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When the Clock Strikes Twelve: The Causes of Wrinkles that No One Knows About - Part 1

Updated: May 14, 2021

“Stop frowning; if the clock strikes twelve your face will stay like that.”

Who else heard this warning as a child? Was it meant to scare us?


I had completely forgotten about it until my daughter started pulling the corners of her mouth to extremes that make me cringe. I don't use the phrase myself, but it brought back memories.


Of course, as an adult, I know that it takes more than the wind changing, the clock striking twelve and a cock crowing to change the way my face looks. But it turns out that the faces we pull can have an impact on the way we look in the long term.


Over the next two blog posts, I'm going to explore the causes of wrinkles, and what you can do to prevent them. I'll even reveal some causes that no one is talking about - until now.

First, we have to understand how wrinkles develop.


Our skin contains a protein called collagen, which gives strength and natural elasticity. As we move our facial muscles we are applying repeated pressure against the collagen. Over time, this causes it to break down and eventually leads to visible lines.


As we age, our body slows the natural replenishment and renewal of both skin and collagen. We lose collagen and elasticity, wrinkles begin to develop. Other factors contribute to this too, such as loss of fat and even changes to your skull, leading to sagging, wrinkled skin.




So what else causes wrinkles?


Search the holy Google, and you'll be presented with the usual list of causes for wrinkles: 


  • Aging; the skin is less elastic, more fragile. Decreased production of natural oils

  • Sun exposure, especially UVA

  • Pollutants. Oxidative stress

  • Smoking (including vaping) accelerates the natural aging process. Nicotine narrows blood vessels and deprives the skin of vital nutrients

  • Repeated facial expressions

  • Lack of sleep

  • Stress

  • Poor diet, especially high sugar and alcohol consumption


We're probably familiar with this list by now. So what could possibly be left? I can reveal a few secrets that only aesthetics specialists know about.


Sleep Habits


Back to basics

The way we sleep can cause wrinkles. But didn't I just say that lack of sleep causes wrinkles? Surely the more shut-eye we get the better? Well this is true to an extent, but what isn't so well known is that sleeping on your side or front can also cause wrinkles.


How can this be? Think about it: If I sleep on my side or front, my face is squashed into the pillow and I wake up with lines on my skin. It is just a matter of time before these lines become permanent.


Since I have been more aware of this as a cause of wrinkles, I have been actively trying to sleep on my back instead. It can be hard to get used to, but with a little perseverance you can train yourself to sleep in a different position.


Not only is sleeping on your back better for avoiding wrinkles but it is considered the best position to sleep in for your health. Unfortunately, if you experience sleep apnoea this is not the sleep position for you. 


If you want to learn to sleep on your back to help prevent wrinkles, a good way to begin changing your sleep habits, is to put pillows on both sides of your body, and one under your knees. This should hold you in place and keep you from moving onto your side. It can take a few nights to get used to a new sleep position, so try a gentle white noise app or some soothing lavender oil if you need a little extra help in dropping off to sleep.


Maybe sleeping on your back doesn’t feel natural to you. At the end of the day, comfort is the key and you need to sleep soundly to stay healthy. So if after a few nights you find that sleeping on your back prevents good sleep then maybe this isn't for you. Don't worry, there are other solutions you can try.


Pillow talk

If sleeping on your back simply won’t do but you want to avoid those wrinkles then try a 100% silk pillow. I was recommended one by my hairdresser to help with hair breakage, as the smooth silk gives less friction. But a silk pillow can have other benefits. Firstly, it is gentler on your face and secondly, it does not absorb your skincare products. That’s a win in my book, especially as I improve my skin care regime.


Position of your face at rest

Have you ever noticed that people with a sunny disposition often look happier, even when they're not actually smiling? Even when our faces are at rest or in a neutral position, we still provide clues to our inner emotions. If you're generally a happy person you may have laughter lines, so your sunny disposition will shine through even when you aren't actually smiling. The opposite is also true. If you are angry at the world or often in a low in mood, you may have downturned corners of your mouth, or even what is flatteringly known as 'RBF' lines. 


Sometimes a person is perceived as grumpy due to their resting face, even though they are naturally fairly cheerful. Why is this? Part of this may be due to changes to our face that occur naturally with age. But what if we have been pulling faces at rest that we have been unaware of?

I've seen people pulling some odd faces whilst 'at rest'; maybe they are concentrating while scrolling through social media or their emails. What will they look like after many years of this?

When I am angry or frustrated, I purse my lips, scowling a little. The corners of my mouth are slightly pulled downward. Without realising it, I am exercising these muscles. What happens when you exercise muscles? They become stronger. 


So what can we do to counter this? Try to be more vigilant when you have strong emotions. Take a breath, focus your attention on your face and rest those overworked muscles.


I caught myself in the reflection of a window recently. I was feeling very neutral about the day, but I looked sad. The corners of my mouth were ever so slightly turned down. I'm making a conscious effort to change this. I pull back the corners of your mouth slightly to a more neutral position. It’s neither a grin nor a scowl.


In fact, the best solution would be to exercise the muscles you want to be stronger later in life. Smile, laugh until your cheeks hurt, and reap the benefits of a happier disposition. It has been proven that when you smile even if you are not feeling positive, your body releases endorphins and you feel happier.


Reality bites 

A lot of people don't know that your teeth can have an effect on the way your face looks.

Malocclusion is the dental term for problems with your bite. It can result in difficulty keeping your lips together, or if you bite down with short teeth it can cause a squeeze of the chin and eversion of your lower lip.




Most bite issues have to do with your smile, the wearing down of some teeth more than others and

the shape of you lower face and profile. Any issues with your bite could result in your skin hanging in some areas more than others, especially as you age, giving you a double chin with every pound you gain or year that passes. You may be susceptible to folds in places that most people wouldn’t get, and you may look grumpier or less approachable.


Speak to your dentist if you feel that this could be a cause of problems for you, they will be able to assess and advise.


Your smile is important in how you come across and how you feel - remember, smiling can help you feel happier - and if you feel good on the inside, it shines through on the outside.


Wrinkle Prevention

So there you have it, a few of my expert tips to get you started in wrinkle prevention:


  • get plenty of rest, sleeping on your back using a silk pillow for preference,

  • pay attention to the expression of your face and be aware of how your muscles move in times of high emotion

  • see a dentist if you feel you may have a problem with your bite


Next time, I'll be revealing more little-known wrinkle-causing habits to avoid, and I'll tell you how to look after your skin for the best results.


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