Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn on a Winter Afternoon

It’s no secret that New York is a high-stress, high-intensity city. And no one absorbs the effects of this more than the people who call it home. Add to that factors such as air pollution and cold, dry air in the winter, and you’ve got the perfect cocktail for skin damage, including wrinkles. It should come as no surprise, then, that New York is considered by many dermatologists to be “the most wrinkled city” in the United States.

Let’s take a look at the factors that cause these wrinkles — as well as what Dr. Rizk can do to help you get rid of them!

How Stress Causes Premature Wrinkles

Though research is ongoing, many studies suggest that stress has a negative effect on our health. The body responds to both real and perceived threats through what is called a fight or flight reaction. This reaction ignites the immune and cardiovascular systems, among others. When a bout of anxiety lasts too long the flight/flight reaction remains on alert for a prolonged period of time, in turn wearing down the body.

Research has demonstrated that “stress chemicals” released into the body through this process are to blame, including adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol. Adrenaline speeds up the heart rate, interferes with digestion, constricts the blood vessels and compromises both hearing and vision. Norepinephrine also makes the heart beat faster and can have a negative effect on focus and attention.

The production of cortisol elevates blood pressure as well as blood sugar levels, hardens the arteries, and makes the body store more fat, among other effects. Importantly, cortisol also seems to be involved factors that affect facial aging such as muscle and collagen loss.

What does all of this have to do with premature wrinkles? The chemicals released through ongoing stress can result in changes inside that may lead to visible signs on the outside (i.e., visible aging).

In addition, genetic studies have shown links between stress and cellular deterioration. As we age, an area of our chromosomes called telomeres deteriorates. Researchers are currently looking at whether stress and anxiety speed up this process, and how this relates to cell death, the weakening of muscles, loss of hearing and eyesight, graying of the hair… and wrinkles.

The Roc Study
According to the skincare company Roc, New Yorkers are the nation’s most wrinkled people. The Roc study named New York the most wrinkle-prone state of 2015, followed by Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Colorado. Researchers involved in the study examined scientific literature relating to skin damage caused by exposure to the sun and stress. Then they did a meta-analysis of various studies before coming up with scores for each state.

Why are New Yorkers so prone to wrinkles? Several reasons.

One factor is that New Yorkers spend a lot of time outside. New York obviously isn’t in the tropics, but this fact can actually lull people into believing they don’t need to worry about sunscreen or the sun in general, which is a fallacy. In reality, if you’re like most New Yorkers you’re likely being exposed to dangerous UV rays on a daily basis.

Other factors considered in the Roc study were dew point, latitude and elevation. Humid locales are easier on the skin, as are places at sea level (less radiation) and places far from the equator. All of this could leave one to believe that New York would be good for the skin.

Alas, the cold, dry winter days and year-round stress-related factors (such as the daily commute) that come with living in New York are large enough factors to make New York the country’s most wrinkle-prone state, at least according to the Roc study.

What popular treatments are New Yorkers seeking?The good news is that, these days, there are a plethora of effective skin care treatments on the market to keep New Yorkers’ skin smooth and blemish-free, stave off wrinkles, and treat minor wrinkles once they have already formed. Add to that all the minimally invasive skin treatments offered by facial plastic surgeons, and you should be set if your skin is still in relatively good condition. For example, botulinum-toxin-based injectables such as Botox can freeze the muscles that cause wrinkles on the forehead and between the eyebrows, and facial fillers like Juvederm can fill in small lines and creases in many areas of the face.

What long lasting solutions does Dr. Rizk recommend?
But what if your skin is showing the long-term effects of living in New York? If you have loose, hanging skin, deep creases or jowls, you may be advised to have a facelift, necklift or other surgery. To learn more, contact Dr. Rizk’s office today.

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Sam Rizk, MD

By Dr. Sam S. Rizk, M.D., FACS.

Dr. Rizk is a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon who specializes in rhinoplasty surgery and a recognized expert on the latest advances in facial plastic surgery techniques. He performs a range of facial plastic surgeries at his New York practice.

Learn more about Dr. Rizk | Dr. Rizk's Google Scholar