The Ageing Face

As we age, our bodies go through natural changes – producing different levels of specific molecules, cells and tissues that either naturally occur in, or develop in the body over time.

Overview

Ageing is most perceptible in the changes that occur to the skin.

Like the rest of the body, facial skin (which is usually more delicate than the skin on other areas of the body) goes through changes. These changes can be accelerated by other factors – some of them we might have no control over, like genetics; and some which are as a result of lifestyle choices, such as exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, smoking, or using vaping devices.

Because we are so used to looking at faces (either one another’s, when we interact in society, or at our own, in the mirror), it makes sense that we often perceive the first signs of ageing in the skin on the face.

Irrespective of gender, when what we see in the mirror doesn’t reflect how we feel inside, it can be upsetting. While some might embrace the ageing process without much thought.  For many people, these natural changes in facial appearance can have a detrimental impact on their self-confidence, or negatively affect them in other ways.

Both men and women have reported concerns that the perception of facial ageing can play a role in how they are treated in their business and personal lives – whether ‘looking tired’ means being passed over for a promotion, or limiting dating opportunities.

 



While facial ageing is inevitable, the visible effects can often be greatly reduced, and for many people, even reversed, through advancements in the medical aesthetic treatment of the skin – and there are no practitioners better qualified to offer specialised treatment for ageing skin than dermatologists.



Symptoms of Facial Ageing

To understand the changes in the ageing face, we must first recognise what determines a youthful one.

Typically, when there are no underlying medical issues, youthful skin tends to be more voluminous (meaning it is plumper) and hydrated, and while there might be freckles or other marks like moles or birthmarks present, healthy skin is usually more uniform in tone and texture.

While every individual is different, and genetics, as well as underlying medical conditions, can play a role in how old someone looks, there are some symptoms that are universally recognised as indicative of facial ageing, such as;

  • Folds and lines in the skin which appear increasingly deep over time;
  • A loss of moisture in the skin, or a change in the skin’s ability to retain moisture;
  • Drooping at the corners of the mouth and the eyes;  
  • A sagging jawline, or the appearance of jowls;
  • Less definition in the jawline and/or chin;
  • A slackening of the skin of the neck skin;
  • Drooping eyebrows, and gathered skin around the eyelid skin (also known as hooded eyelids);
  • Loss of facial volume;
  • Changes in the texture of the skin, either becoming thinner overall or affecting specific areas differently (sometimes called crepey skin, due to its appearance becoming delicate and paper-like);
  • Darker spots on the surface of the skin, which are also called pigmentation or age spots.

While facial ageing can vary in severity, and its rate of acceleration may sometimes be mitigated by making lifestyle changes (for example, staying out of the sun, quitting smoking or eating a healthier diet), it is inevitable without intervention.

Causes of Facial Ageing

The natural changes in the skin of face over the course of time are caused by a combination of contributing factors, some of which we have a degree of choice over, and some which we do not.

Gender, ethnicity and genetics may each play some role in determining how old we look, but the immense variation in our individual experiences will contribute greatly to facial ageing.

On a molecular level, as part of the natural ageing process, the elasticity of the skin (meaning its ability to stretch and snap back into place) decreases, due to the gradual reduction of a protein called elastin, which is produced in the connective tissues of the skin. Additionally, collagen proteins within the skin begin to break down, resulting in a loss of facial volume, so the skin is less ‘plump’. Biochemical variations also occur within the structures of the skin, for example, the production of lipids (naturally-occurring fats which help to create a strong barrier within the skin) reduce; and there is a decline in the rates of cell turnover, meaning that the body’s ability to replace cells (that are routinely replaced as part of a normal, healthy cycle) is not operating as efficiently.

Because of these issues occurring inside the skin, the texture of the skin’s surface often becomes thinner and drier, and as a result, the face can appear gaunt, the lips look thinner, or the eyelids become ‘crepey.’ Additionally, these changes in texture can make wrinkles – the creases or folds that appear in the skin as a result of our facial expressions – appear more prominent.

The effects of gravity on the skin that has lost elasticity and volume can sometimes mean the bones of the face become more prominent underneath the skin, and as a result, it develops a hollow, sagging or drooping appearance. This might mean a person looks ‘tired,’ or ‘gaunt;’ or that certain features become less defined as the amount of fat in the face decreases.

Another factor that affects an individual’s rate of facial ageing is stress since the hormone cortisol is triggered when we are under pressure. Cortisol accelerates the breakdown of collagen and elastin; and makes it more difficult for the skin’s cells to retain water, causing dryness. Additionally, when we are stressed, our facial expressions (such as a furrowed brow) can create the folds of skin that eventually become wrinkles.

Lifestyle choices can also have a significant impact on facial ageing – even if an individual’s genetics suggest they might be less affected (for example, even if their parents or grandparents looked much younger at an age, a person might age quite differently.)

While some lifestyle choices are known to carry significant and serious health risks, like cancer, they may also contribute to premature facial ageing, for example;

  • Smoking cigarettes interferes significantly with the body’s processes, with nicotine causing blood vessels in the skin to narrow and impair the flow of blood, and thus oxygen as well as other essential nutrients. The chemicals in cigarettes also contribute to the breakdown of collagen and elastin. Vaping, like smoking, exposes the skin to heat, and the repeated actions of pursing the lips to inhale causes distinctive wrinkle patterns around the mouth and eyes to form over time.
  • Exposure to the sun’s UV rays not only increases an individual’s chances of skin cancer and non-cancerous lesions but also cause photoaging – ageing caused by the exposure to light. UV rays and high-energy visible (HEVIS) light cause oxidative stress that damages the cellular DNA within the skin, starting the premature formation of wrinkles, sagging and pigmentation issues. Exposure to the sun – even with sun protection creams – accelerates the ageing process.
  • Exposure to cold, dry conditions over long periods of time can also accelerate facial ageing.

While eliminating unhealthy choices is always a good idea, depending on how much damage has already been done, the effects of facial ageing may not be resolved without specialist medical treatment.

Individuals over the age of 25 who have made positive lifestyle changes to eat more healthily and exercise more regularly to lose weight can often find that frustratingly, they appear older after also losing facial volume. This can understandably have a negative psychological impact for some people, however, most people with no underlying medical conditions can undergo medical aesthetic treatments in order to help restore a youthful appearance.

Treatment of Facial Ageing

For people who are concerned about facial ageing, there are several options available.

Some people don’t have any desire to intervene with the natural ageing processes of the skin, which is an individual choice. There is no need to treat facial ageing if it does not bother you.

Firstly, efforts to combat the ageing process will be greatly improved by eliminating unhealthy habits like smoking or exposure to the sun. A nutrient-rich diet, regular exercise and staying hydrated by drinking water will also promote healthily and thus more naturally younger-looking skin.

While there are many products and beauty treatments available that can help to reduce the visible signs of ageing in the face (for example, using a moisturiser or undergoing a facial might help to combat dryness, thus altering the appearance of how deep lines actually are), their effects are frequently superficial and temporary - they will not drastically counteract the body’s natural ageing processes. Although they range in cost, many of these products and treatments are also very expensive; only offer a placebo effect, or can even accelerate or worsen facial ageing. Some can also cause damage to the skin, or cause secondary issues such as acne or eczema that could require specialist dermatology treatment

It is important to note that because the ageing face is a concern to many people, there is a significant amount of misleading information shared about what causes facial ageing, as well as how to ‘cure’ it. Additionally, because some people’s worry about facial ageing may make them psychologically vulnerable, they may be more susceptible to marketing that misleads or false promises to reverse the ageing process.

For those who wish to reduce the signs of facial ageing through medical aesthetics, there are some popular options, which are safe when administered or overseen by a dermatologist, such as;

It is essential to recognise that many practitioners – such as beauty therapists - claim to be able to administer some of these treatments, as a result of lax regulations in the UK.

While treatments may be described as ‘non-invasive,’ they can have serious complications that many of the individuals offering them cannot treat or even recognise; and many practitioners who claim to be ‘qualified’ have undergone as little as a half-day of training that could not offer an adequate understanding of the intricacies of facial anatomy, much less ‘expertise.’

Medical experts continue to campaign to raise awareness of the significant health risks posed by unqualified practitioners, the results of which are often highlighted by the media. Unfortunately, there have been no significant changes made to protect the public to date, and unscrupulous practitioners continue to offer discount treatments that put people at risk.

What to Expect in Treating Facial Ageing at Derma

Before treating facial ageing, and even if you have previously undergone medical anti-ageing treatment, you must first undergo a consultation with the dermatologist.

Before treating facial ageing, and even if you have previously undergone medical anti-ageing treatment, you must first undergo a consultation with the dermatologist. Your appointment will begin with a thorough analysis of your skin and medical history, followed by recommended treatment options, and the dermatologist will explain all of the potential side-effects, to enable you to select the best treatment option for you.

Whatever your needs, you can rest assured that Derma will provide the very best care for your skin, with access to the latest research and the gold standard of treatments.

For more information, or to book an appointment with Derma, please call the clinic or contact us via email here.

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