What Causes the Face to Age?

By Dr. Robert Clement, M.D. – April 2, 2012

What causes the face to age? There are basically three factors. One, as we reach about our 40s, the bony structures in our face start to shrink. This includes the mandible (lower jaw) and the maxilla (cheekbones). Thus, the support system that was there through our youth is not as prominent. Two, the multiple compartments of fat in our face begin to diminish. These fat pads, which gave us round, chubby cheeks as children, slowly go away, leading to a drawn or tired look. Three, the skin’s elasticity diminishes, which allows the skin to sag (skin sagging is probably the least of the three factors, as it relates to the aging process rather than the diminishing support system). Other factors in facial aging are sun damage, the stress in our lives, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise.Usually, the first signs of aging are a slight flattening of the cheek and an increase in the nasolabial fold, what is often referred to as “laugh lines.” This is due to the receding maxilla or bony support and decreased fatty compartments. Rhytidectomy, commonly known as a facelift, is a surgical option for correcting these signs of aging. Because it is very difficult to replace the bony loss, the main, new element in facial rejuvenation is the replacement or redistribution of this fat loss. Fat is removed from another body site, cleansed, and then injected into the sites that have lost their fatty support. Because fat has the largest percentage of stem cells of any body organ, there is a great deal of research being done at this time on enhancing the stem cell to increase or improve the contouring that comes from the fat. The fat takes well as a graft and is much better and longer-lasting than other fillers that are currently available, making this an area of keen interest in facial rejuvenation.

Where is the “lift” in a facelift? After incisions are made, underlying tissues are repositioned, skin is redraped, and excess skin is trimmed away. The main component of the current facelift is to do a more vertical lift in the deep, internal structures of the face rather than the lateral pull, which gave that windswept, tight look of earlier years. By initially going vertically with the lift, it is almost impossible to give that windswept appearance.

Prevention, of course, is the best course of action to slow the aging process and meet our desire for looking younger as an older adult. How do you prevent these signs of facial aging? First, choose parents who have good genetics. Second, and most important, use sunscreen…starting at a very, very early age. In fact, I suggest that you find sunscreens appropriate for your babies and put it on them (and continue, even in their teenage years, when they yell and scream about wearing sunscreen. Force that rule, as it will pay big dividends later in life). Third, use quality skin care products along with a good sunscreen starting as early as your 20s. We now have some wonderful products that enliven the skin’s elastic and collagen content as well as physically rejuvenate the skin. These are in marked contrast to the products of 20 and 25 years ago, which were essentially glorified Crisco oil that smelled good. And fourth, good nutrition (along with maintaining your normal weight and exercising) will slow aging, and there are certain supplements—such as antioxidants—and cellular rejuvenation products that are helpful.

For more information, visit drrobertclement.com.



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