Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/17/2021
Wrinkles: They’re a way you can tell someone isn’t on TikTok.
You can joke about aging, but for many men, wrinkles aren’t a welcome badge of honor. In fact for most guys, signs of aging can be a giant clue that youth is beginning to disappear.
Wrinkles can even drive some men to act like self-flagellating Bond villains, going under the knife for cosmetic surgery or maybe testing the vampire-facial waters.
But you don’t have to start there. In fact, your best wrinkle treatment could simply involve a good moisturizer.
Whether you’re just beginning to see fine lines or deep wrinkles that seem to change your facial expressions, there are plenty of treatments available to reduce, reverse or even prevent the formation of many wrinkles.
Read on to learn more about what causes lines to form in the first place — along with the best wrinkle treatment for you.
Your skin is a surprisingly complex array of blood vessels and glands. It’s the largest organ on your body, and one of the most complex. But what keeps it looking young and healthy might seem simple: collagen, elastin and keratin.
Collagen is arguably the most important of these three major proteins. It’s the most plentiful, responsible for the “firmness” of your skin, and the largest component of connective tissue: the stuff that keeps your cells attached to one another.
Elastin — which, as the name suggests, is responsible for the responsive flexibility of your skin. When someone squeezes your cheek, you can thank elastin that it doesn’t just stay that way.
Keratin is also very important, and acts as a sort of protective barrier for your skin.
Think of keratin as armor: It’s a tough protein capable of taking damage to protect the inner tissues from harm — whether from objects or elements like the sun.
The bad news is that skin damage and wrinkles can happen due to a variety of reasons — most of which have to do with stress to the skin and the biomechanics that nourish and heal it.
In a way, everything that affects you on a day-to-day basis can be responsible for fine lines and signs of aging, from the sun and air quality to your diet and sleeping position.
It’s common knowledge that long-term sun exposure (specifically ultraviolet light or UV rays) can cause wrinkles, but poor nutrition, smoking, insufficient water intake and sleeping face down on your pillow can also damage your skin, even if you wear sunscreen.
Here’s how wrinkles and fine lines form:
There are two major theories on skin aging and the appearance of wrinkles which focus on mechanisms such as intrinsic sources — like the decrease of function over time and reduced cellular lifespan, and extrinsic factors, i.e. the external sources of damage, inflammation and the formation of free radicals.
The Programmatic Theory on skin aging focuses on intrinsic factors while the Stochastic Theory points to extrinsic sources. Both theories have their merits and should be considered together when looking at ways to prevent and/or minimize wrinkles.
Anti-aging creams claim to benefit the skin by reducing and reversing skin damage, and some of the claims of how they do it (and with what ingredients) can sound convincing.
You’ve probably seen some miracle cure claiming a rare jungle root from the dawn of time works like a magic wand. Best of all? It’s available at half price if you call now. Operators are standing by.
Yet, according to a 2007 review published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, “Many over-the-counter products advertise dramatic results, but there has been relatively little scientific data to support these claims.
Although many different compounds are marketed as anti-aging products, studies proving their efficacy are limited.”
So what did the authors of this review find? Just a few ingredients in over-the-counter topical creams have any proven efficacy. These include: vitamin C, alpha-hydroxy acids, vitamin A, vitamin B, moisturizers and peptides.
“Vitamin C and alpha-hydroxy acids have been the most extensively researched products, and their anti-aging capabilities have been demonstrated,” the review explained. “There have also been some promising studies on vitamin A and vitamin B derivatives.”
Moisturizers have also been shown to help boost skin hydration and improve the appearance of skin.
Research has revealed that pentapeptides (as a moisturizer ingredient) can help reduce the appearance of facial wrinkles.
As you might suspect, other ingredients in skin creams may offer the same effects, or even better ones. But they haven’t been effectively tested to the point researchers can prove anything.
There might be a special mushroom from Madagascar that can make your skin look 22 forever, but it might also make you bald, blind and impotent. It takes years of independent studies to consider these things.
As mentioned above, there are several ingredients you should look for in skincare products that will actually aid you in combating wrinkles and signs of aging.
The main ones are vitamin C, retinoids and moisturizers.
Retinoids are synthetic vitamin A compounds that benefit your skin in two ways: They strip dry, dead cells from your face in layers, and they encourage the synthesis of collagen.
Think of retinol as a one-two punch: both a chemical exfoliant and a starter gun for what your skin has to do on its own.
Prescription retinoids (sometimes called retinol) have been around since the 1960s, and particular versions like tretinoin have been recommended for safe, effective use since then.
Remember those free radicals we mentioned? Well, there’s a way to stop them (besides sunscreen).
Vitamin C acts like a big punching bag for free radicals: It’s full of electrons they can ravage from, while sparing your vulnerable cells.
So when sunlight hits, having vitamin C on your skin can sort of treat that UV bombardment the way an airbag protects you during a collision.
You might also want to consider including a product that contains sunscreen, so you don’t have to layer it on as well. (It’s best to apply serums containing vitamin C underneath sunscreen, if you use separate products.)
You can apply a potent serum like Hims Morning Glow Vitamin C Serum topically in the morning to both brighten dull skin and protect it throughout the day.
Moisturizers are important for, well, keeping your skin from looking tired and dried out. Creams, lotions and oils can help hydrate your skin and serve as a protective barrier from the elements.
One of the best moisturizers you can invest in is something called hyaluronic acid, which helps bind water to your skin.
Hyaluronic acid is naturally found in places you want lubrication, including the skin, eyes and joints. It’s generally made by bacteria for pharmaceutical and beauty purposes.
Hyaluronic acid is much more effective as an injection, but studies have shown it has benefits as a topical ingredient as well.
So where do oils fit into this conversation?
Well, it turns out that various oils have been shown to reduce free radicals and inflammation — two sources of skin damage that can dull skin and deepen wrinkles.
The evidence to support these various oils as antioxidants and antiinflammatories is well established, though not all of them have been tested specifically in helping people maintain skin health.
But there are plenty of skin oils on the market, nevertheless. Some popular performers include:
A 2012 study on rats found compelling evidence for carrot seed oil as an effective reducer of oxidative stress (making it an antioxidant).
The researchers had the rats ingest the oil, however, so the study itself doesn’t directly correlate to skin benefits.
Carrot seed oil is known to be gentle on skin, however, when applied topically.
The tropical flower Ylang-Ylang, which grows predominantly around the Indian Ocean, has been used for aromatherapy purposes.
But when it comes to your skin, it boasts both antioxidative and antiinflammatory properties that — according to a 2015 scientific review — offer benefits for skin health.
Rosemary essential oil contains a number of compounds beneficial as antioxidants.
According to a 2014 review, these compounds have been used predominantly to treat liver issues, but they could potentially offer similar benefits to skin health.
There hasn’t been research yet to confirm topical skin benefits, however.
Rose oils have traditionally been used for everything from aromatherapy to treat depression to wound healing.
A 2011 review concluded that there may be many benefits to rose-based products, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects.
A 1999 study of lemon oil found antioxidative benefits for the skin, and concluded that topical application, “significantly increases the antioxidative potential of skin biosurface, thus highlighting the effectiveness of a natural antioxidant biotechnology in the anti-aging management of skin.”
In 1997, a comparative study of sandalwood oil revealed that not only can the oil serve as an effective anti-inflammatory, but that it might also offer potential “chemo-preventive” benefits against skin cancer.
It’s worth noting however that this study was conducted on mice, and it’s not clear if these results would be replicated in humans.
In 2014, a scientific article highlighted the benefits of pomegranate for skin health, which include protection from cancer, photoaging and potentially antioxidation.
However, as with sandalwood, much of the research has been conducted on mice.
Botox and fillers are a little like apples and oranges, especially when it comes to working as a wrinkle treatment.
They’re not the same thing, but they both have been proven as fruitful treatments for fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging.
The difference between the two relates to the type of wrinkle each treatment fights.
There are two kinds of wrinkles: dynamic wrinkles like crows feet, which are caused by muscle activity, and static wrinkles like laugh lines, which are present when the face is relaxed and caused by the loss of collagen and elasticity.
Botox is best for dynamic wrinkles, and static wrinkles can be treated with both botox and fillers.
Fillers are injectable compounds that can ‘lift’ and add volume to a selected area under your skin, therefore ‘filling’ and/or plumping out a wrinkle.
The most common type of dermal filler is hyaluronic acid, which occurs naturally in your skin.
As mentioned above, hyaluronic acid helps your skin retain moisture, which helps give it that youthful, bouncy firmness you lose with age.
Injecting a hyaluronic filler into the skin supplements your face with additional moisture retention, which will in turn fill sunken spaces like wrinkles where the skin has lost its firmness and resiliency.
Many studies have confirmed that hyaluronic acid fillers are effective in helping to make folds and wrinkles in facial skin less visible.
In comparison, botox is a protein secreted by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum — which you may know as the source of the food poisoning botulism.
Botox is a neurotoxin protein that attacks nerve cells and paralyzes muscles.
That may be a bad thing when it’s part of your lunch, but as an FDA-approved injectable, it’s an effective wrinkle treatment.
Botox is injected into the muscles below the skin in low doses, causing the muscles that stretch and crease the skin to weaken, and then temporarily stop creasing and stretching the skin.
According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, there are several methods available for reducing or eliminating frown lines, and they go beyond surgery.
Brow lifts are certainly an option, but before you go under the knife, you might want to consider other procedures, which can have immediate effects despite less extreme measures.
There are also preventative measures like daily habit changes — some of which are good for your entire body.
Preventative methods can include getting a full night’s rest, wearing sunglasses, applying a daily moisturizer and training yourself not to squint or furrow, so as to avoid the repetitive motions that create forehead creases and frown lines.
One simple but effective solution would be to use a wrinkle treatment containing hyaluronic acid, which can help your skin maintain moisture.
A good example would be Hims Goodnight Wrinkle Cream — which contains the same active ingredient as many popular filler injections.
In this case, though, you spread it on your face before bed instead of paying a specialist to inject it.
Wrinkles can’t be kept at bay forever, and aside from surgery, there’s no way to stop them from finding your face.
And to be honest, you may not want to be wrinkle free forever; there’s something to be said for looking distinguished. Or like a cowboy.
The goal is to look younger than your age as you get older. You want to feel confident in your skin.
Maybe that means accepting some crows’ feet in your 50s, or starting preventative maintenance and a skin care routine when you head off to college.
But that’s the “beauty” side of skin care. The other side of the coin is health. As noted above, wrinkles can sometimes be a sign of some issues you may want to address, like a lack of sleep.
No matter your age, there’s one simple step you can take: Talk to a healthcare provider. They’ll be able to assess your health, skin and anti-aging goals, and help you determine the best tools and wrinkle treatments for you.