Clues To Wrinkles May Be Found In Facial Bone Structure

Nov 12, 2007

There's a new wrinkle in the battle against looking old: doctors have discovered it's not gravity that's pulling your skin down -- it may be your shifting bone structure.

While many thought the Earth's gravitational pull was to blame for sagging facial features, researchers at Duke University Medical Center have discovered changes in the face's underlying bony structure may be the culprit. And, those changes appear to occur more dramatically in women than in men.

"This paradigm shift may have big implications for cosmetic eye and facial surgery," explains Michael Richard, MD, an oculoplastic surgeon at the Duke Eye Center, who presented his research at the annual meeting of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons in New Orleans today.

"Our focus has always been on tightening and lifting the soft tissues, skin and muscle in an attempt to cosmetically restore patients' youthful appearance. Based on this information, it might actually be better to restore the underlying bony framework of the face to its youthful proportions."

Since growth plates found in most of the body's bones stop growing after puberty, experts assumed the human skull stopped growing then too. However, the bones that comprise the human skull have no growth plates.

Using CT scans of 100 men and women, the researchers discovered that the bones in the human skull continue to grow as people age. The forehead moves forward while the cheek bones move backward. As the bones move, the overlying muscle and skin moves as well and that subtly changes the shape of the face. "The facial bones also appear to tilt forward as we get older," explains Richard, "which causes them to lose support for the overlying soft tissues. That results in more sagging and drooping."

The problems from these aging changes extend beyond cosmetic concerns. Drooping tissues around the eyelids can lead to vision problems, dry eyes, and excessive tearing.

Richard and colleague Julie Woodward, MD, Duke's head of oculoplastic and reconstructive surgery, also determined that women experience more rapid bone changes then men. That, says Richard, opens new areas of research, including the role of menopause in facial bone growth, and whether drugs commonly used for osteoporosis may affect the aging changes seen in the facial skeleton.

Just as important are the implications their research may hold for the future of cosmetic surgery. "One of the big risks of facial surgery is the potential for hitting the facial nerve," explains Richard, "which could cause paralysis." Doctors are extremely careful not to touch that nerve and its rare for those complications to occur. But, he says, "if we can move the focus to the bone surface, away from that nerve, we may create an even safer, less extensive surgical procedure than the ones we perform today."

Source: Duke University

Explore further: What are the chances that your dad isn't your dad?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The Chickahominy look back

Aug 31, 2012

(Phys.org)—The tribal name, Chickahominy, translates to "coarse-ground corn people," and indeed their language contributed the word "hominy" to English.

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

HIV+ women respond well to HPV vaccine

HIV-positive women respond well to a vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV), even when their immune system is struggling, according to newly published results of an international clinical trial. The study's findings ...

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...