I love people watching. There’s something about observing strangers from a distance and making up outlandish stories about what their lives must be like that I find quite fun. Whether playing games like this or just simply walking down the street, many of us see thousands of faces per day, developing a sophisticated sort of facial recognition. This mechanism of the mind takes a snapshot that we likely don’t give a second thought to, but I’d challenge you to realize this: for each face we see, our minds automatically assign an age. Of course, we don’t realize that it’s happening, but all of our minds are crunching the numbers for every person we meet. This magical, judgmental algebra doesn’t appear from thin air either. Certain changes to our facial features give away our age and preventing them is the key to looking younger. Here are the changing components of the aging face:
Development of Wrinkles
Perhaps the earliest sign of aging to pop up is the development of wrinkles. Many of us notice hyperdynamic wrinkles (also known as “expression lines”) appearing on the forehead or around the eyes in our mid-to-late-twenties. By the time we get to our 40s and 50s, millions of facial expressions together with the cumulative effects of sun exposure can make these wrinkles more apparent. By the time we reach our 60s, the added effects of volume loss allow wrinkles to form all over the skin.
Uneven skin tone can be a dead giveaway for one’s age and can even make you look older than you actually are. This is especially true in lighter skinned people who are more susceptible to the effects of UV radiation on the skin. Chronic sun exposure leads to the formation of dark spots called lentigines, usually over the face, hands and forearms. These changes can appear as early as one’s 30s but can aggregate over time.
Loss of Volume
Perhaps the biggest offender of the aging face is volume loss which takes several forms. The earliest causes of volume loss are changes in collagen and elastin in the dermis (the lower layer of the skin). Intrinsic aging as well as sun exposure allow for the breakdown of this network of fibers in the skin resulting in loss of elasticity and deepening of wrinkles. However, volume loss isn’t just skin deep. Much of our facial contours are defined by underlying structures like fat, muscles, ligaments and bone, all of which shift and change over time to produce a net loss of subcutaneous volume. These alterations result in some classic unwanted facial changes like drooping brows, jowls and the like.
How can I stop the clock?
There are a whole host of ways to stop or turn back the clock. A great anti-aging plan starts with great skincare! I strongly recommend daily sun protection which addresses all of the above changes and topical retinoids which also help to reverse many of the signs of aging. Also, procedural approaches such as botulinum toxin, dermal fillers, chemical peels and laser procedures are highly effective for producing a younger appearance. The first step should be to seek out consultation with a board-certified dermatologist who can create a strategy to help you reach your antiaging goals!
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