The Couch Analogy: Understanding How Your Face Ages

We all know that once the first dreaded signs of aging appear, we drop in places from head to toe faster than a molten chocolate lava cake. The good news? Knowledge is power. In order to tackle the inevitability of aging in an aesthetically natural and appealing manner, we must first have an understanding of how our faces progress and change through time.

THE ANALOGY

To keep it simple (or, as simple as can be) let’s compare your face to a couch: you first start by noticing a small stain (note to self: avoid red wine when hosting parties), which can be lightened to appear invisible. With time, that stain becomes more prominent as others appear around it, making the fabric appear discolored. Then, one day, you notice the fabric isn’t as firm as it used to be, having lost its elasticity in some areas. Upon further inspection, your once plump and heavenly cushions have become saggy and sunken, exposing parts of the sofa’s skeleton. And then, the final stage, the last mortal blow, is the day you attempt to sit on your couch and the sturdy framework that lent you faithful support all of those years, finally gives in and crumbles.

This, my friends, is your face in a nutshell.

THE REVEAL

The fabric is your skin, revealing the earliest evidence of aging through discoloration. The plump cushions can be likened to your once youthful cheeks made up of all of the underlying glorious muscle and fat. And, the framework, the pièce de resistance holding it all together, is your facial skeleton. Like any chronic process, you don’t fully appreciate the changes of your facial skeleton until they are quite advanced. Minimal changes in your framework are masked through time by the superficial cushioning of your facial muscles and fat pads, until redistribution and loss reveal a frail structure.

A CLOSER LOOK: BONE LOSS

The implications of facial bone loss on the aging face are crucial to understand in order to restore a natural youthful appearance. By early adulthood, maximum bone density is achieved in both men and women. As we approach our early 30s, bone density begins to experience a gradual rate of decline. Unfortunately, women tend to undergo a more significant decrease in facial bone volume starting at a younger age, hence lending credence to the universal truth of women aging faster than men. Four main areas undergo change resulting in dramatic repercussions:

The orbital rim (aka eye socket) widens, particularly along the outer inferior edges, giving your eyes a more sunken appearance with more prominent fat pads resulting in a tired look.

The mid-face recedes, softening support to overlying structures.

The nasal cartilage separates, lengthening the nose and dropping the nasal tip.

The mandible (aka jawline) retracts, unveiling jowls and an unstructured neck.

All of this happens almost simultaneously, like a carefully orchestrated attack on your youth. The facial muscles and fat pads decrease in volume, while the casing holding them together (the superficial muscular aponeurotic system aka SMAS) loses its elasticity, culminating in a true domino effect. From the top down, your temples appear more sunken lending way to the formation of heavy pads beneath your eyes, followed by strong folds around your mouth, weighing down the corners of your lips resulting in jowls along your jawline and the appearance of a saggy neck.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

With this understanding, you are now better equipped to understand your options when considering cosmetic work. If your goal is to age gracefully, quick fixes are not your solution. For example, avoid cheek implants as you will only continue to age around them—and trust me, this is not a good look. Likewise, filling the folds around your mouth with injectables will only result in the dreaded “muzzle” look.

The answer, my friends, is “maintenance” through regular use of a thorough toolkit that should include daily basics such as SPF and antioxidants to periodic treatments with lasers, ultrasound, LEDs, fillers and neuromodulators. What it boils down to is strengthening your foundation through many little interventions along your journey through life. Like that sofa, our skin will inevitably age, but there is a lot you can do to delay the inevitable and embrace it gracefully…

Image via B&B Italia

READ MORE

Read Dr. Shereene Idriss’ super-smart story about sagging (nobody deserves it).
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