Facial aging: Wrinkles, spots take independent courses

June 1, 2008

In a recent study of Chinese women, facial age spots have proven to be no predictor of facial wrinkling and vice versa, says a study author.

Key Points

"Each of us ages differently. Some people are more prone to skin wrinkling; others, age spots; others, both. It may be that for some, their skin reacts to chronic sun exposure over a lifetime by mounting a defense in the form of persistent hyperpigmentation or age spots," which stem from an unevenly distributed increase in melanin production, says Greg G. Hillebrand, Ph.D., principal scientist in skincare product development with Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble.

"That increase in melanin, while unwanted, may help protect the underlying basal keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts, as well as collagen and elastin, from future UV insult," he says.

The study is part of an ongoing series that started in 1998. "It's a long-term project aimed at trying to better characterize and understand the changes in skin condition with age in different populations around the world," he says.

Procter & Gamble has also studied populations from Japan, Europe and the United States, he says.

The single-visit observational survey - involving 452 healthy Chinese females, ages 10 to 70, who had lived most of their lives in Beijing - employed various tools and objective measurements. These included, but were not limited to, VISIA Complexion Analysis (Canfield Scientific) of wrinkling, visible spots and UV spots on the right and left cheeks; cutometer measurements of left cheek and upper inner arm elasticity; and corneometer measurements of stratum corneum hydration on the left cheek.

"The result I found most interesting, and surprising, was that a person's facial wrinkling does not predict their facial hyperpigmentation, and vice versa - there was no correlation," Dr. Hillebrand says.

In prior studies, he says, "I've assessed the change in wrinkling and hyperpigmentation with age. And one could see that as we age, we get more wrinkles and spots, just as we would expect."

However, he says these results come from comparing population means for patients of older ages to those of younger ages.

"If one compares the group means for women in their thirties to the group means of women in their sixties," he says, "one will see that those in their sixties have more wrinkles and spots - not surprisingly."