Fine lines are a common sign of aging that many people notice as they enter their 30s, 40s and beyond.
Like many other signs of aging, fine lines develop due to changes in your skin that occur as you get older. While it’s impossible to stop these changes completely, a combination of good habits, over-the-counter products and medications can help to slow them down.
If you already have fine lines or wrinkles, several treatments can also help to get rid of them or make them less visible.
Below, we’ve explained what fine lines are, as well as how they develop on your face and other parts of your body. We’ve also listed several science-based methods that you can use to get rid of fine lines or make them less visible.
Finally, we’ve listed lifestyle changes and habits that you can use to prevent fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging from developing in the first place.
Fine lines are small, thin wrinkles that develop on your face. While the term “wrinkles” is usually used to refer to deep, easily visible lines, the term “fine lines” usually refers to smaller lines that have only recently developed.
Most fine lines develop around your eyes, particularly at the edges of the eyes (crow’s feet). It’s also common for small, fine wrinkles to develop under your eyes, on your forehead and in other parts of your face.
Fine lines, wrinkles and other common signs of aging all develop as a byproduct of your skin’s natural aging process.
Just like your joints, hair and numerous other parts of your body, your skin changes as you get older.
Over time, your skin naturally becomes less elastic. When combined with the effects of gravity, this loss of elasticity means that the skin in certain parts of your face and body starts to develop creases, or wrinkles.
Since your eyes and forehead play such a key role in forming your facial expressions, they’re often the first places that fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging become visible.
At the same time as your skin is becoming less elastic, it also slowly loses part of its thickness, as well as some of the fat that contributes to its appearance.
It’s also common for your skin to become drier as you age -- another factor that may contribute to fine lines and wrinkles. Issues such as dryness and age spots may become more common, making your age more obvious and apparent from your skin.
Some aspects of your skin’s aging process are genetic, meaning they’re completely outside of your control. However, other aspects of the aging process are closely related to your habits.
One of the largest causes of skin damage and aging is your level of exposure to the sun. When you spend time in bright sunlight, ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes damage to your skin, affecting its ability to create important structural proteins such as collagen and elastin.
This can reduce your skin’s elasticity and speed up the development of fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Other habits, such as smoking or not getting enough sleep, can also affect your skin’s ability to produce collagen and maintain itself.
The effects of sunlight, smoking and poor sleep aren’t immediate, meaning you won’t suddenly notice fine lines after a day at the beach or night out. However, over the long term, these habits can have a significant, noticeable effect on your skin.
Numerous treatments are available for fine lines, from over-the-counter products to prescription medications, injectable fillers and cosmetic procedures.
Like other signs of aging, fine lines can vary in severity. If you only have a few shallow fine lines, simple over-the-counter products may be enough to make them less visible. If you have deeper lines, you may need to use a more potent treatment.
Simple, readily available over-the-counter products can have a noticeable effect on your skin’s elasticity, texture and appearance. Try adding the following products to your skin care routine to keep fine lines and wrinkles at bay:
If you have noticeable fine lines, or you’re starting to develop deeper wrinkles, prescription skin care medication may be the best option. Try the following:
Several cosmetic procedures are used to make fine lines and deep wrinkles less visible. Some of these work by targeting the underlying muscles that play a role in the development of fine lines, while others resurface the skin to make lines and other blemishes less visible. Options include:
The most effective way to deal with fine lines and other signs of facial aging is to prevent them from developing in the first place. Try the following habits, techniques and lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of premature skin aging:
UV radiation from sunlight is a major source of premature skin aging. In fact, experts believe that UV radiation is responsible for 90 percent of the visible changes that occur in your skin as you get older.
Since UV radiation can take such a toll on your skin, it’s important to limit the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight. Try to avoid spending long periods outdoors on sunny days, especially during peak sunlight hours.
When you do spend time outdoors, especially on sunny days, apply a broad-spectrum, SPF 30+ sunscreen. Make sure to use a water-resistant sunscreen if you’re at the beach or swimming pool.
Squinting can speed up the development of fine lines around your eyes. Wear sunglasses on bright days so that you aren’t forced to squint when you’re outside.
Smoking doesn’t just harm your lungs and heart -- it also has negative effects on your skin. In fact, research shows that cigarette smokers are more likely to develop facial wrinkles than non-smokers.
If you smoke, try to quit. You can learn more about quitting, including your options for dealing with nicotine cravings and other issues, in our full guide to quitting smoking.
While drinking a small amount of alcohol isn’t very likely to damage your skin, regular drinking -- especially in large amounts -- can cause your skin to become dehydrated and damaged.
Try to limit your alcohol consumption to a moderate amount -- up to two drinks per day for men, or one for women.
This causes your facial muscles to contract, allowing fine lines and wrinkles to develop over time as the skin forms into the same shape.
Try to avoid large amounts of simple sugars or refined carbohydrates, as these may speed up the aging process. Instead, stick to a healthy, balanced diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables and other nutrient-rich ingredients.
It’s worth implementing these changes even if you already have noticeable fine lines, wrinkles or other signs of aging. Although changing your habits won’t reverse the signs of aging, it can help to slow them down and prevent them from getting worse.
Fine lines are a common, normal sign of aging. While the best way to avoid them is to prevent them from developing in the first place, several options are available for treating fine lines after they appear.
When it comes to treating fine lines, the best approach is to stick to the basics by moisturizing your skin on a regular basis and using a science-based approach such as using a medication like topical tretinoin.
It’s also important to practice skin-friendly habits, such as protecting yourself from sun damage, maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding smoking or drinking alcohol excessively.
If you still have fine lines after several months, it may be worth speaking to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon about treatment options such as Botox, dermal fillers or surgical treatments to resurface your skin and make fine lines and wrinkles less visible.