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


This is the second article in a series about combating the aging process and turning back the hands of time. This article will delve deeper into the structural changes that occur in the aging face.

Again, aging isn’t graceful! When you look in the mirror and experience the harsh realization that time hasn’t been kind; don’t fret. You are not alone. We all have the same basic genetic material and experience the same gravitational forces. So, while you may not be the happiest with your own transformation, people the same age around you are either experiencing the same emotions or have resigned to accept what they cannot change. (You CAN change- more on that in a subsequent article.)

There are three changes that occur in the face as we age; two that are important for this discussion. The third change involves the demineralization and remineralization that occurs in the bony structure of the face. While the bony structure does experience minor remodeling throughout one’s lifespan, the changes are minor. For example, your high school chemistry teacher will still recognize you as the person responsible for the minor explosion that involved evacuating one wing of the school. He will recognize however, that while you are the same person with essentially the same underlying bony structure, your face has aged.

Most people will lose the “apples” in their cheeks somewhere in the transition from 20 to 35 years of age. The fat pads that help hold the cheeks up against gravity are either resorbed or begin the “Great Downward Migration”. This is coupled with a breakdown of the collagen and elastin fibers that help the unlucky infants cheeks to spring back into position after an assault from the over-zealous aunt. The breakdown of collagen fibers is accelerated by unprotected sun exposure and first or second hand smoke exposure, but will inevitably occur as part of the aging process.

When you combine the collagen fiber breakdown with the loss of volume in the cheeks you have the recipe for an aesthetic disaster (not the chemistry lab type). Aesthetic disasters are subtler, take place over a much longer period of time, and fortunately do not involve large amounts of smoke.

The face is anchored around the bony openings; the eyes, nose and mouth, all in the midline. As the skin of the face starts to relax and succumb to gravity because of collagen fiber breakdown and loss of volume in the cheeks, the lines around the eyes, nose, and mouth are pulled down. Crow’s feet lines around the eyes, nasolabial folds on either side of the nose, and marionette lines at the corners of the mouth as well as pre-jowls or jowls accentuate the aging appearance.

So, when you look in the mirror and aren’t happy with what you see, remember you are not alone. 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. Under advisement from his lawyer, he no longer offers advice on chemistry experiments, but he will be happy to help you with your “aesthetic emergencies”!