What is happening to your face as you age

Here I will explain the underlying changes behind the signs of facial aging.

Whilst most people think of wrinkles, brown spots or uneven skin texture as the primary manifestations of facial aging, the reality is a lot more complex. The aging process affects the entire facial structure, including skin, subcutaneous fat, muscles and facial bones. When I see patients for the first time, they often want treatment for their skin changes. However, they may not be aware that it is the deeper structural changes that are the main factors causing them to appear tired and looking old.

It takes more than just removing your wrinkles to regain your youthful appearance. Whilst laser and skin tightening have an effect on skin aging, they are not able to address some of the more important aspects of facial aging.

To  summarise these signs of aging, there are essentially 4 things that happen to your face as you age.

1. Volume loss due to thinning of subcutaneous fat: The subcutaneous fat pads in our face shrink with age, leading to facial volume loss. This manifests as dark circles under the eyes, tired looking eyes or a sunken hollow appearance.

2. Shrinkage of facial bones: The facial skeleton remodels with age. The remodelling causes the upper and lower jaw to shrink and the eye sockets and the nasal cavity to enlarge. The combined effect of bony and soft tissue shrinkage is decreased support for the skin. In many ways, this is akin to someone wearing the same sized clothes after weight loss; the clothes will not drape properly and will hang loose.

The result is more prominent nasolabial folds, jowl formation, sagging lower face and drooping upper eyelid skin.

3. Sagging: Facial ligaments provide structural support to the overlying skin. Age-related collagen loss causes weakening of these ligaments. These underlying structural changes to the ligamentous support of the face contributes to the development of tired and sad looking appearance.

4. Skin changes: The amount of collagen and elastin in the skin decreases with age, leading to the development of wrinkles and fine lines. Sun damage is the main cause of many signs of skin ageing, manifesting as rough and scaly patches of skin, brown spots or dilated capillaries and diffuse redness. To address these skin changes we often use lasers, anti wrinkle injections or skin tightening.

These aging changes happen gradually over time. Signs of ageing are usually visible in your thirties and there is a steep downward turn when you hit menopause or your late forties, by which time they are readily apparent.

Young or mature, there are a multitude of treatment options available to slow down the aging process, or even turn back the clock. There is a vast amount of information available these days and it is difficult to know which treatment is right for you. My knowledge of the facial anatomy combined with experience and artistic judgement allow me to offer individualised treatment plans to achieve my patients desired results. A holistic approach is essential if you want natural, long-lasting results.

Although facial aging is progressive and cannot be completely halted, a number of facial rejuvenation treatments can slow down or even reverse many of these signs.

Site Images / 20120628 Bernard Leung SNB_0338 (medium)In order to target these changes in a logical manner, I thinks of facial rejuvenation in terms of the 5 Rs. Our Face Treatments page explains The Signs of Aging in more detail and what you can do to help slow down or reverse these changes.