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Facial Aging Is More Than Skin Deep

How The Face Changes As We Get Older

Prior to the digital age, the rise of digital photography particularly, sagging skin was blamed as the most prominent cause of facial aging. In the last 20 years this misconception amongst the plastic surgery community has been effectively dispelled.

When computerized imaging came into the scene, a plastic surgeon by the name of Val Lambros began to collect photos of his patients from throughout their lives. He carefully studied these photos, which spanned across decades. Making sure that the pictures were similar in position and distance from their subject, he was able to measure how fixed points on the face such as moles or scars would sag or move over time through a software program.

He was surprised to see that there was not any movement of those fixed points over time, contrary to what had been widely accepted in the plastic surgery community. Dr. Lambros’ findings prompted the medical community to look more closely into what truly caused the appearance of aging. What was found was that the structure of the bones in the face and the locations of facial fat were changing along with the skin.

Following Dr. Lambros’ research, studies have shown that as we age the bones surrounding the eye (the orbital bone) enlarge. This makes the eye appear smaller and the lines in the skin around it to appear deeper. As the soft tissues in the face begin to deplete, it can expose the rim of the orbital bone, and “bags” of the lower eyelid tend to be revealed. These bags can grow with time and further tissue loss. In some faces, the brows sag and produce an accumulation of skin in the upper eyelid. The eyes also age as the outer corner becomes more of a rounded, blunted curve, which makes the eye appear tired.

In addition, the cheekbone appears to resorb, moving backwards over time. The mandible, or the jawbone, was also discovered to widen. These elements, in combination with the deflation of facial tissue, can create a gaunt appearance. Once these discoveries were made, plastic surgeons realized that tightening skin wasn’t the sole solution to restoring a more youthful appearance.

Now, much attention has been turned to carrying out techniques and procedures to reverse some of the changes in fat deposits and loss of volume. Rarely are changes to the bones carried out, as it requires significantly more exposure, recovery and risk. Adding volume through fat transfer is an option and contributes to more natural looking results. A recent article suggested that across the country, 85-90% of plastic surgeons routinely utilize fat grafting to most facelift procedures. Fillers may also aid in restoring volume to certain areas of the face. It can be used to reduce the presence of marionette lines around the mouth or lines about the eyes, and can help regain a more youthful appearance.

If you are considering facial plastic surgery or any age reduction treatments, it’s best to recieve careful consultation of all options to help determine the appropriate course of treatment. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation!