Wearing My Wrinkles With Pride

Staphylococcus epidermis – a cause of wrinkles? Photo by CNRI Science Library

Dear Readers, what, you might ask, are these pretty things, that look rather as if they’ve been embroidered onto velvet (and there’s an idea for a novel wall-hanging). Well, it turns out that they’re bacteria known as Staphylococcus epidermis, and that they seem to be associated with a loss of collagen in our skin microbiome. As anyone who’s been watching the TV lately knows, collagen is an ingredient of every other ‘anti-ageing’ cream (the ones that don’t have hyaluronic acid that is), on the dodgy basis that collagen seems to form part of the structure of our skin, and therefore by plastering it on the outside it will do the same thing. Can you tell that I’m a tired old cynic? You wouldn’t be wrong.

However, the question raised by scientist Julie Thornton at the University of Bradford is not a straightforward one. Just because there’s a correlation between collagen loss and the presence of this bacteria (and another one, Cutibacterium acnes (guess what this one is associated with)) doesn’t mean that the bacteria are causing the loss of collagen – it could be that they simply prefer the skin when there’s less collagen in it. A bit ‘chicken and egg’, as Thornton says.

I can see a range of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals companies rubbing their hands together, but Thornton is much more circumspect, suggesting that this should be the starting point for further research into how the skin microbiome influences the production of collagen.

Interestingly, the skin microbiomes of the older volunteers in the study (all aged between 50 and 64) had a higher proportion of antibiotic resistant microbes in their skin samples – whether this is simply because they’ve lived longer, and have therefore had more exposure to antibiotics (especially as they used to be given out like sweeties before we all realised what was happening), or some other factor I don’t know, but I do find it rather worrying. The more we find out about our microbiomes, the more important they become as markers of health and immune response.

Generally, though, I find it interesting that wrinkles are such a cause for concern. I love the fresh, wrinkle-free faces of young women with their glowing complexions, but I’ve also grown rather fond of my face as it’s aged. Its wrinkles show that I’ve lived, and suffered, and survived. They show that I’m resilient, and I love that I have more laughter-lines than frown lines. And honestly, so much of how your skin reacts to ageing is out of your control – it’s your genes, the climate that you grew up in, your exposure to pollution and your life experiences that make the bulk of how your wrinkles will develop. My Mum, who had a much harder life than me, had next to no wrinkles until she was well into her seventies (except for those tell-tale lines beside her mouth that said, as clear as day, that for most of her life she’d been a heavy smoker). And here I am, skin starting to sag, wrinkles around my eyes, and somehow I love my ageing face.   I slap some moisturiser on once a day, but that’s more for comfort than any hope of wrinkle remediation. It somehow feels like there are much more important things to worry about, should I be inclined to worry about something. Embrace your wrinkles with pride, I say. Be a wrinkle warrior.

You can read the full New Scientist article here.

8 thoughts on “Wearing My Wrinkles With Pride

  1. sllgatsby

    I do indeed wear my wrinkles with pride! And my gray hairs. I really have no desire to keep looking young. It would be like having a garden where it was perpetually spring. I like the many phases of life. That said, I wouldn’t say no to fewer aches, better sleep, and my old ability to run down stairs and jump over things without worrying about falling!

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      I have embraced my grey hair too! I am relishing the idea of being an elder, and the fact that so many things that I worried about as a youngster have fallen away. I’m much more outward-focussed as I’ve grown older…

  2. Christine Swan

    Oh how I love this post! I was stopped on Oxford Street by a salesman who offered me a photo shoot at some inflated price, in which he would enhance my beauty and remove wrinkles. I laughed. He didn’t understand at all. I explained that I just didn’t care.

    There is a strong link between sun exposure and skin damage so I do use factor 50 every day but, I have earned the right to dye my hair bright pink and wear what the hell I like. Anything applied topically is unlikely to penetrate the epidermis but water and oil combos will plump it with moisture so make wrinkles less noticeable. Along with a bit of gentle exfoliation ( to help the above process), that’s about it.

    Wonderful post! Thank you 🙂

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Glad you liked it, Christine! I sometimes wonder how we could change the world if we weren’t suckered into worrying about how we looked for so much of our lives…

  3. Ann Bronkhorst

    Wrinkles feel unavoidable and where they appear usually makes sense, but I do resent blotches and blemishes, which often seem random. Still, there are more important things to focus on and another Spring is here!


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