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Difference Between Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Jun. 07, 2023

Difference Between Fine Lines and Wrinkles

 Difference Between Fine Lines and Wrinkles.png

What are fine lines?

Let's begin by discussing fine lines, as explained by Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. According to Dr. Zeichner, fine lines occur due to a weakness in the skin's foundation. When the skin folds and fails to regain its original shape, fine lines start to develop.

Shereene Idriss adds that the collagen and elastin present in our dermis gradually loosen over time, leading to the formation of depressions and, subsequently, fine lines.

Fine lines are often small creases that commonly appear in areas of facial movement or in close proximity to such areas. However, they can manifest on any part of the face. Dr. Idriss refers to this as extrinsic aging, where fine lines are caused by the repetitive contractions associated with facial expressions like smiling, frowning, and squinting.

Additionally, environmental factors such as sun damage and pollution can contribute to the formation of fine lines. Dr. Idriss explains that these factors can break down the collagen in our bodies, further contributing to the development of fine lines.

What are wrinkles?

A wrinkle isn't all that different, it’s pretty much just a deeper form of a fine line. "The main difference between fine lines and wrinkles is the depth of the crease in the skin. Fine lines are very mild, while wrinkles are deeper set," Dr. Zeichner explains. "Some refer to wrinkles as expression lines and feel they apply only to skin folds that appear in areas facial expression."

“Wrinkles form the same way that fine lines form,” adds Jeannette Graf, MD, board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “Wrinkles happen organically over time due to repetitive facial movements that as we age, will cause our skin not to bounce back to the shape it used to when we were younger.”

Fine lines vs. wrinkles: What's the difference?

When it comes to distinguishing between fine lines and wrinkles, there isn't a universally defined criteria. It's more of a commonly used distinction, and opinions may vary. "Fine lines are often seen as baby wrinkles," explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist. He suggests that these faint markings can develop into deeper folds over time. "Others consider them to be distinct entities, unrelated to facial expressions, but rather a result of UV light exposure," he adds. This is because UV rays can modify the underlying elastic structure of the skin, leading to the formation of fine, tissue-like creases (also known as crepey skin).


However, in dermatology, there are no strict rules for separating the two. "If you gather five dermatologists in a room, you're likely to get five different opinions on what constitutes a wrinkle versus a line," Zeichner remarks. Assessing the appearance of the crease itself can be helpful: a fine line often appears delicate and faint, while a wrinkle tends to be more static and deeply ingrained. However, even this assessment can be subjective, depending on one's interpretation of "fine."

How fine lines turn into wrinkles.

If you regard fine lines as "baby" wrinkles, you might notice those once softer etchings start to stick around over time. This happens as your skin thins and collagen levels dwindle with age, which makes it more difficult for your skin to rebound to its original shape—and, thus, those fine lines start to settle in.  

What can you do to prevent wrinkles?

Consider using hydrating patches or "wrinkle patches" that can be applied to the skin. These patches promote hydration and plumping of the skin by allowing water to migrate from deeper layers to the outer dermis. This process can result in a smoother, more hydrated complexion, offering a non-invasive alternative to invasive treatments.

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