Before you sound the alarm, here are five things — not related to aging — that your wrinkles are telling you.

Dread. That’s often the first feeling people describe when they talk aboutforehead creases — and according to researcher Yolande Esquirol, there might be a valid reason to make a check-up appointment with the doctor.

In his recent, although unpublished, study, Dr. Esquirol suggested that the deeper the forehead wrinkles, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study, which followed women 30 to 60 years old, over the course of 20 years, found that “minimal to no wrinkled skin” (a score of “zero”) carried the lowest risk.

However, a score of “three” carried 10 times the risk of cardiovascular disease. The theory is that the blood vessels around the forehead have plaque build-up, causing deepened, hardened wrinkles.

But before you sound the alarm, know that science has yet to prove that this is the case. Plus, removing your wrinkles isn’t the answer to preventing heart disease. (We wish it were that easy.)

Currently, anecdotal evidence suggests that the more likely connection is this: deep forehead wrinkles are a reflection of lifestyle factors (age, unhealthy diet, stress, etc.) that contribute to higher cardiovascular risk.

There’s also a lot of other reasons you may be getting wrinkles — and ways to prevent them from getting deeper.

(Also, let’s take a moment to acknowledge this, yes, cadaver-based study — because the dead don’t lie — found no correlation between wrinkle depth and the ages 35 to 93.)

Here’s what having wrinkles most likely means, by the decade.

Step off the retinol immediately (once you go to too high a percentage, it’s really hard to go back) and take a look at your environment. Are you wearing sunscreen? Moisturizing enough? Exfoliating once a week? How’s your life?

Research has found that external and internal stress can cause detrimental “formations” in one’s skin. That’s everything from the pressures of nailing that new job interview to the metropolitan pollution wreaking havoc on your skin in the form of acne or slight wrinkle formation.

Try this: As the Brits say, “Keep calm and carry on.” Work anti-stress relievers into your routine. Try daily morning meditations, posture exercises (stress can change the way you carry your body), or changing up your diet.

Another recommendation includes brewing homemade tonics to bring back the pep in your step and checking out this simplified skin care routine.

The early 30s is still a little too young to be dabbling in stronger chemicals. Save your money on retinols and retin-As and consider a light chemical exfoliation with face acids.

Dead skin cells can build up and darken the appearance of wrinkles. You may also want to invest in some vitamin C serums, if you haven’t yet.

Of course, skin approaching its 40s can be significantly less hydrated. So, on top of exfoliation, be sure to moisturize with a night cream and drink plenty of water every day for the rest of your life. Both work in the effort to pop elasticity back into your skin and reduce wrinkles.

Try this: Aim to drink eight glasses of pure water per day. After sunscreen, hydration is the next most important step to letting your skin achieve that crème-de-la-crème texture.

As for face acids, take a look at our handy chart below. Some acids, such as lactic acid, can provide moisturizing effects. Or make sure to buy products that contain hyaluronic acid.

Best for…Acid
acne-prone skinazaleic, salicylic, glycolic, lactic, mandelic
mature skinglycolic, lactic, ascorbic, ferulic
fading pigmentationkojic, azelaic, glycolic, lactic, linoleic, ascorbic, ferulic

This is about the time to pop over to a dermatologist and check out that gold-standard retinoid you’ve been hearing about (start low!) — especially if you’ve completed the checklist of addressing your mental health and skin health.

Another factor you should consider is a change in your environment or lifestyle habits. Has the weather shifted? Is your office ventilation questionable? Are you traveling more on airplanes?

Skin in your 40s to 50s can be significantly less hydrated and produce less sebum, meaning it’ll be more reactive to environmental changes and stress.

The 40s to 50s is also when most people really feel the hormonal change taking a physical toll on their body. You may notice weight gain or limited flexibility. Your 50s is also when it’s time to reevaluate your diet and exercise habits as your risk for cardiovascular disease also increases.

Try this: Sit down, take a breather, and see if there are any changes you can make to support your body. Consider eating more anti-oxidant foods (or following our shopping list). Invest in a heavy-duty moisturizer and travel-size rosewater spray.

We also recommend dermarolling to get your collagen production up. If you’re still not seeing changes and want to go to more serious depths, ask your dermatologist about laser treatments like Fraxel.

Now is the time you may want to consider checking in more regularly with the doctor about your heart health.

It’s not a bad idea to visit your doctor, as cardiovascular disease can be prevented with the right lifestyle changes: a healthy diet, active lifestyle, controlled blood pressure, and keeping in mind your family history.

Try this: If the wrinkles really have you concerned, know that it’s not a heart-health condition and that you can remove them! While topical products might not work as well as they did for you in your 20s, a dermatologist can recommend more technologically advanced tools (lasers, fillers, and stronger prescriptions).

The forehead wrinkle checklist:

  • Mental health. Are you extra stressed, depressed, or anxious?
  • Skin hygiene. Are you cleansing, exfoliating, and sun screening properly?
  • Skin hydration. Are you drinking enough water and moisturizing?
  • Weather change. Are you accounting for the humidity or dryness in the air?
  • Lifestyle factors. Are you eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting check-ups?
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While the number of wrinkles may cause others to think you’re older, keep in mind that there’s no reason to be erasing them unless that’s what you want to do. After all, science does say, the older you are, the happier you’re likely to be too.

Christal Yuen is an editor at Healthline who writes and edits content revolving around sex, beauty, health, and wellness. She’s constantly looking for ways to help readers forge their own health journey. You can find her on Twitter.