Wrinkles are visible creases in the skin.

Most wrinkles are associated with aging changes in skin. Aging of the skin and related structures (hair and nails) is a natural process. Nothing can be done to decrease the rate of skin aging, but many environmental factors will increase the rate.

Frequent exposure to sunshine results in premature skin wrinkling and increased pigmentation (liver spots). It also increases the likelihood of skin cancer. Exposure to cigarette smoke is another environmental factor that increases wrinkling of the skin.

Besides wrinkles, other skin changes may include liver spots (pigmented areas). The hair and nails also change with aging, including graying of the hair, hair loss, and brittleness of the nails.

Common Causes
Wrinkles can develop because of:

  • Sun exposure  
  • Normal aging changes in the skin  
  • Smoking

Home Care
To minimize skin wrinkling, stay out of the sun as much as possible. When you are outside, wear protective clothing and use sunscreen. If you smoke, stop smoking.

Call your health care provider if

  • A spot on the skin has more than one color, has an irregular shape, or is raised.  
  • You notice any new or changing pigmented lesions

Note: Wrinkles are not usually a concern unless they occur at an early age. Consult your health care provider if you think that your skin is becoming excessively wrinkled at an early age. A referral to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon is sometimes appropriate.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
Your doctor may ask detailed questions about your wrinkles, such as:

  • When did you first notice that the skin was abnormally wrinkled?  
  • Has it changed in any manner?  
  • Has a skin spot become painful or does it bleed?  
  • What other symptoms are occurring at the same time?

A detailed examination of the skin will be performed. If wrinkles are accompanied by a skin lesion that has changed in appearance, diagnostic tests may include a skin lesion biopsy.


A dermatologist or plastic surgeon may provide choices from wrinkle creams to plastic surgery for dealing with aging problems. Current alternatives have relatively low risk, but are generally expensive.

Tretinoin (Retin-A) or other creams may be recommended, but these aren’t guaranteed to help.

Chemical peels or laser resurfacing are very effective options for early wrinkles.

Plastic surgery (for a facelift, browlift, or other procedure) is available as an elective procedure that is generally paid for entirely by the patient (not by insurance).

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Armen E. Martirosyan, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.