Today I’d like to talk about how the face ages. Specifically, we will review the changes that typically occur in the average person as they age. Some of these changes are drastic and some are so subtle that we only feel them on an unconscious level.Radiologists coined the term “Aunt Minnie” to describe our ability to quickly recognize and identify something by its features. The term comes from the idea that if you had a relative you knew well (“Aunt Minnie”) and she was put in a lineup with a bunch of people who looked very similar you could still easily pick out which one she is. You would be certain you picked the correct person, but when asked to describe in detail exactly how you know……it is extremely difficult to put into words.We use this same innate ability to recognize features and patterns to help us estimate someone’s age when we meet them.For example, you hear a voice asking you a question. You look up and within a split second you have an idea if that person is a teenager, “middle aged”, or elderly. After that split second evaluation we use other clues to further narrow the age range until we are pretty certain what generation he or she is from. All of this happens instantly and subconsciously.
Keep this in mind as I explain the main features of the aging face. For simplicity I will lump people into 3 general categories. None of the categories sound very flattering but that is okay….it happens to us all.
I present to you SAGGERS, SINKERS, and WRINKLERS.
The question is what will happen to your face over time? Are you a sinker, sagger, or wrinkler?In reality most us have features of all three and don’t fit perfectly into one category. I use those descriptions to help visualize and understand the changes that are occurring.So why does this happen to us? All of us loose about 1% of the collagen in our skin per year. UV and environmental stress is cumulative and although it is never too late to start protecting your skin you can’t hide the damage. Brown spots appear and blood vessels become more visible as the skin gets thinner. The dead layer of cells gets thicker and the healthy live layer thins out. These dead cells do not reflect light well and the result is less luminous, less bright skin. Think of a 6 year old smiling at you and the way his/her face just glows. This is because the surface is smooth, the skin is thick and healthy, the curves are convex and the color is even, resulting in maximum light bouncing off the skin back to your eyes.
The subcutaneous fat pads in our face play a big role in giving a 20 year old that soft, healthy youthful appearance. With time these pads slowly thin, spread out and migrate down. The result is less “round” convex and reflective areas and more concave areas of shadow and hollowness. The widest part of the youthful face is mid-nose to the peak of the cheeks. As we age this migrates lower and the face becomes less triangular and more square.
Another interesting fact is that everyone’s eye sockets get slightly larger over time. This is one way forensic investigators and archeologists can assess age from looking at a skull. As a result of the expanding eye socket we tend to get bagginess, skin laxity and hollowness around the eyes as we age.
You may now be feeling pretty lousy about the grim scenarios I have laid out for you. But fear not, we have the technology and the tools to slow down, prevent and reverse these changes.
In the next installment I will outline some basic treatment strategies and help you formulate an action plan. If you can’t wait or are ready to start today then check out www.divineinterventions.ca and come in for a consult.
Dr. Jay Haubrich