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Men develop more wrinkles earlier in life

Men develop wrinkles earlier than women, and initially they also get more wrinkles. However, after the age of 75 women catch up and end up with more wrinkles in old age.

This is the finding of a study conducted by trainee dermatologist Merel Hamer of Erasmus MC. Her striking discovery was published today in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

ouderen4.5% of the face of elderly men is covered by wrinkles, while for women this is 3.6%. Merel Hamer took digital pictures of the faces of 3,800 participants of the ERGO study, the long-running Erasmus Rotterdam Health Study in the Ommoord district of Rotterdam.  Of the 3,800 participants, aged between 51 and 98 years, 58% were women.  

The result is surprising: men appeared to develop substantially more wrinkles up to the age range of between 51 to 75. Women catch up after the age of 75. Women develop wrinkles in other parts of the body. Their upper lips, for example, show decidedly more creases. "This may be related to the structure of men's skin on the upper lip," says Hamer. "More facial hair makes the skin of their upper lips firmer."

Risk factors
Hamer studied the risk factors associated with the development of wrinkles. Smoking and sunlight are irrefutable culprits, particularly for women. This is also the case for a low BMI. "A little fat under the skin reduces the depth of the wrinkles. Furthermore, the more a woman drinks, the more wrinkles she will develop."'

Another remarkable finding is that of the North European skin types (type 1,2, and 3), the whitest was least likely to develop wrinkles. "Initially, this appears to be an unexpected result. But we think that people with skin type 1 are likely to avoid the sun and use plenty of sunscreen because they burn easily.' 'However, we urge caution for people with this skin type: "They do develop pigmentation more easily, which is also a sign of aging of the skin. We therefore believe that all skin types age in a different way."' 

It is as yet unclear why men develop wrinkles earlier. It may be related to differences in the hormone levels of men and women. "Although we did not find a link in this study, it is possible that female sex hormones offer protection against the development of wrinkles.  In addition, it is striking that women with relatively high blood testosterone levels and balding women have fewer wrinkles."'

Date published: 6 April 2017.

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