Medical Mythbusters – Myth: I’m Just Going to Age Gracefully- Part One


Let’s face the truth; aging isn’t graceful! As we get older our bodies lose the ability to recover from damage. Skin loses the resiliency and elasticity it had in youth. I see patients of all ages in my aesthetic medicine practice, but the majority of patients are in their 50’s and 60’s and their chief complaint is “I looked in the mirror one morning and didn’t recognize the face staring back at me!”

We all know that each additional birthday brings more wisdom and experience (in theory) but we often forget about the negative consequences of aging. Our brain actually helps to protect us from the “trauma” associated with looking in the mirror as we age. A good analogy is the difference between the MP3 audio recording format often used in digital music and a phonograph or high definition CD recording. While an audiophile may be able to distinguish between the two formats, most of us don’t notice that we are only hearing approximately 10% of the information contained in the original recording. Our brains do a wonderful job of filling in the difference.

The brain processes the information obtained from our eyes in a similar fashion. How many times have you driven past a sign or road feature (think speed limit sign) and didn’t notice it until a friend (or friendly officer) pointed it out? The brain takes the image obtained from our eyes and if there isn’t a big change, the difference is averaged out. A birthday, or a new skin lesion or blemish may prompt a closer critical look that removes the averaging filter; in which case the brain will compare images archived from the past with the present. Most of the time this will precipitate an “aesthetic emergency” in an effort to return to a previous baseline image. So, if you happen to take a closer look in the mirror one morning, remember that those changes didn’t occur overnight.

This is the first article in a series. See the next article for more information on combating the aging process and turning back the hands of time!

Disclaimer: Dr Stephen Rath is the owner and medical director of Fusion Medical Spa located in Ruidoso, NM. He is not an expert on either the music recording industry or vision, but he will be happy to help you with your “aesthetic emergencies”!