The Difference Between Genetic & Situational Wrinkles, From A Derm
If you've been shaming yourself for natural skin aging, remember that to age in any respect is a privilege (not everybody gets to live until the age you're at now!). Of course, changing your mindset is certainly easier said than done, but practice makes perfect.
Another way to encourage skin self-love is by learning more about how wrinkles work in order to give you some context as to what's happening below the surface. Below, find a brief summary of the different types of wrinkles, specifically the difference between the unavoidable and the semi-preventable kinds.
Genetic wrinkles vs. situational wrinkles
It's true: Some wrinkles are actually unavoidable. No matter how many retinol serums you use, how much sunscreen you wear, or how many times you massage your skin, your complexion will begin to wrinkle at some point or another.
Depending on your genetic makeup, this may happen sooner or later than a friend or partner, but the same factors are still at play.
To be specific, these "unavoidable" wrinkles can be classified as gravitational wrinkles and atrophic wrinkles. Below, a quick reminder of the difference:
- Gravitational wrinkles: Eventually, the effects of gravity afflict us all. Over time, your skin just sags, and there you have it: gravitational wrinkles. "The most classic example is the marionette lines around the mouth area, which appear as your cheeks begin to sag," board-certified dermatologist Shereene Idriss, M.D., previously told mbg.
- Atrophic wrinkles: These wrinkles form due to the breakdown of your skin's elastic structure, which happens naturally as you age. Factors like sun exposure can exacerbate that breakdown, but it will occur eventually regardless of prevention method (and that's OK).
"Situational wrinkles," as we'll call them, are quite different. These are the types of wrinkles that can be (in part) prevented or delayed with diligent skin care and lifestyle practices.
A few examples include compression wrinkles from sleeping, elastotic wrinkles from chronic unprotected UV exposure, and expression wrinkles—or fine lines from smiling, laughing, and the like.
For the latter smile and laugh-induced wrinkles, the "prevention" method, so to speak, is more focused on strengthening your skin structure from within rather than limiting your facial expressions (because you should never try to laugh less).
While there's nothing wrong with these lines, it's fair to crave tighter skin as you age. Below, a few quick tips to encourage skin longevity:
- Wear SPF daily: If you're not already wearing sunscreen every day, start now. It's never too late to prevent more sun damage.
- Take a collagen supplement: The atrophic and elastoic wrinkles occur in part due to collagen and elastin breakdown within your skin. Luckily, modern science has allowed for a supplement that may be able to help: collagen. To ensure your product works, look for hydrolyzed collagen peptides and commit to the daily practice. Here, a list of A+ options to shop.
- Dry skin won't help: If your skin is starved of hydration, it will look much older, full stop. Be sure to use facial and body moisturizer at least once daily and drink plenty of water.
- Be diligent about your skin care: Ingredients like retinol (and the gentle alternative bakuchiol) are key for encouraging younger-looking skin topically. If you can't find a retinol or bakuchiol product you love, visit your derm for other options to consider.
While all wrinkles happen eventually, you can speed up or delay a few based on your lifestyle practices and skin care habits. To encourage tighter skin all around, prioritize skin supplements, sunscreen, hydration, and research-backed actives, like retinol. For a deeper dive into these wrinkle types, check out our full guide.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.