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Facial bone loss contributes to aging

You can blame the bones in the face, not just gravity, for those wrinkles, jowls, and the general drooping appearance that comes with age, according to a new study.
/ Source: Reuters

You can blame the bones in the face, not just gravity, for those wrinkles, jowls, and the general drooping appearance that comes with age. A new study shows that the shrinking of facial bones plays a surprisingly important role in the aging of the face.

Dr. David Kahn, a Palo Alto, California-based plastic surgeon and author of the study told Reuters Health: “What I think happens is that the bones in the face lose volume and recede a little bit as we age.”

He presented the results of the study Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in Chicago.

“When we think of aging of the face,” Kahn continued, “we typically just think that the soft tissue -- the skin and the fat -- deteriorates and becomes looser or bigger and we typically just lift everything back up and take out some skin to tighten it back up.”

“We don’t usually think of the shrinking of the bones or manage this in terms of aging. I think what we need to look at a way to combine a traditional facelift with something that adds volume to the face, like with fat injections,” Kahn said.

Kahn found age-related changes in the bony elements of the face by studying 3D CAT scans of 30 men and 30 women who fell equally into three age groups: 25 to 44 years old; 45 to 64 years old; and older than 65 years. All of the participants were white and none of them had problems, such as broken bones, that could affect the results.

In comparing the CAT scans from the younger and older subjects, Kahn noticed statistically significant changes in the angles of the bones of the facial skeleton, signaling a loss of volume. These changes were present in the mid-face area or the lower part of the orbits around the nose.

The results also show that women lose facial bone volume at a younger age than men, causing them to see the signs of aging sooner than men.

These findings dispel the widely held belief that only gravity creates wrinkles and other hallmarks of aged facial skin, Kahn concluded. Clearly loss of volume in the face and changes in facial bone structure also play a role in looking older.

In the future, facial rejuvenation techniques are likely to combine the use of fillers to add back volume caused by shrinking bone with traditional lifting of the skin.