Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 11/27/2020
Forehead wrinkles are an annoying side effect of aging that often pop up as you enter your 30s, 40s and 50s.
Just like other wrinkles, they’re caused by a variety of different factors, including damage to your skin from sun exposure, your genetics and normal, natural changes to the chemical composition of your skin that occur as you age.
Although forehead wrinkles can be frustrating to look at in the mirror, they’re often treatable, with a variety of treatments that you can use to make wrinkles less visible and reverse some signs of aging in your skin.
Below, we’ve explained what forehead wrinkles are and how they develop. We’ve also listed the most effective treatments for forehead wrinkles, as well as science-backed techniques that you can use to prevent wrinkles from developing in the first place.
Wrinkles, whether in your forehead or elsewhere, normally develop as a result of aging in your skin. However, environmental and behavioral factors can also speed up or slow down the development of wrinkles.
Habits linked to forehead wrinkles include smoking and spending too much time in the sun, especially without adequate sun protection.
Several treatments may help to reverse wrinkles, including topical medications such as tretinoin and cosmetic treatments such as dermal fillers and botox.
If you don’t have any forehead wrinkles yet, or only have light, shallow wrinkles, making a few changes to your lifestyle and habits may prevent your skin from aging prematurely in the future.
Wrinkles are a common, normal sign of aging. They’re caused both by natural factors and by a range of environmental factors, some of which you may be able to control. Common causes of wrinkles include:
Getting older. Not surprisingly, forehead wrinkles and other signs of skin aging tend to become more common as you age and your skin becomes less elastic.
This is because your skin produces less collagen, an important structural protein found in connective tissue, over time. Research indicates that collagen levels in skin drop at a rate of about one percent every year.
Sun exposure. Spending time in the sun without protection can expose your skin to UV radiation, a major cause of premature signs of aging. Excess sun exposure also increases your risk of developing skin cancer.
Smoking. Smoking is linked to a reduction in collagen synthesis, with one study finding that tobacco smokers produce certain types of collagen at a lower rate than non-smokers.
Genetics. Just like other aspects of your appearance, your genetics may play a role in your likelihood of developing forehead wrinkles.
Other factors that may cause forehead wrinkles to develop include alcohol consumption, poor sleep habits and excessive use of your facial muscles.
For example, certain facial expressions, such as smiling, raising your eyebrows and squinting, all require the use of your facial muscles. Over time, these expressions can cause grooves to develop in your skin that eventually become wrinkles.
Contrary to popular belief, wrinkles don’t suddenly show up in your skin as you begin your 30s, 40s, 50s or sixties. Instead, wrinkles usually develop slowly over time, only becoming visible once they’re deep and pronounced enough for you to notice.
If you’re worried about wrinkles, it’s important to pay attention to your skin. Try to look for signs of wrinkles in your forehead and elsewhere on your face. If you notice anything, take action as early as you can using the information below.
Dealing with forehead wrinkles can be frustrating, especially if you have deep wrinkles that are visible when you have a neutral facial expression.
Luckily, wrinkles are treatable. From over-the-counter products to prescription medications and cosmetic procedures, a variety of science-backed treatments are available to help minimize the appearance of wrinkles in your forehead and other parts of your face.
One of the most effective medications for wrinkles is tretinoin, a topical retinoid. Tretinoin is sold as a cream, gel or solution and works by increasing the speed at which your body produces new skin cells.
While there’s relatively little research on tretinoin and forehead wrinkles, numerous studies have shown that regular use of tretinoin is linked to a reduction in wrinkles on the face and elsewhere on the body.
For example, one small study from the early 1990s found that tretinoin on chronically sun-damaged skin increased the thickness of the skin and produced significant improvements in fine wrinkling and crease lines compared to a non-therapeutic placebo.
A newer study from 2004 looked at the effects of tretinoin on aged skin over the course of four weeks. Almost all of the people that took part in the study showed an improvement in fine lines and surface texture after four weeks of treatment with tretinoin.
In short, although there’s no research that specifically looks at its effects on forehead wrinkles, tretinoin is scientifically proven to improve wrinkles on the face and elsewhere on the body. As such, it’s an option worth considering if you have forehead wrinkles that you’d like to treat.
We’ve explained more about tretinoin as a wrinkle and anti-aging treatment in our full guide to using tretinoin for wrinkles and anti-aging.
While over-the-counter products usually aren’t powerful enough to improve deep wrinkles, you may notice mild improvements with over-the-counter retinol creams, polypeptides, antioxidants and other products.
Several surgical procedures are used to treat wrinkles, including wrinkles that develop on your forehead. Some surgical procedures for wrinkles may need to be performed every few months to maintain your results.
If you’re interested in treating forehead wrinkles using a surgical procedure, it’s best to talk to a plastic surgeon or dermatologist. Common surgical procedures used to treat forehead wrinkles include:
Botulinum toxin type A (Botox®). Botox is a medication produced from the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. It’s a common injectable wrinkle treatment that works by blocking nerve signals from the brain to certain facial muscles.
Botox injections have been used for more than two decades to treat wrinkles and other signs of aging in the face. They can vary in price and usually last for four to six months at a time, after which they’ll need to be repeated to produce consistent results.
Dermal fillers. Dermal fillers, which often use hyaluronic acid, polymethyl methacrylate and other substances, can help to reduce the signs of aging in the face, including lines and wrinkles.
Like botox, dermal fillers don’t last forever -- depending on the specific filler you choose, you’ll usually get results that last for a few months to several years. After this, you may need to have more filler injected to maintain your results.
Chemical peeling. Also referred to as chemical exfoliation, chemical peeling involves the use of a chemical substance to peel away the outermost layers of the skin and treat wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Dermabrasion. Dermabrasion involves removing the top layer of skin using a special device. The procedure smooths your skin and can be helpful for treating fine lines and wrinkles.
Photodynamic rejuvenation (PDT). Photodynamic rejuvenation, or PDT, involves the use of photosensitizers and light sources, such as lasers and pulsed light, to rejuvenate the skin.
Research indicates that PDT may produce improvements in fine lines and other signs of skin aging.
Forehead lift surgery. A forehead lift is a surgical procedure that’s performed to repair wrinkles, sagging and other signs of skin aging. It’s performed by a plastic surgeon, often along with other cosmetic treatments.
Although forehead lift surgery is often effective, it’s a significant surgery with quite a lengthy recovery period. As such, it’s best considered after other treatments if you have deep, obvious visible wrinkles and other signs of aging.
The most effective techniques for preventing forehead wrinkles are generally the same as those for preventing wrinkles in general. Try to:
Avoid spending too much time in the sun. As we explained above, excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation damages your skin, causing it to age prematurely and make you look older than you really are.
If you live in a sunny area, try to avoid spending too much time in direct sunlight. When you’re outside, try to stay in the shade as much as you can and wear a hat to keep your face protected.
Wear sunscreen to protect yourself. Sunscreen not only reduces your risk of getting skin cancer -- it also helps to protect your skin from the premature aging that can occur when you’re exposed to UV radiation.
When it’s sunny outside, apply sunscreen to any areas of your body that are exposed to the sun, including your forehead. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15 or higher.
If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking is closely associated with premature skin aging, with research showing that people who smoke are more likely to develop facial wrinkles at an early age than their peers.
If you smoke, try to quit. Several options are available to make quitting easier, including medications that can help you stay in control of your nicotine cravings. Our full guide to quitting smoking explains this topic in more detail.
Limit your alcohol consumption. Like smoking, alcohol consumption is also linked to premature skin aging, including the development of facial wrinkles. For example, one study found that heavy alcohol use is associated with increased lines in the upper face.
Drinking often is also often associated with other behaviors that might be linked to skin aging, such as poor sleep.
If you drink, try to limit your consumption of alcohol and avoid drinking excessively. Aim for the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommendation of up to two drinks per day for men, or up to one drink per day for women.
Use a topical retinoid, such as tretinoin. Topical retinoids such as tretinoin are great for making wrinkles less visible. They may also be effective at preventing existing wrinkles from becoming more pronounced.
Research has found that tretinoin increases collagen production -- a factor that may help to stop wrinkles from becoming worse especially on sun-damaged skin. Our full guide to using tretinoin for wrinkles and anti-aging explains how you can use tretinoin in your skincare routine.
Moisturize, especially in affected areas. Moisturizer keeps water in your skin, helping it to maintain a fresh, youthful look. Try to moisturize every day, with a focus on areas of your skin that have visible wrinkles.
Avoid skincare products that irritate your skin. Skin irritation can cause irritation -- a factor that may age your skin prematurely. Avoid skincare products that use ingredients that irritate your skin, or swap them for non-irritating alternatives.
Try not to overuse your facial muscles. Overusing certain facial muscles, such as the muscles in your forehead, can deepen old wrinkles and cause new, permanent wrinkles to develop over time.
Avoid making repetitive facial expressions, especially expressions that involve lifting up your eyebrows using your forehead (frontalis) muscles. On sunny days, make sure that you wear sunglasses to prevent yourself from squinting.
Make sure you get sufficient sleep. Sleep deprivation and facial aging often go hand in hand, with research indicating that people who are sleep deprived are more likely to have wrinkles, fine lines and other signs of aging than those who sleep normally.
The CDC recommends getting at least seven hours of sleep per night.
Forehead wrinkles can be annoying, especially if they’re visible even when you have a neutral facial expression. Luckily, like other wrinkles, they’re usually treatable, with a range of different products, medications and procedures available to make them less visible.
If you have wrinkles that you’d like to treat, consider talking to a skincare specialist about using medication. Used correctly, medications like tretinoin can make a big difference not just to facial wrinkles, but to the overall health and appearance of your skin.