All About Wrinkles

Facial skin tells the world where a woman is in terms of beauty and age. Flawless, wrinkle-free skin is celebrated. "Everyone wants younger, healthy-looking skin, with the goal of looking more beautiful (or at least the best you can)," says author Paula Begoun.

"No one wants wrinkles or drooping skin, and no wants to have blemishes. No one. I can make such a sweeping statement because no cosmetics company in the world is selling products that will make skin look more wrinkled, saggy or broken out," she says. "At least not knowingly."

When the first wrinkle occurs, reactions are mixed. "I was in my early twenties when I saw my first hint of a smile line," says Linda, a California mother of four. "I said to myself, 'This can't be happening.' I didn't bother to do anything about it at first, but then I bought some anti-wrinkle cream. Using it makes me feel better."

Linda is not alone. "I was putting on my make-up one day, says a Virginia woman. I had just bought a magnifying mirror and I was seeing some things I didn't know I had. They seemed very familiar. I thought, 'There's another thing I didn't want to inherit from my mother." She too bought an anti-aging product and applied it to her face.

Few women see any benefit in looking older than they feel. In her book, "Looking Good at Any Age," dermatologist Amy E. Newburger, M.D., gives women a heads-up regarding the skin changes that typically occur during each decade of life.

Facts about Skin

To understand why this happens, first we'll give you a broad overview of the skin's anatomy and physiology.

Skin consists of three basic layers: the epidermis, dermis and adipose (fatty) tissue. New skin cells are born in the epidermis (what is called stratified squamous epithelial tissue consisting of sheets of cells) and rise to the surface where they are sloughed off. This happens all the time, all over your body. Melanocytes or pigment cells that determine skin color and provide some protection against the sun's ultraviolet rays are also found here.

The dermis, or middle layer, nourishes the epidermis. This layer contains three protein related substances: collagen, responsible for skin firmness; elastin, furnishing bounce and resilience; and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs or chains of sugars, sulfur, and amino acids) that help skin retain its moisture. Also resident in this layer are hair follicles, sweat glands, oil glands, blood vessels, muscle cells, lymph ducts, and nerve fibers. These nerve endings send messages of touch, heat, pressure, pain, cold, and sexual arousal to the brain.

The bottom layer, adipose tissue, cushions the skin and keeps it from sagging. These fat cells also insulate your body against extreme temperatures and give shape to your face. Muscle fibers, nerves, blood vessels, and the roots of oil and sweat glands run through this layer.

Your skin protects vital organs, regulates body temperature, provides a barrier against microorganisms, excretes waste products, transforms sunlight into vitamin D, and produces melanin to reduce exposure to the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays.

In general, skin is considered balanced — like Goldilocks' experience, neither too dry nor too oily, oily (often leading to problems with acne, or dry)