A brief history of wrinkles.

All things elderly.
Sept. 11 2008 2:56 PM

Oh, the Wrinkles You'll Get!

The history and aesthetics of the lines on your face.

Read more from Slate's Geezers Issue.

Click here to launch a slide show on wrinkles.

Wrinkles are like new vocabulary words: Once you become aware of them, you notice them everywhere. Worry lines, laugh lines, frown lines, crow's-feet. Los Angeles, where I live, is a great city for wrinkle watching. True, in the enclaves of plastic-surgery enthusiasts—Brentwood, Beverly Hills, the sets of Hollywood films—there is nary a wrinkle in sight. But the city is also home to some of the crinkliest people you will ever see, their faces baked by the hot desert sun into relief maps of creases and furrows and crosshatching.

In the past few years, we have become quite sophisticated in our understanding of wrinkles and the various methods for erasing them. We are versed in the physical and social repercussions of unfettered aging—skin cancer, job discrimination, invisibility in a society that shamelessly values youth. Indeed, in 2007, 11.7 million Americans underwent some sort of cosmetic procedure (surgery, Botox, fillers, and the like), an 8 percent increase from the year before and a 457 percent increase from a decade earlier. Yet we also fear the sometimes-poor results of these endeavors: the blank foreheads of Botox, the wind-tunnel face-lifts favored by various actresses and socialites, the regrettable collagen sins committed by Melanie Griffith and Meg Ryan. Why do some wrinkles prompt people to seek surgery and others trouble them hardly all? What does the topography of a face say about a person? Why do we shun the lines we shun, and why do we keep the lines we keep?

Click here for a slide show on the aesthetics of wrinkles.

Amanda Fortini is a Slate contributor.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The Supreme Court, Throughout Its History, Has Been a Massive Disappointment

Why Indians in America Are Mad for India’s New Prime Minister

Damned Spot

Now Stare. Don’t Stop.

The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 5:19 PM Social Outcasts Republican candidates are retreating from debates on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.
  Business
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
  Life
Education
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 4:45 PM Steven Soderbergh Is Doing Some Next-Level Work on The Knick
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 4:59 PM China’s Not the Problem With Carbon Emissions. We Are.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.