Posted on February 11, 2015 Dr. Christian Subbio

Stranger In The Mirror: Why And How Your Face Looks Older As You Age

Does the face staring back at you from the mirror ever surprise you? Do you ever feel like the person looking back just isn’t you, or perhaps some older version of you that just doesn’t quite match the way you feel? Do you wonder where that youthful, full, and bright-eyed face went?

If so, joins the tens of millions of Americans who wonder the exact same thing every morning upon looking in the mirror, victims of the inevitably constant progression of facial aging.

Where did the years go? Why do my eyes seem tired? Where did those deepening lines comes from? Why does my skin look like crinkled tissue paper?

While potentially cringe-inducing, the root causes of why our faces look older with time can be downright fascinating. And, if nothing else, they can provide a starting point to understand the ways in which we can effectively attempt to turn back the clock. After all, how can we aim to change something whose causes we don’t quite understand?
There are many causes of the changes that we typically associate with aging. These changes can be so subtle and gradual that we may not even be able to put our fingers on what it is we are looking at that signals us to immediately recognize what we call “old”. But make no mistake, our minds instinctually recognize them as part of our genetically programmed screening process of choosing a youthful and healthy mate. So what exactly are these changes? They happen to fall into a few categories which affect us all:


A youthful face is full and soft. One of the more recently-appreciated causes of apparent facial aging is atrophy of the fat pads that lie beneath the skin of the face. Sagging and wrinkling of facial skin doesn’t always mean that a facelift is necessary. In many cases, particularly in younger patients with more minimal-to-moderate changes, the only thing that is need is a “filling” of these fat pads. This can restore and “re-inflate” the cheeks, temples or other areas to the softer, rounder curves of youth. Some surgeons will rush to a surgical solution and recommend removing “excess skin” and pulling the face tight with a facelift to restore a smooth surface appearance. But, this often leads to the “operated”, “pulled back” look that we see all too often in Hollywood and NYC. The face can be filled with products such as Voluma or Sculptra, or even a patient’s own fat harvest via liposuction from another problem area. These can be performed in the office with no sedation and no downtime. Each method has it’s pro’s and con’s, but what’s important is recognizing when facial sagging is caused by deflation rather than excess/loose skin. Try looking at old pictures of yourself or relatives— can you see where the facial fat has faded away?


Young skin has elasticity and resilience. Much like the snug, gripping portion of a sock at the ankles, when young skin is stretched, it will immediately shrink back to the original size upon release. Thats because the elastic fibers running through it are strong and fresh, and pull the surface together to make it firm, much like thousands of tiny bungee cords within.

Now picture that same sock after years of wear and use. We’ve all know when the material has lost its elasticity. It becomes loose, saggy, and fails to fit snugly around one’s ankles. It will simply hang limp and slide down. The same happens with our skin as we age. The natural biologic fibers responsible for elasticity become weak and decrease in number. This is why the skin of the face will sag and droop, forming jowls and deep folds in the face. If this is the main cause of facial aging, indeed a facelift may be the right option for you. With a facelift, the re-elevation and tightening of the sagging skin can restore the smooth, elevated contours of the youthful face.


Another often-overlooked cause of facial aging is damage to the skin itself. Years of sun-exposure, UV rays, toxins in food and drink, as well as the body’s own faltering repair system, can cause the skin itself to become damaged. This manifests as fins wrinkles, as pigmented areas, rough patches, etc. As we age, the microscopic oil glands responsible for keeping our skin soft and moisturized decrease in number, resulting in dry, brittle skin. The ways to address this are many. First, prevention is key: this means sunscreen, lotions, healthy diet, avoiding smoking and excess alcohol, etc. Treatment here means stimulating the skin’s own repair systems, usually in the form of a laser treatment or chemical peel. These cause a slight burn to the skin surface, which will then prompt the body to create collagen, thereby tightening and thickening the atrophied layers. This results in firmer, smoother, evenly pigmented skin with less fine wrinkles. These can be perfumed in the office with no sedation and little to no downtime depending on the strength of the treatment.


Finally, the appearance of one’s hair greatly affects how old one looks. It’s not as simple as whether or not one has experienced any form of baldness. If you look at an older person, even with a full head of hair, you’ll notice that the hair itself may be thinner than in their youth. Compare older pictures of celebrities in youth with more current piictures. Chances are, their brows will look fuller, and smoother. Their head of hair will be thicker and more lustrous. Their lashes may even be noticeably more striking. Coloring of the hair does wonder for restoring some of this youthful look. But, adding other modalities such as Latisse for lashes, thickening shampoos, or even hair grafting for more affected areas can really help restore the healthy-hair look that one may have lost with age.

As you can see, several factors come into play when considering facial aging. These processes start slowly, before the age of 30 even, and progress steadily over time. I’ve always found it fascinating how our faces change with time, and how theses changes affect the way other perceive us. If you find yourself self-conscious about the way your face is aging, schedule an appointment for an laid-back discussion about what is actually causing these changes. We’ll offer you an honest assessment along with a recommendation for the simplest, safest, most cost-effective way in which you can look more like the age you feel inside.

Take the first step to becoming the best version of yourself.

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