One Way To Prevent and Repair Fine Lines and Wrinkles

While fine lines and wrinkles (as well as crows feet, smile lines, marionette lines, and a myriad of other “lines”) will get the best of us all at some point in our lives, if you’re anything like me, you prefer to put off that date as long as possible.

In that case, it might be interesting to or useful for you to understand how and why fine lines and wrinkles (as well as other skin changes) occur and what, if anything, you can do about it.

In this post, I’m discussing one of the causes of those often unwanted creases and folds: sun-damage. It might be frightening to find out that sun-damage is just what occurs when skin isn’t protected from direct sunlight or UV exposure. It can happen any time you’re outside without having taken sun-protective measures.

Subsequently, sun-damaged skin, also known as photodamaged skin, is just defined as skin that has undergone certain (usually, unfavorable) changes due to this sun/ UV light exposure.

If you find yourself wanting to protect your skin from sun-damage and prevent fine lines and wrinkles, you’ll want to engage in certain sun-protection practices such as:

  • avoiding sun exposure between 10am and 4pm,
  • wearing sun-protective clothing,
  • wearing sun-protective hats and glasses,
  • utilizing any shade while outside, and
  • wearing sunscreen with SPF 30+ broad spectrum protection.

All of the above can and do work, but sunscreen is often a wise choice.

Although sunscreens have come a long way, a large portion of them are still too greasy, too oily, and too sticky to be truly comfortable. We can blame ingredients like octocrylene and water-resistant polymers for that.

But comfortable or not, sunscreen is still one of the best anti-aging creams out there and so, it is still important to wear sunscreen while outside when you’re not using other sun-protective measures. That is, of course, if protecting skin and preventing wrinkles is the goal.

If you need some help deciding on a good sunscreen, some of the most comfortable formulations I have found are:

However, what if in addition to protecting your skin from sun-damage, fine lines, and wrinkles, you also want to repair existing sun-damage, fine lines, and wrinkles? Well, the most research-supported way to do that is with topical retinoids.

Topical retinoids can repair skin changes associated with sun-damage. So, they can minimize fine lines, improve texture and elasticity, even-out miscolorations, and even slow photoaging (Weiss et al. 2014). Your choices for retinoids are tretinoin 0.05% and tazarotene 0.1%. There’s also adapalene, a synthetic derivative that used to be available by prescription-only, and retinol, which is commonly found in anti-aging cream. When it comes to retinoids, it’s best to start slow and with the advice of your physician.

Personally, I found the following products to be good places to start:

Other good (but less-rigorously tested) options for improving the appearance of sun-damaged skin are:

  • alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs),
  • antioxidants,
  • vitamin C,
  • vitamin E, and
  • polyphenols.

The daily application of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) has been associated with minimized wrinkling, improved texture, and improved discoloration as well as more elasticity and increased density of collagen (Ditre et al. 1996; Smith 1996; Stiller et al. 1996). If you’re in the market for a good one, I recommend checking these out:

Antioxidants have also been shown to have reparative and protective effects against UV radiation, and many of the best face moisturizer and sunscreen include these in their formulations (Chen et al. 2012). Good booster options also exist, including products like:

Vitamin C is a specific kind of antioxidant that protects our skin, helps our bodies regenerate vitamin E, plays an important role in collagen synthesis, reduces pigment discoloration, and more (Campos et al. 2008; Nakamara et al. 1997). While I don’t find myself using vitamin c serum as much as I should, when I do apply it I like to use products like:

Vitamin E is another specific type of antioxidant. A fair amount of studies have demonstrated the ability of topical vitamin E application to improve the effects of sun-damage on skin (Lopez-Torres et al. 1998; Bissett et al. 1990; Jurkiewicz et al. 1995). I’ve known some people who simply purchase vitamin E capsules, pop them open, and rub what comes out on their faces.

While I don’t know specifically if that works, I do know one of my favorite vitamin E targeted treatment is:

Polyphenols are yet another type of antioxidant. The category includes molecules you have probably heard of like flavonoids and procyanidin. They are present in many fruits, vegetables, teas, and even wine. Like what we’ve discussed above, when applied to the skin, polyphenols demonstrate sun-protective effects and can seemingly reverse sun-induced damage to DNA (Rice-Evans 1999). It has been difficult for me to find products specifically centered around polyphenols. However, two of the best I’ve come across are:

As is the case with most things, sun-damage and consequently fine lines and wrinkles are easier to prevent than they are to repair, but perhaps it’s good to know that you do have some options for both — and luckily there’s a lot of overlap between the two methods.

If you find yourself worried about sun damage, photoaging, fine lines, or wrinkles, just know disciplined use of the methods and products listed above have been scientifically demonstrated to help prevent and repair them! And If you have any questions, comments, or tips of your own, please submit them in the designated space below and I’ll make sure to respond.

Thanks for reading!


  • Weiss JS, Ellis CN, Headington JT, et al. Topical tretinoin improves photoaged skin. A double-blind vehicle-controlled study. JAMA. 1988;259:527–32.
  • Ditre CM, Griffin TD, Murphy GF, et al. Effects of alpha-hydroxy acids on photoaged skin: a pilot clinical, histologic, and ultrastructural study. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1996;34:187–95.
  • Smith WP. Epidermal and dermal effects of topical lactic acid. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1996;35:388-91.
  • Stiller MJ, Bartolone J, Stern R, et al. Topical 8% glycolic acid and 8% L-lactic acid creams for the treatment of photodamaged skin. A double-blind vehicle-controlled clinical trial. Arch Dermatol. 1996;132:631-6.
  • Chen L, Hu JY, Wang SQ. The role of antioxidants in photoprotection: a critical review. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012;67(5):1013–24.
  • Campos PM, Goncalves GM, Gaspar LR. In vitro antioxidant activity and in vivo efficacy of topical formulations containing vitamin C and its derivatives studied by non-invasive methods. Skin Res Technol. 2008;14:376–80.
  • Nakamura T, Pinnell SR, Darr D, Kurimoto I, Itami S, Yoshikawa K, et al. Vitamin C abrogates the deleterious effects of UVB radiation on cutaneous immunity by a mechanism that does not depend on TNF-alpha. J Invest Dermatol. 1997;109:20–4.
  • Lopez-Torres M, Thiele JJ, Shindo Y, Han D, Packer L. Topical application of alpha-tocopherol modulates the antioxidant network and diminishes ultraviolet-induced oxidative damage in murine skin. Br J Dermatol. 1998;138:207-15.
  • Bissett DL, Chatterjee R, Hannon DP. Photoprotective effect of superoxide-scavenging antioxidants against ultraviolet radiation-induced chronic skin damage in the hairless mouse. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 1990;7:56-62.
  • Jurkiewicz BA, Bissett DL, Buettner GR. Effect of topically applied tocopherol on ultraviolet radiation-mediated free radical damage in skin. J Invest Dermatol. 1995;104:484-8.
  • Rice-Evans C. Implications of the mechanisms of action of tea polyphenols as antioxidants in vitro for chemoprevention in humans. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1999;220:262–6.

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