Does Dry Skin Cause Wrinkles: The Truth About Aging
The aging process isn’t supposed to be fair — hence the “genetic lottery”. While there are a whole jumble of factors that affect how well we age, getting lucky with our skin type can bring a huge advantage. Oily skin, so they say, stays more firm, glowy and durable over the years than dry skin. Is it true? Does this mean dry skin causes wrinkles? To separate fact from fiction, we collected the most up-to-date findings in dermatology.
Does dry skin cause wrinkles?
Having dry skin can affect how gracefully we age. Although dry skin doesn’t cause wrinkles directly, it tends to be less resilient against environmental stressors like airborne toxins and UV radiation. What’s more, since dry skin has less-active oil glands, the complexion misses that glossy shine — a visual effect helps hide wrinkles.
To further understand this matter, we’ll examine some recent studies that compare dry skin to oily skin.
Dry vs oily skin: how they age differently
In the face-off between dry skin and oily skin, both have unique physical and visual qualities that affect the appearance of wrinkles differently. The reason is simple: it has to do with sebum production (how the oil glands work).
The role of sebum
Sebum is a waxy lubricant made by our body's sebaceous glands. Not only does it have antibacterial properties but this substance also lubricates our skin, acting as a protective coating against foreign invaders.
According to a paper published by the Dermato Endocrinology Journal, “Sebum lubricates the skin to protect against friction and makes it more impervious to moisture.” By acting like a natural shield, sebum creates a layer of protection between your skin and external irritants: wind, bacteria, pollution, UV light, etc. Since these environmental stressors put wear-and-tear on our skin, having higher levels of sebum helps defend our face from these wrinkle-causing irritants.
For this reason, oily skin gets anti-aging benefits from producing extra lubrication.
Does oily skin age better?
The link between wrinkles and skin type is understudied. However, new research published by the Clinical Anatomy Journal reveals evidence that oily skin might age better than dry skin.
The purpose of the study was to clarify the relationship between facial wrinkles and structures in the skin, especially sebaceous glands. Image analysis was performed on tissue slices taken from the forehead and eyelid area from 58 male and female donated cadavers (age range at death 20s -90s). After analyzing the tissue slices, the researchers compared the density of the sebaceous gland in relation to wrinkle depth. They found that wrinkles were shallower in specimens with denser sebaceous glands.
Overall, the study suggests that oily skin tends to age more slowly than dry skin.
The link between dry skin and wrinkles
Every day, our skin faces a warzone of external invaders from the atmosphere. These intruders include free radicals, allergens and pollutants — all of which cause oxidative damage to our healthy skin cells. Dry skin is more vulnerable to these attacks since it produces less sebum, leaving its defenses weaker than well-lubricated skin.
As a result, dry skin risks more exposure to the aging effects of the environment. This condition can possibly increase the pace at which dry skin develops wrinkles for a variety of reasons. We’ll examine the most common ones.
Moisture keeps your skin looking plump and refreshed. And guess how our skin maintains its hydration levels? Sebum.
A team of dermatologists in the Netherlands performed a quantitative study measuring the impact of sebum on moisture in the skin. “Hydration and sebum are important factors in skin health; a right balance between these components plays a central role in protecting and preserving skin integrity,” says the report. As oil helps the skin hold moisture, it behaves like a retainer to prevent water loss. So naturally, oily skin will appear more radiant and smooth than dry skin.
If you look at oily-skinned beauties like Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria, you’ll notice their dewy olive complexions look much younger than their age. The secret is sebum — pure and simple. It’s why celebrity dermatologists like Dr. Harold Lancer tell their A-lister clients to use an anti-aging serum. Even with Hollywood faces, moisture is key.
Toxins and pollution
Our atmosphere carries a lot of toxic baggage that wreaks havoc on our skin. In urban areas particularly, the air is dense with factory emissions, landfill fumes, dust and mold. Dry skin tends to be more exposed to these pollutants because it has a thinner layer of oil to shield the pores.
While examining the impact of airborne pollution on the skin, research confirms that environmental invaders slow down skin metabolism, while causing inflammation and oxidative stress. Oily skin tends to be better protected against these external threats, which to some degree, can delay the severity of wrinkles. Dry skin, on the other hand, may be more sensitive to these impurities.
Similar to pollution, dry skin is especially sensitive to UV light. Responsible for 80% of skin aging, it produces free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules that zap our healthy cells. As dry skin doesn’t have as much protective coating as oily skin, it can face a higher risk of sun damage and wrinkles.
As Dr. Lancer explains, “I tell each and every one of my patients to ensure that their skin is protected with a minimum of SPF 30 – [like the Guard Sunscreen] – every day, regardless of weather.” Dry skin especially needs to follow a strict schedule of applying SPF lotion every two hours while outdoors. But first, you should apply moisturizer to prevent dehydration and add extra cushioning to the skin.
Our facial expressions, over time, leave a lasting impression — literally. And since dry skin is usually thinner than oily skin, it doesn’t stay as elastic against the crinkling effects of squinting, smiling and frowning.
These facial expressions cause dynamic lines that can eventually turn into deeper wrinkles. These changes in skin quality are caused by “collagen breakdown”, says Tony Castillo, Miami-based registered dietitian, and nutritionist. “Think of [collagen] as the glue that holds everything in the body together,” he explains. Our collagen levels degrade as we age, making skin less full and fatty.
If you imagine our skin being like memory foam, collagen would be the material that provides the “bounce-back factor”. So once skin starts losing its spring, it will reveal dynamic creases without plumping back to a smooth state. Dry skin may go through this collagen loss process more quickly than oily skin, increasing the chances of developing deeper wrinkles.
The pros of having dry skin
If you’ve got dry skin, not to worry — it comes with a bunch of beauty bonuses too.
Let’s start with the obvious one: less grease. Oily skin types can appear overly slick when you’re not using blotting papers or setting powder throughout the day, whereas dry skin doesn’t have to deal with a shiny t-zone. Moreover, when there’s less oil, your pores appear smaller which leaves a smoother looking complexion.
Finally, there’s the matter of acne. Dry skin types are usually less prone to breakouts because the pores aren’t getting clogged with as much sebum. Yet ultimately, all skin types have their pros and cons; the defining factor is the quality of your skincare routine.
For anyone who’s wondered if dry skin causes wrinkles, the beauty community can end the debate once and for all. Yes, it’s true that oily complexions tend to age better. But then again, there are tons of other factors, genetic and behavior-based, that will influence how quickly we develop wrinkles. By investing in a quality skincare routine, you’re less likely to leave wrinkles to chance.