Aging face: how, why and what you can do about it.

Aging is a natural process that affects every individual and every part of our bodies. While we generally accept some of the changes, when it comes to the aging face, we try to slow down this process and even reverse it.

prevention and treatment of the aging face
Woman photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Why is our face so important?

Although inner beauty is a more profound type of beauty which does not fade with aging, outer beauty influences us deeply in our daily life for a wide variety of reasons. The face is the part of human body we constantly expose and look at. From each other’s faces in as little as one tenth of a second and up to a few seconds we elaborate first impressions and judgement, which are then going to influence social relationships and our behavior.

As a published paper in the Journal of Comparative Psychology puts it:

[…]For humans, faces are among the most important visual stimuli, a fact that becomes apparent in social settings – as a species we are constantly, almost obsessively, monitoring each other’s faces, paying close attention to subtle details that can give some insight into the emotional state, level of engagement, or object of attention of our associates. […] 

How does the face age?

Aging is a complex topic and the modifications in the look of our face are due to multiple reasons and take place over our whole lives.

  • Changes in hormone production. For example, in menopause estrogen levels decrease whilst androgen levels increase causing many changes in both the skin, such as a decrease in collagen content and synthesis, and the bones.
  • Metabolism slows down causing the deposit of fat tissue in unwanted places, like under your chin.
  • Decreased subcutaneous fat. Although overall fat mass may increase with aging, the fat stored more superficially right under the skin gets resorbed, causing loss of volume, sagging and affecting the skin’s mechanical support.
  • Muscle atrophy. As we age, we lose muscle mass which again causes loss of volume and support.
  • Bone resorption. Aging causes also the bone tissue to shrink, with loss of volume and support.
  • Weakening of connective tissue. The degeneration of the components of the connective tissue, like collagen and elastin, cause drooping of structures such as the tip of the nose.
  • Loss of dermal components. Collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid and many more proteins and molecules are critical for some of the skin characteristics such as being plump and elastic; with aging we progressively lose them.
  • Growth of cartilage. Like the ear cartilage, which causes longer and less aesthetically pleasant ears.
  • On a molecular and cellular level, with aging we also see decreased cellular proliferative capacity, decreased cellular DNA repair capacity and senescence.

Overall, we may sum it up as a loss of volume and support to the superficial structures, paired with the slow down and impairment of regenerative processes, which causes wrinkling, sagging, and drooping.

What can you do about your aging face?

Genetic factors influence the way we age as well as when we age, which may make you think nothing can be done since we can’t change our DNA. Well actually there’s a lot that can be done to slow down, prevent and delay the signs of aging on our faces, as well as treatments to reverse them.

sun damage skin aging face
Truck driver showing the effects of exposing only half his face to the sun for over 28 years. “Images in clinical medicine. Unilateral dermatoheliosis.” Jennifer R.S. Gordon, M.D., and Joaquin C. Brieva, M.D. N Engl J Med. 2012 Apr 19;366(16):e25. doi: 10.1056/NEJMicm1104059.

How to prevent the signs of skin aging

Lifestyle plays a critical role in many diseases, but it also influences aging. Many external factors that depend on our lifestyle are known to cause oxidative stress and the release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) better known as “free radicals”. Free radicals not only damage the skin cells, but also all the other components such as hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin. The following are the main lifestyle factors involved in skin aging and how to prevent it.

  1. Sunlight, UVA and UVB rays. UV rays not only increase the risk of skin cancer and cause burns, but also damage the dermal proteins such as collagen and elastin and cause oxidative stress. Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30+) on a daily basis, not just in summer when going to the beach, can make a tremendous difference in how you will look in the coming years.
  2. Smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke cause a lot of damage, including and not limited to the skin.
  3. Alcohol consumption. Alcohol can reach every cell of the body and cause damage; moreover, it also dehydrates the skin.
  4. Eat a healthy diet. Having all micro- and macro-nutrients available is critical to the correct functioning of the organism, including the regenerative processes. Fruit and vegetable are also good sources of a wide range of antioxidants which help fight free radicals.
  5. Cleansing the skin. Dirt and pollution accumulate on the skin. Pollution creates free radicals while dirt may not allow the products you apply on your skin to get absorbed. By cleansing your skin in the morning and at nighttime you will tackle both issues.
  6. Moisturizing the skin. Moisturizing the skin helps restore its barrier function and retain water for hydration.
  7. Avoid stress. Stress is also responsible for the generation of free radicals. Cope with it the right way: meditate, do yoga, go running or workout, chat with a friend, have a good meal, there’s plenty of ways to reduce stress and feel better.
  8. Get enough sleep. Having the recommended 9 hours of sleep each night optimizes the ability of the body to regenerate and to fight oxidative damage.
  9. Protect the skin. Besides the sunscreen, there are other ways of protecting the skin. Applying antioxidant products directly on the skin helps fighting free radicals: vitamin C, vitamin E, ferulic acid and many more botanical-derived antioxidants may help and boost our skin’s defenses, slowing down skin aging.

One more factor that causes one of the signs of skin aging is the repeated movement of facial muscles which is the cause of dynamic (expression) wrinkles. Dynamic wrinkles occur naturally, but still, there’s a way to prevent them: starting with botulinum toxin injections in the late 20s or early 30s helps maintain a youthful appearance for longer. By starting early, you will need just a few units to get good results and you will also need much less later in life if you plan on doing this treatment in the long run.

How to treat early signs of aging

There are several noninvasive and minimally invasive treatments for the early signs of aging.

Sunspots and other pigmentation disorders, red capillaries, fine line and wrinkles, loss of volume, … can all be treated. A consultation with a plastic surgeon or dermatologist will help you understand what the most appropriate treatment plan is according to your personal characteristics and expectations.

  • Dermaceuticals / Cosmeceuticals. Creams and serums with cosmeceutical compounds may help in treating a wide range of signs of aging, from pigmentation issues to fine lines.
  • Dermabrasion. To get rid of small imperfections.
  • Chemical Peels. To treat lines and hyperpigmented spots.
  • Laser Treatments. From darker spots, to lines and wrinkles, to red capillaries, .. lasers can help in many ways and overall rejuvenate the skin.
  • Intense Pulsed Light. IPL may help even out the color of your skin and improve its texture.
  • Radiofrequency (RF). To stimulate production of collagen and other dermal components.
  • Ultrasound treatments. Like RF, ultrasound can boost the production of collagen and other dermal components.
  • Neuromodulators, such as Botox. Botulinum toxin injections not only prevent lines and wrinkles, but also help smoothing the skin.
  • Dermal fillers, such as hyaluronic acid or autologous fat. Fillers can smooth lines and wrinkles as well as address loss of volume.

It’s never too late to start acting: but choose treatments and products wisely! Products that irritate your skin may damage it and make you look older, and improper treatments may do more harm than good. Always seek a consult with a board-certified specialist to minimize the risks.


Sources
  • First Impressions: Making up Your Mind after a 100-Ms Exposure to a Face.
    J Willis, A Todorov – Psychological Science, Jul 2006
  • A Comparative View of Face Perception.
    DA Leopold, G Rhodes – Journal of Comparative Psychology, Aug 2010
  • Overview of current thoughts on facial volume and aging.
    DM Kahn, RB Shaw – Facial Plastic Surgery, Oct 2010
  • The aging face.
    FG Fedok – Facial Plastic Surgery, Apr 1996
  • American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)

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