“I don’t mind talking about just about anything,” forty-three-year-old Melanie confessed, “but here’s something I hate bringing up because it feels so uncontrollable: wrinkles. I’ve been getting…” She paused – lowering her tone to a whisper as if confessing to a priest – “chemical peels.”
I’d been treating Melanie for almost a year when she made this confession. During that time, we’d delved into hormonal imbalances and how her formerly do-it-four-times-a-week sex life had dissolved into a near-zero grind. We’d incorporated a well-designed exercise program, and she’d lost about twenty-five formerly refusing-to-vacate pounds of belly fat. In addition to keeping to her exercise routine, Melanie didn’t smoke, slept pretty well, and avoided sugar, yet those pesky wrinkles had only increased. And she even knew to stay away from those promising “anti-aging” creams because she’d learned they were full of toxicities.
Like many of my female patients, Melanie had fallen victim to the billion-dollar, depend-on-repeat-customers skincare industry, with her use of chemical peels. Yet they weren’t getting the results she wanted. Unfortunately, the popular procedure of chemical peeling inflames skin in order to peel off the outer layer, forcing a new outer layer to form. This exposed Melanie to the same harmful toxins she dutifully avoided in skincare products – chemical peels cause skin irritation, skin discoloration, and even permanent scarring.
At the same time, like Melanie, I get it: Wrinkles create a very visible constant reminder about aging’s miseries. “I love waking up to that squinty look beneath my eyes,” said no one ever.
Why Do Skin Wrinkles Happen?
Though they appear superficial, wrinkles begin deep at the cellular level, when your mitochondria—those tiny power factories inside your cells—become damaged. Hormonal imbalances, chronic stress, smoking, eating junk food, sleep deprivation, ultraviolet (UV) rays, environmental toxins, and chemical exposure also dial up cellular damage, which damages mitochondria, reduces collagen, and compromises skin integrity.  Facial skin also contains more estrogen receptors than anywhere else on the body, so estrogen imbalances initially appear as fine, dry, thinning lines due to decreased collagen and poor elasticity. Altogether, this whole mess results in more wrinkles.
Commercial anti-aging creams might diminish wrinkles in the short term, but in the long term they ironically exacerbate skin wrinkle formation because they contain nasty toxins that spike free radical damage and disrupt hormones. While skin injections and chemical fillers temporarily increase collagen and elasticity for tighter, more youthful skin, these treatments also trigger free radical damage, ultimately creating more harm than good.
What Can Be Done to Slow Down Wrinkles?
“So what does reduce wrinkles without long-term damage?” Melanie inquired. The key is healthy, thriving cells that receive optimal oxygen and nutrients, resulting in less damage and even vibrant, healthy skin.
I offered Melanie these seven strategies for a smoother, younger look.
- Get vitamin therapy. For healthy skin, choose professional-quality nutrients. Vitamin C helps produce collagen, necessary for your skin’s strength, integrity, and elasticity, while vitamin E inhibits cell oxidation to slow aging skin. Vitamin A, which helps synthesize collagen, reduces signs of sun damage including wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, and pigmentation. Vitamin D—actually a pro-hormone—boosts your immune system while providing anti-aging and skin protective properties and helps our immune system. A good-quality multivitamin provides these nutrients in optimal amounts, but to get therapeutic doses you’ll need to supplement separately.
- Supplement with DHEA. Among its wrinkle-fighting functions, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) reduces inflammation while improving insulin sensitivity and blood flow. (DHEA does other cool things like boosting sexual function, physical strength, and memory.)  One study involving 280 men and women between sixty and seventy-nine received 50 mg of DHEA daily for a year, and the women especially had improved libido and skin health.  Ask your doctor to regularly check and monitor DHEA and other hormones.
- Get more free-radical fighters. Antioxidants reverse or prevent wrinkles. I’m a huge fan of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea, resveratrol in red wine, and grape seed extract (GSE) directly from grape seeds to decrease oxidation and inflammation while protecting your skin against wrinkle triggers like ultraviolet rays. Astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant that gives salmon its pinkish hue, protects and repairs sun-damaged skin while inhibiting cellular oxidation.  Eat lots of colorful plant foods and wild salmon regularly, but to get therapeutic amounts of these and other antioxidants, take them as supplements.
- Focus on fabulous fats. Step away from those nasty refined vegetable oils and other omega 6-heavy foods that crank up chronic inflammation, a massive player in cellular damage, premature aging, and wrinkles. Opt instead for wild-caught fish and omega-3 foods, which boost cell membrane health, and otherwise affect how your skin ages. Among fat-soluble nutrients, vitamin D tag teams with vitamin K2 (found in butter from grass-fed cows and pasture-raised chicken eggs) to maintain healthy skin, protect against wrinkles, and improve skin elasticity. In addition, these nutrients boost bone health, which is significant because studies link osteoporosis with wrinkles. 
- Use a connective-tissue booster. The anti-aging effects of a collagen supplement significantly reduce wrinkle formation, skin thickening, and skin water loss. Taken orally, collagen reduces inflammation, repairs sun-damaged skin, prevents sun damage, and increases skin elasticity while decreasing abnormal skin’s elastic fiber formation. Look for high-grade collagen powder or make your own healthy gelatin. In addition, right from your kitchen. cook up some delicious bone broth for the collagen it seeps into the soup.
- Try Tulsi. As a free-radical fighter, this herb – also known as holy basil – reverses skin aging and wrinkles through collagen synthesis.  It is also a multitasking supplement because it protects organs and tissues against chemical stressers, reduces physical stress from overtraining, normalizes glucose to dial down metabolic stress, and fights psychological stress by boosting memory and cognitive function through its anti-anxiety and anti-depressant properties.
- Manage stress. Research shows a direct stress-brain-skin connection. That makes sense when you consider your skin is the primary sensory organ for heat, cold, pain, and mechanical tension, all of which stress the body. Stress also triggers free radical damage that results in wrinkles and other skin miseries. Reducing inflammation and stress therefore become key ways to prevent or reduce wrinkles.  So be sure to protect and nourish your skin by relaxing with meditation, yoga, deep breathing, meaningful human connections, reading, and optimal sleep. 
When Melanie returned three months later, her skin had a youthful glow and she noticed a reduction in wrinkles, despite giving up her beloved chemical peels after I subtly reprimanded her.
“I’ve got to credit your recommendations, although I’d love to attribute it to my rediscovered sex life,” she said, with a wry smile. “I’ve learned that despite what manufacturers claim, there is no magic potion to reduce wrinkles. Reducing them comes from the inside, and not some exorbitant skincare procedure.”
I couldn’t have said it better. What inside-out strategy would you add to reduce wrinkles and maintain glowing skin? Share your thoughts below, or on my Facebook page.
For more tips on aging gracefully, pre-order your copy of my upcoming book, Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years.
 Rinaldi, A. “Healing beauty? More biotechnology cosmetic products that claim drug-like properties reach the market.” EMBO Rep, 9(11)(2008): 1073–1077.
 Traish, A.M., et al. “Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)–a precursor steroid or an active hormone in human physiology.” J Sex Med 8, no.11 (2011):2960-82; quiz 2983. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02523.x.
 Schagen, S. et al. “Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging.” Dermatoendocrinol 4, no.3 (2012): 298–307.
 Tran, D. et al. “An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin.” Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol 8, (2015): 9–17. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S75439
 Dusek, JA, Benson, H. “Mind-body medicine: a model of the comparative clinical impact of the acute stress and relaxation responses.” Minnesota Medicine 92, no.5 (2009):47–50.