Why Do Our Faces Age So Much?

woman portrait with fresh green exotic tropical leavesTime has no master. No matter how much we exercise. No matter how much we avoid hot dogs and the like. No matter how much sunscreen we slather onto our skin. No matter what we do our skin still ages.

Simply delaying time’s inexorable trajectory would be nice. Fortunately, the signs of aging, while unstoppable, can be delayed or their appearance lessened with various procedures offered by our team at UMass Memorial. At our two practice locations in Worcester and Cape Cod we sometimes have people ask us when we’ll know if it’s time to do something. Usually, visual cues are all you need, but here’s a little background on what is happening to your facial skin and why.

  1. Skin laxity. Gravity has its purpose — keeping us from flying off into space! — but it’s not nice to your skin. As you age, your skin is particularly susceptible to the force of gravity. Also, facial muscles tend to weaken with age. What results are issues such as drooping brows, jowls, sagging cheeks, descending eyelids, and much more.
  2. Volume loss. In a seemingly very early surprise, your body slows down its production of collagen by one additional percentage point each year after you turn 20. Yes, 20! That seems young to give up on something other than maybe Twinkies, but there you go. And since collagen is the protein responsible for providing the underlying structural framework to your skin, that production decrease is bad news indeed. Elastin, the protein responsible for keeping your skin supple and malleable, production also decreases. The result is volume loss in areas across the face. The areas under the eyes and below the cheekbones both become hollow with volume loss. Loss around the mouth allows the various wrinkles, such as parentheses lines, to form.
  3. Changes in skin tone and texture. Where the skin was taut, plump, and smooth, as we age it becomes dull, dry, and leathery. This is usually the result of reduced collagen production combined with sun exposure, environmental damage, and lifestyle choices such as smoking. But our skin turns over more slowly as we age, as well. When we’re young, our skin fully regenerates every 30 to 40 days, but after we hit 50 that process slows to 45 to 90 days. This can make the skin appear dull and lifeless. The skin also becomes thinner with time, again due to decreasing collagen, making it more prone to wrinkling.

What to do

You have options for addressing these issues, both surgical and non-surgical. Volume loss and changes in skin tone and texture can all be addressed non-surgically. Injectables (Botox and dermal fillers), chemical peels, and microdermabrasion all work to improve these areas. Skin laxity, especially if more extreme, can best be addressed with surgery: a facelift, brow lift, or eyelid surgery.

Getting older and wiser has its pluses, but don’t say that to your face! Let the team at UMass Memorial Medical Group help. Call us at (508) 334-5990 and let’s talk about your options.

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