Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
If your wrinkles bother you, you have many options to help eliminate or at least reduce their appearance. Wrinkle treatments include:
- Topical retinoids. Derived from vitamin A, retinoids that you apply to your skin may be able to reduce fine wrinkles, splotchy pigmentation and skin roughness. Retinoids must be used with a skin care program that includes daily broad-spectrum sunscreen application and protective clothing because the medication can make your skin burn more easily. It may also cause redness, dryness, itching, and a burning or tingling sensation. Tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A) and tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac) are examples of topical retinoids.
- Nonprescription wrinkle creams. The effectiveness of anti-wrinkle creams depends in part on the active ingredient or ingredients. Retinol, alpha hydroxy acids, kinetin, coenzyme Q10, copper peptides and antioxidants may result in slight to modest improvements in wrinkles. However, nonprescription wrinkle creams contain lower concentrations of active ingredients than do prescription creams. Therefore results, if any, are limited and usually short-lived.
Surgical procedures and other techniques
A variety of skin-resurfacing techniques, injectables, fillers and surgical procedures are available to smooth out wrinkles. Each works a little differently and has its own set of potential results and side effects. Some studies indicate that a combination of treatments may yield the most satisfying results.
- Dermabrasion. This procedure consists of sanding down (planing) the surface layer of your skin with a rapidly rotating brush. The planing removes the skin surface, and a new layer of skin grows in its place. Redness, scabbing and swelling generally last a couple of weeks. It may take several months for the pinkness to fade and for you to see the desired results.
- Microdermabrasion. This technique is similar to dermabrasion, but less surface skin is removed. It's done using a vacuum suction over your face while aluminum oxide crystals essentially sandblast your skin. Only a fine layer of skin is removed. You may notice a slight redness to the treated areas. Microdermabrasion usually requires repeated treatments to maintain the subtle, temporary results.
- Laser, light source and radiofrequency treatments. In ablative (wounding) laser resurfacing, a laser beam destroys the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and heats the underlying skin (dermis), which stimulates the growth of new collagen fibers. As the wound heals, new skin forms that's smoother and tighter. It can take up to several months to fully heal from ablative laser resurfacing. Newer developments in laser technology, such as nonablative fractional resurfacing, in which the laser divides the light up into many smaller pulses, have decreased the healing time. Nonablative lasers are less intense, so they don't injure the epidermis. These treatments heat the dermis and cause new collagen and elastin formation. After several treatments, skin feels firmer and appears refreshed. Nonablative laser treatment typically needs to be repeated more often and results are subtle. There's also a device that uses radiofrequency instead of light to heat the dermis and underlying tissue to achieve mildly to moderately tighter skin.
- Chemical peel. Your doctor applies an acid to the affected areas, which burns the outer layer of your skin. With medium-depth peels, the entire epidermis and a small portion of the dermis are removed. New skin forms to take its place. The new skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than your old skin. Redness lasts up to several weeks. With superficial peels, only a portion of the epidermis is removed. After a series of peels, you may notice less fine wrinkling in your skin and a fading of brown spots.
- Botulinum toxin type A (Botox). When injected in small doses into specific muscles, Botox blocks the chemical signals that cause muscles to contract. When the muscles can't tighten, the skin flattens and appears smoother and less wrinkled. Botox works well on frown lines between the eyebrows and across the forehead, and crow's-feet at the corners of the eyes. Results typically last about three to four months. Repeat injections are needed to maintain results.
- Soft tissue fillers. Soft tissue fillers, which include fat, collagen and hyaluronic acid (Restylane, Juvederm), can be injected into deeper wrinkles on your face. They plump and smooth out wrinkles and furrows and give your skin more volume. You may experience temporary swelling, redness and bruising in the treated area. The procedure may need to be repeated every few months.
- Face-lift. The face-lift procedure involves removing excess skin and fat in your lower face and neck and tightening the underlying muscle and connective tissue. The results typically last five to 10 years. Healing times can be lengthy after a face-lift. Bruising and swelling are usually evident for several weeks after surgery.
Keep in mind that results vary depending on the location of your wrinkles and how deep your wrinkles are. However, nothing stops the aging process of skin, so you'll likely need the treatments repeated to maintain benefits.
These procedures aren't usually covered by insurance. In addition, any of the procedures can have side effects, so be sure to discuss them with your doctor. Make sure your dermatologist or plastic surgeon is specially trained and experienced in the technique you're considering.
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