Fine Line Or Wrinkle? Here's How To Differentiate The Common Skin Creases

Maybe you've spent a grand total of a few hours of your life reading product labels on eye creams. Then again, maybe you've spent so much time reading product labels that no one would believe the grand total, including you. Whichever type of person you are, it's possible that you're not 100%, bet-your-life-on-it certain of the difference between fine lines and wrinkles.

From the sounds of it, wrinkles sound worse. And they certainly have the more negative rap, no matter what singer Jimmy Buffet says ("Wrinkles will go only where the smiles have been"). They're both "a natural part" of the aging process, Medical News Today says. And they don't hurt — unless you include our human ego. Fine lines and wrinkles are proof that the skin loses elasticity and its ability to renew itself with age, especially around the eyes, forehead, and sides of the mouth. Still, fine lines and wrinkles are evidently different because all those eye creams say so; they clearly differentiate between fine lines and wrinkles, not fine lines/wrinkles. Despite good intentions, perhaps product manufacturers confuse the issue. Once you separate fine lines from wrinkles — and also consider them one at a time — you should never confuse the two again.

Identify the siblings

Revinia regards fine lines and wrinkles as "siblings." Like human siblings, fine lines and wrinkles are related. This means they're similar but also different. As facial creases, the difference between the two shows up in the depth of the creases themselves. "Fine lines are considered to be minor imperfections, but wrinkles are the ultimate facial skin folds," Revinia explains.

Believe it or not, they even can be measured. Some dermatologists define any skin crease of less than 1 millimeter in depth as a fine line, not a wrinkle. In the field of clinical skincare, this makes fine lines "superficial," or surface-level creases. You may even have to look very closely at your face in the mirror to see them (via Hims). Fine lines may become more obvious once you flash a smile, laugh, or make some other facial expression. By contrast, wrinkles make their presence known. They are deeper than fine lines and tend to be larger. Therefore, they're more visible, too. Perhaps more tellingly, you don't have to change your expression to prod a wrinkle to the surface; it's already there.

And you can always marshal a ruler to be sure you're seeing an honest-to-goodness wrinkle. After all, dermatologists say wrinkles crease the skin to a depth of at least 1 millimeter or more. You can't slow the aging process, but there are a few external skin factors that you can alter to help prevent and thwart the development of fine lines and wrinkles.

Go ahead and pick a fight with the siblings

If your lifestyle or environment affects your skin, you have a golden opportunity to make a change that could literally show up on your face years later. One case in point is spending too much time in the sun, which dermatologists blame for the majority of the signs of skin aging, including wrinkles. In fact, Yale Medicine says that when the sun prematurely ages the skin — a process called photoaging — the risk of skin cancer increases.

Smoking and drinking alcohol are other contributors to fine lines and wrinkles, probably because nicotine and alcohol degrade collagen. This is the protein your body thrives on for healthy skin and joints (via Healthline). Collagen is a must-have ingredient for many people, either in supplement form or as a main ingredient found in many eye creams. In addition to wearing sunscreen, the Mayo Clinic recommends eating a nutritious diet teeming with vitamins and wearing moisturizer to fight fine lines and wrinkles. Drinking plenty of water will help, too, as Hims says, because "hydrated skin is almost always healthy skin." After all, once you can clearly distinguish them, the less you see of these siblings, the better.