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The Real Reason Our Faces Age

Why do we get wrinkles, jowls and that droopy appearance as we age? You can blame it on one surprising factor: Your bones.

It’s more than gravity. According to research by Dr. David Kahn, a plastic surgeon in Palo Alto, Calif., we get droopy as we age because our facial bones shrink. The bones in the face actually lose volume and recede a little bit as we get older, all of which plays a surprisingly important role in the appearance of wrinkles and jowls, report Reuters and HealthDay News.

The 5 Ways Our Faces Age [Netscape]

Aging and Wrinkles: Can We Turn Back the Clock? [WebMD]

What Your Face Tells Others About You [Netscape]

Protect Your Age-Prone Zones [Ladies Home Journal]

How Do Women Really Feel About Aging? [iVillage]

"When we think of aging of the face, we typically just think that the soft tissue–the skin and the fat–deteriorates and becomes looser or bigger, and we typically just lift everything back up and take out some skin to tighten it back up," Kahn explained to Reuters. "We don’t usually think of the shrinking of the bones or manage this in terms of aging. I think we need to look at a way to combine a traditional facelift with something that adds volume to the face, like with fat injections."

The study: To look for age-related changes in the bony elements of the face, three-dimensional CAT scans were taken of the faces of 30 men and 30 women in this study. They were equally divided into three age groups: 25 to 44 years old; 45 to 64 years old; and older than 65 years. All were white and none had broken bones or other medical problems that could affect the results.

The results: By comparing the CAT scans of the younger and older participants, Kahn determined there were statistically significant changes in the angles of the bones of the facial skeleton, especially in the mid-face area and the lower part of the orbits around the nose.

The facial bones dissolve, shrink and leave empty spaces as we age, creating a loss of volume. Meanwhile, our skin loses elasticity, and it can’t tighten around those empty spaces. What’s left? Drooping and wrinkles. Women lose facial bone volume at a younger age than men do, causing them to see the signs of aging earlier.

The takeaway: "As we age, not only do we lose fat in our faces, but also our bones actually change in contour, often making us look older than we feel," Kahn told HealthDay News. It’s more than gravity that creates wrinkles and older looking skin. In addition, loss of volume in the face and very real changes in the facial bone structure cause us to look older. Kahn speculates that future facial rejuvenation techniques will include fillers to add back volume caused by shrinking bone, as well as the traditional lifting of the skin.

The findings were presented at a conference of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in Chicago.


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