and loses elasticity. This happens because the production of collagen, the main structural protein of the skin, is decreased as we grow older. Along with the decreased production of collagen, there is also increased breakdown of collagen which leads to a breakdown of the skin’s structural integrity. Wrinkles can develop as a result of the decreased integrity.
The breakdown of collagen is partially due to oxidative damage from external sources, especially the sun. Oxidative damage is caused by free radicals that are released in the skin and body following damage to cells.
- Dry skin: Hydration status of the skin has been linked with wrinkle formation.
- Gender: Male gender is associated with more severe wrinkle formation
- Hormones: Estrogens have been shown to combat oxidative stress in skin cell based experiments. Lower estrogen levels following menopause may contribute to wrinkle formation through decreased protection against oxidative damage.
- Smoking: Smoking has been shown to cause many problems to the skin, including skin thinning, premature skin aging, and formation of facial wrinkles.
- Ultraviolet (UV) radiation: UV from the sun will damage the skin, a term called photoaging. Chronic sun exposure is often considered the most important reason for the development of wrinkles and other skin problems.
- Heat: In a study using mice exposed to high heat for 30 minutes three times per week for six weeks, there was an increase in wrinkle formation and oxidative damage. This could suggest that chronic exposure to high heat in the form of hot tubs, saunas, or climate could potentially increase wrinkle formation. However, studies are needed to examine the exact effects heat could have in various scenarios on creating oxidative stress and the effects on human skin.
- Pollution: Indoor air pollution from the use of solid fuels (such as coal) for cooking has been shown to increase severe wrinkles on the face by 5-8% and fine wrinkles on the backs of the hands by 74 percent.
- Climate: Difference in climates among different regions in China was reported to influence wrinkles in a study of Chinese women. In particular, weather that lead to drier skin lead to the worsened appearance of wrinkles.
Avoiding sun damage due to sun overexposure by using sunscreen, long-sleeved clothing, and seeking shade will help to prevent the development of wrinkles through UV radiation.
Botanical And Herbs
- Milk thistle: Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) may prevent wrinkles without the skin irritation that is common with some forms of treatment.
- Pomegranate: Several studies have shown the potential benefits of pomegranate for skin health and protection of UV-induced skin damage that can cause wrinkles.
- Safflower: A chemical from the Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) plant was shown in mice to improve UV skin damage and may help improve wrinkles by promoting collagen synthesis.
- Green tea: Green tea (Camellia sinensis) may improve wrinkles and help to reduce photodamage.
- Honey: Honey has the potential to improve wrinkles and is used commonly in many cosmetic products.
- A combination therapy with Red Ginseng (Panax ginseng), Torilus fructus, and Corni fructus can reduce facial wrinkles and improve collagen synthesis.
Diet And Lifestyle
Nutrition and diet
- Coffee: Coffee is rich in polyphenol compounds that can act as antioxidants. Coffee intake was shown to protect the skin from photoaging in one study using non-smoking, healthy adult Japanese females. Drinking 3 cups of coffee daily had more of an impact than subjects who drank only one cup of coffee daily, and even more of an impact when compared to women that drank coffee sparsely. Coffee consumption improved facial pigmentation, though it did not improve the appearance of wrinkles.
- A topical combination using Resveratrol, Baicalin, and Vitamin E was shown to significantly improve fine lines and wrinkles.
- Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.), Blueberry (Vaccinium cyanococcus), and collagen were shown to improve wrinkle formation in mice when the fruit blend was taken orally.
- A commercially available cream containing Green and white tea (Camellia sinensis), Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) and Pomegranate (Punica granatum) was shown to improve skin texture and reduce photodamage in healthy females.
- An oral supplement containing a combination of Soy isoflavones, Lycopene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and fish oil was shown to improve wrinkles and promote the formation of new collagen in the skin of post-menopausal women.
- Smoking cessation: Stopping smoking can prevent wrinkle formation by reducing the oxidative damage that is common with tobacco smoke.