The Connection: Weak Bones and Wrinkles

Your skin is the bag that holds all of you together, and your bones give you stability and protection, but there is more of a link between skin, bones and your health than meets the eye.

Your skin is the bag that holds all of you together, and your bones give you stability and protection, but there is more of a link between skin, bones and your health than meets the eye.

It turns out that women with wrinkles are more likely to have weak bones.


Yale researchers found that the more wrinkles women had, the lower their bone density. That tough protein called collagen is important in both the skin and the bone. Collagen makes up most of the substance of the skin. But as we age, the collagen can get so thin that you can see through it. Bone collagen is much more difficult to understand and to measure. But low collagen levels in the bone may well increase your risk for fractures.

The most common way to measure the structure of the bones is with a DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry test) scan. That’s a painless test that all women over the age of 65 and women under 65 with osteoporosis risk factors should have. But like many things we are supposed to do, many women neglect to have this test. Maybe those wrinkles that you see in the mirror will push you to get your DEXA scan. 

If we boost collagen with things like vitamin C, the skin looks better. We don’t know if that helps bone density, but you can be sure researchers will be looking for ways to decrease both of these problems, perhaps with vitamin, hormone or drug therapy. 

In the meantime, if you seem to have more wrinkles than other women, ask your family doctor for a bone density screening.

Will you ever feel comfortable in your own skin? That is, if you don't make an effort to protect it? Although 64% of adults do report wearing sunscreen when outside for prolonged periods of time, it turns out that only about 10% of people surveyed actually protect themselves daily, according to a recent review.

No matter what your skin tone is, unless you live in a cave with no sunlight, daily protection with either sunscreen, sunblock or protective clothing can not only protect you from developing sunburns (ouch!) but can significantly reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, particularly the deadliest type called melanoma. In addition, for those of you wanting to keep your youthful looks, daily sunscreen has been shown to reduce the development of wrinkles. A great teacher once told me that the best way to not have wrinkles is not to get them in the first place (think of how much money you can save on useless creams that claim to diminish wrinkles).

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