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Physicists Tackling Wrinkles

Woman with aging skin

A lot of people start paying attention the moment someone says that science has learned something new about wrinkles. Whether you want to treat them or prevent them, there’s always a slightly heartening effect when it sounds like experts are on to something. As a result, OROGOLD was interested when news that physicists figured out how to cause and smooth wrinkles within a laboratory environment. We’ll get into the details in a moment, but you should be aware that the researchers responsible are materials scientists and the wrinkles they’re talking about aren’t the fine lines and wrinkles many people immediately think of when the word comes up. There is interesting potential in the research due to the materials they’re experimenting with, though.

Wrinkles and Folds
To have a clear idea of what the researchers were studying, you need to be aware of a key difference in terms. Wrinkles and folds are two separate and distinct terms when it comes to discussing them scientifically even though their appearance in skin is often rather similar. A fold in a material is the term used to discuss any unexpected shape that distributes stress along its length rather than throughout. A good way to visualize it is that the fold is, in essence, a spine that supports the weight on each side of the material along itself. By contrast, a wrinkle is a generalized distribution of weight. Wrinkles are even in their distribution of the stress throughout their entire presence. This reduces the presence of a clear point of failure due to stress. The researchers in the study have learned about the relationship between the two.

The Science
Experiments by the researchers focused on transitions between folds to wrinkles and wrinkles to smooth materials. This was focused on the nature of the materials themselves. They placed deformed (folded or wrinkled materials) into the lab environment with smooth materials and gently positioned them next to one another. What they discovered is that the stress of folds against smooth materials causes wrinkles as a means of essentially smoothing the transitions between the two states of materials. Similarly, wrinkled material caused finer wrinkles to appear in the smooth material until the material finished smoothing out. In essence, the experiments showed the distribution of stress across the materials and the interconnected relationship between such deformations. Some researchers indicated that they expect the research to have an impact on the field of biology.

What Does this Mean?
The scientists used thin polystyrene, a common plastic, sheets in some of their experiments that offer a model for biological membranes like the skin. It isn’t a perfect match, but they believe the reactions are close enough that offers a decent model. Their study has added to how we understand wrinkles as a result. Common cautionary advice about wrinkles relies on not pushing too hard on the skin while cleaning it, sleeping in a way to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the face, and even the joking advise to not smile so much. These all create folds in the skin. As we just learned, folds naturally attempt to distribute their pressure outward when in contact with a smoother material. Wrinkles happen due to the folding of the skin, and deeper wrinkles necessarily give way to finer ones. This understanding may give people ideas on ways to treat wrinkles in the future by using this materials science in a novel way.

This research is ultimately an interesting piece of science that has the potential to provide insight to several disciplines. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring with it a miracle cure for one of the more noticeable signs of aging. OROGOLD encourages you to keep taking proper care of your skin. Drink plenty of water, avoid sun damage, and try to avoid pulling on your skin too frequently. These small rules accompanied by proper skin care should help you at least delay and minimize wrinkles even if they don’t make them vanish.

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