There is a wonderful scene in William Goldman’s book The Princess Bride, where a young lady begins to worry so much about holding her title of “most beautiful woman in the world” that she starts to worry. She is depicted as frowning constantly, and within a few months, has frowned herself into a variety of wrinkles that steal her title. Goldman must be given credit for imagination, but it is seldom the case that frowning for a few months would have an immediate effect on wrinkling of the skin. In fact frowning is only one cause of wrinkles, and many other things come into play.
The biggest cause of wrinkles is the normal process of skin aging. As we age, our skin becomes less elastic, and doesn’t easily spring back into place. Two chemicals, collagen and elastin, are responsible for keeping our skin tight when we are young. These begin to decrease in supply as we age, resulting in some wrinkles.
Certainly, if we spend a lot of time frowning, especially as we grow older, we’re gong to have frown lines. But all muscle contractions of the face are going to have an effect on our face, not just frowning. So it would be silly to think you can avoid wrinkles by not frowning. The complex network of facial contractions that make up smiling cause wrinkles too, as does raising the brows, talking, blinking the eyes, and chewing. Frowning is not a single indicator for getting wrinkles, but it will in part influence them.
Another key factor in wrinkle formation is sun damage, which can cause skin to prematurely age and begin losing elastin and collagen more quickly. While we can’t always avoid frowning or other movements of the face, it’s certainly wise to limit skin exposure to sun and to wear appropriate sunscreen and sunglasses when we must be out. Aside from avoiding premature aging of the skin, this makes excellent health sense, since frequent sun exposure without protection correlates to higher incidences of skin cancer.
If you’re fighting the battle against wrinkles, you should also know that smoking cigarettes reduces the production of collagen. For those considering trying cigarettes to appear more mature, consider in a few years you may actually look older than your age, which is not necessarily desirable when you’re 30 and look 45. Again, there are numerous excellent health reasons for never starting smoking or quitting if you do. Smoking certainly creates much greater risk factors for not reaching an age where you need to worry about wrinkles.