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Facial Aging is Bone Deep

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Beauty related image Photo: Getty Images

As if facial aging weren’t distressing enough, new research showed that changes in the underlying bone structures of our faces may be to blame along with saggy skin.

As reported by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) earlier this month, a team of researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center, led by Dr. Robert Shaw Jr., discovered that the facial skeleton changes and decreases in volume as we age.

The team analyzed computer tomography (CT) scans performed on patients for medical reasons (not in preparation for plastic surgery). They grouped the men and women into three categories: young (ages 20-40), middle aged (ages 41-64) and older (65 and up).

Through precise measurements, Shaw and his colleagues found prominent changes in bone structure among the groups. One of the most noticeable changes occurs around the eyes, as the “orbital apertures” or eye sockets lengthen and widen as people grow old. Shaw and the other researchers noted that this process may exacerbate crow’s feet, frown lines on the forehead and eyelid drooping.

Another area of profound change, the researchers discovered, is the lower jaw. The team noted that both the length and height of the mandible diminish in time. What this means is that as our skin, muscles and fat lose elasticity and droop, our bones also yield some of their ability to support facial tissues. Now there are two reasons the clean, sharp facial lines of youth become soft and saggy.

How does this change the field of aesthetic medicine? Shaw believes this new information will help plastic surgeons understand the contribution bone loss can make to an aged appearance. This may help them design more effective strategies for bringing back a more youthful look.

How does the news change what you might do if you’re concerned about facial aging? Unfortunately, aside from making sure you follow all the recommendations for keeping your bones healthy—such as good nutrition and plenty of exercise—there’s not too much you can do.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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