Did you know DNA influences skin wrinkling?

Grand Ma’s wrinkles - The genes that increase your risk of getting wrinkles

“Don’t frown so much, you’ll get wrinkles” said your grandmother. Then in her next breath she shared with you her secrets to keeping wrinkles at bay for as long as possible. Little did your grandmother know that she had already passed on her wrinkles to you. Well, not exactly her wrinkles, but the predisposition to wrinkles, hidden among her genes. Wrinkles are as inevitable as aging, but when all else is equal, genetic changes, can cause these unflattering crinkles to appear much sooner than they might otherwise.

Our skin wrinkles on a daily basis, especially if you tend to do dishes without gloves, or prefer to take extra-long showers and baths. Even babies are born with wrinkled skin. While temporary pruney fingers don’t scare us, age wrinkles do. They change our appearance, and how the world perceives us. Age wrinkles are the fine lines, and the deep furrows that appear in your skin as you age. And your grandmother was right, they do tend to form in places where the skin gets stretched repeatedly like around the mouth or on the forehead.

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Wrinkling is a form of fibrosis – when extra connective tissue is made to repair an organ. Connective tissue, which is mostly made up of collagen and elastin, gives our bodies its structure. According to one theory, known as the misrepair-accumulation aging theory, wrinkles can be attributed to the inadequate repairing of collagen and elastin fibres. The idea is that repetitive use, (e.g. smiling or frowning), damages these fibres. Sometimes, instead of being properly repaired, they are replaced by different fibres. If an elastin fibre breaks in an extended state, it might be replaced by a “long” collagen fibre, leaving the skin looser and stiffer. Or, if a “long” collagen fibre is damaged in its compressed state and gets replaced by a “short” collagen fibre, it will leave the nearby “long” fibres in a permanently folded state. In both scenarios the end products are small folds that become permanent wrinkles.

On top of these repair fumbles, collagen is also broken down over time. Not surprisingly, the appearance of wrinkles can be accelerated by factors that enhance collagen breakdown. These factors include exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, combined with metalloproteinase enzymes (MMPs). MMPs are enzymes that degrade our connective tissue. Sunlight enhances the production of MMPs, thereby increasing the breakdown of connective tissue. Inhibiting the production of MMPs can significantly reduce wrinkle formation, and can be achieved by using natural remedies, like garlic or cocoa extracts.

The MMP1 and MMP3 genes encode two prolific MMPs. Some unfortunate individuals inherit variants of these genes that result in highly active MMPs, causing more skin degradation than normalAs a consequence, people with these MMP variants are likely to get their first wrinkle much earlier than a person with the normal version of these two genes.

It’s easy to change the way we look in terms of clothing, accessories and even hair, but it takes so much more effort to repair our skin once it starts showing its age. This is why some are willing to purchase a $5,000 anti-aging cream made from cat excrement, in a desperate attempt to stop their skin from showing its age! We may not be able to iron out our wrinkles, as easily as we do with our favourite cotton dress, but we can certainly delay their appearance by embracing simple changes like wearing sunscreen or staying out of the sun.

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