Wrinkles and sags, the obvious signs of facial aging, may result in part from age-related changes in facial bones, according to a new study in the January 2011 Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal.
“What we [plastic surgeons] focus on is the aging of soft tissue – how skin and fat ages,” said Dr. Robert Shaw, a co-author of the study. “Those aren’t the only structures in your face. Bones provide scaffolding and your muscles, fats and skin drape over bones. If you tighten skin, but the scaffolding has deteriorated it’s not going to bring patients back to a youthful look.”
The researchers analyzed computed tomographic scans of the facial bones for three age groups: young (age 20 to 40); middle-aged (41 to 64); and older (65 and up). Twenty women and 20 men were analyzed in each group.
Measurements revealed differences in the facial bone structure between age groups. The eye socket area became wider and longer in both men and women as they aged, and the bones in the brow, nose, upper jaw and lower jaw shrank.
Wrinkles probably occur from a combination of bones and the skin losing elasticity, according to Dr. Shaw. “The skin aging is a big part of it,” he said. “It’s not just using creams; it’s taking care of yourself for bone health and skin health.” He suggested keeping up on calcium to maintain bone health.
The researchers believe that by using materials and techniques for skeletal augmentation, plastic and cosmetic surgeons can improve the outcomes of facial rejuvenation. “Skeletal augmentation offers a rejuvenation of the facial skeleton and may be performed in conjunction with soft-tissue redraping,” they wrote.