Wrestling With Wrinkles

Wrestling With Wrinkles

I hate wrinkles.
You hate wrinkles.
Your next-door neighbour’s grandmother hates wrinkles.

In short, everyone and their cats hates wrinkles and judging by the plethora of beauty products out there, there is good money to be had in exploiting one’s fears of aging and the ever-approaching, ever silent, yet very real and very finite Grim Reaper, aka death.

So… what can we do about it?

While we have yet to find a way to circumvent Death, the great equalizer of men (and various other living creatures), there are ways in which we can at least make our progress towards the Great Beyond a little more bearable; namely by looking good, feeling good and being good (from a physiological standpoint at least. Being morally good is beyond the scope of this article and thus shall not be discussed here).

Wrinkles are defined as visible folds or creases in the skin (Manríquez, Cataldo, Vera-Kellet, & Harz-Fresno, 2014), and as we grow older, we tend to accumulate more of these buggers, much to the chagrin of midlife crisis sufferers everywhere and to the delight of the multibillion-dollar cosmetic industry players. 

According to Manríquez et al. (2014), the formation of wrinkles happens as one ages due to decreasing collagen production and this can be exacerbated when the skin becomes photodamaged from UV light exposure (Varani et al., 2006).

In a valiant effort to grasp onto every fleeting ounce of youth, people have come up several rather ingenious methods of delaying the appearance of wrinkles. From dermal applications such as anti-aging creams targeted towards the everyday commonfolk all the way to the more illustrious surgical procedures favoured by celebrities (and those with deeper pockets), the beauty industry is certainly an all-inclusive marketer.

But have you ever heard the old adage of “Beauty comes from within”? What if there was a way to not only keep those wrinkles at bay but also to lengthen your healthspan (i.e. dying young as late as possible) and look good while doing so?

It turns out that the tried-and-true approach of diet and exercise may still hold true. Often given as a form of unsolicited advice by well-meaning friends and relatives to those who could stand to lose a few pounds, research has shown that a combination of proper diet and exercise not only helps with weight loss but also helps in improving one’s biological age (Ho, Qualls, & Villareal, 2022).

Ever wondered why some people look good for their age while others may either look their age or appear older than they are?

This is because as we age, our ability to replace the damaged, dead, or dying cells decreases due to stem cell exhaustion. But with the right approach we can continue to live life to the fullest and look fabulous while doing so!

For example, exercise has been associated with reduced cell senescence (which is desired as senescent cells are no longer able to divide and replace their dead or dying brethren and an increase in senescent cells often correlates to a reduced lifespan in living creatures) (Garatachea et al., 2015). In terms of preventing stem cell exhaustion, it is reported that exercises such as aerobic and resistance training is considered to be one of the most potent stimuli for stem cells to exert their regenerative properties (Garatachea et al., 2015). 

Moving on to the anti-aging effects of a proper diet;- the appearance of wrinkles happen partly due to reduced collagen production as we age (Manríquez et al., 2014).  However, it has also been reported that sugar (you know, the stuff that many Malaysians are notoriously addicted to.  So addicted to it that according to the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2020, our sugar consumption per capita has increased from 38.5 kg in 1991 to 51.8 kg in 2012 (Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2020, 2020)) is able to interact with the amino acids within our collagen and elastin to form cross-linkages called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs for short (kind of fitting don’t you think?). The formation of AGEs would impair skin repair and would, in fact, exacerbate skin aging which would result in wrinkles, loss of elasticity and dullness (Zheng et al., 2022). Since what we are touching is only “skin deep” (get the pun? Hilarious, I know.), we will not be discussing the underlying mechanisms involved and all of those technical stuff but if there is one takeaway message from all of this, it is that in a world where highly refined and processed food has become ubiquitous, we could all stand to cut back on those sweet, sweet indulgence of ours.

In summary, our skin is the largest organ of our body and the one that is on prominent display for all to see. It is the author’s personal opinion that it is not our chronological age that we are afraid to show the world but rather our biological one. Biological aging gives notion of impending frailty of the mind and body;- and of impotence and increased dependence on others. Therefore, is it any wonder why so many of us are fixated with keeping up our semblance of youth and vitality as we age? There is no panacea for this. No cure-all. So get up, go out and get healthy. This would give you the best chance that you can have against the ever-ticking clock.


1. Garatachea, N., Pareja-Galeano, H., Sanchis-Gomar, F., Santos-Lozano, A., Fiuza-Luces, C., Morán, M., . . . Lucia, A. (2015). Exercise attenuates the major hallmarks of aging. Rejuvenation research, 18(1), 57-89.

2. Ho, E., Qualls, C., & Villareal, D. T. (2022). Effect of diet, exercise, or both on biological age and healthy aging in older adults with obesity: secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 26(6), 552-557.

3. Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2020. (2020). Ministry of Health.

4. Manríquez, J. J., Cataldo, K., Vera-Kellet, C., & Harz-Fresno, I. (2014). Wrinkles. BMJ clinical evidence, 2014.

5. Varani, J., Dame, M. K., Rittie, L., Fligiel, S. E., Kang, S., Fisher, G. J., & Voorhees, J. J. (2006). Decreased collagen production in chronologically aged skin: roles of age-dependent alteration in fibroblast function and defective mechanical stimulation. The American journal of pathology, 168(6), 1861-1868.

6. Zheng, W., Li, H., Go, Y., Chan, X. H., Huang, Q., & Wu, J. (2022). Research Advances on the Damage Mechanism of Skin Glycation and Related Inhibitors. Nutrients, 14(21), 4588.

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