Wrinkles: What to Expect at 20, 30 and Beyond

A New York City dermatologist breaks down everything you need to know about wrinkles, including how to prevent them.

No, we don't have the secret to avoiding wrinkles entirely. But we can tell you this: where and when you'll probably start seeing wrinkles, how to avoid wrinkles, and how to take care of your skin to keep it as healthy (and youthful) as possible. Here, Kenneth Howe, MD, from Wexler Dermatology, in New York City, breaks it all down for us.

Woman Looking at Her Skin
Claudia Miranda / EyeEm/Getty Images

What Causes Wrinkles?

There are various causes of wrinkles, according to Dr. Howe, including:

  • Genetic Factors, like your inherited skin color and skin resiliency
  • Photodamage, meaning, how much sun exposure our skin has had
  • Smoking, which damages collagen and therefore speeds up the skin's aging process
  • Habitual Facial Expressions, like raising your eyebrows and squinting to read something far away
  • Sleep Position, if you sleep on your stomach or side, you may develop lines on your face
  • Bad Habits, such as propping your fist on your jawline, which causes folds in your skin

While these are generalizations, it's important to understand there is variability based on many genetic and lifestyle factors. Skin color, sun exposure, and smoking all make a difference in when lines start to show up, as does how we use our muscles for facial expression. There's not much you can do about genetics, but you can control lifestyle factors that contribute to wrinkles. Wearing sunscreen—opt for a mineral sunscreen if you want to avoid chemical-based formulas—to protect your skin and quitting cigarettes helps decrease the acceleration of skin aging. Beyond that, here's a decade-by-decade guide to when wrinkles tend to appear (and what you can do about it).

When Do Wrinkles Tend to Appear?

In your 20s...

Wrinkles can start popping up as soon as in your twenties. "When you're 20, you'll start seeing horizontal forehead lines. These appear on the mid- to upper forehead, and are caused by habitually raising the eyebrows," says Dr. Howe. This doesn't mean you should stop raising your eyebrows, obviously. Now that would be silly. Some women decide to treat with a "young women's Botox," as Dr. Howe calls it to help slow the process of those lines showing up. There are plenty of great affordable skincare brands to get you started on a good skin regimen.

In your 30s...

In your thirties you start to see more lines, due to longer time in the sun and squinting. "Crow's feet starts to appear in your thirties, says Dr. Howe, "Sun damage and frequent squinting (from not wearing sunglasses while in strong light) hastens the appearance of these lines." Other lines that can start appearing? "Frown lines" says Dr. Howe. "In my opinion, these lines are the strongest indication that it's time to start Botox. The existence of visible frown lines while at rest, often indicates that other aspects of facial aging are starting, such as mild skin laxity of the brows. If left untreated, they lead to an accelerated cascade of aging within the skin."

To help combat the small lines showing up, Dr. Howe recommends SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. "As an Essence preparation it goes on very lightly, and hydrates the skin beautifully. Its key ingredient, Pitera, is a patented extract from sake fermentation that supplements our skin's own natural moisturizing factors, thus allowing our skin to retain a great deal more water. The result is healthier, more dewy looking skin."

In your 40s...

During your forties, you'll start to notice lines get deeper and more accentuated. "In your 40s the frown lines become deeper, and (if never treated) get accentuated by accompanying skin laxity." says Dr. Howe. To help slow the signs of aging, Dr. Howe recommends using RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream. It's one of the best night creams on the market. "It's the closest you can get to prescription level retinoid effect in an over-the-counter product," he explains. "It contains a potent dose of retinol (Vitamin A) that combats wrinkle formation by stimulating the production of collagen in our skin." It's also formulated for sensitive skin.

In your 50s...

Finally in the fifties, you'll start to see lines around the mouth to appear—from smiling, talking, basically living life. "We treat them with lasers, filler, and Botox," says Dr. Howe.

How Can You Prevent Wrinkles?

Being a non-smoker really does help you have healthier skin, says Dr. Howe. "Remember that smoking contributes to skin aging in two very significant ways," he says. "One, it decreases collagen content of the skin. This is a global effect, present throughout the body. It results in thinner, more fragile skin. Second, the act of smoking exposes certain areas (such as the skin around the mouth) to repetitive movements that crease and wear out the skin."

What Doesn't Cause Wrinkles?

Don't fall for the popular myth that rubbing your eyes causes wrinkles. Neither does washing your face (or rubbing lotion in) in a downward motion. "Pulling down on your face doesn't cause wrinkles," says Dr. Howe, "We simply don't do that enough to damage the skin that way."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles