Duke University researchers recently verified that facial bones continue to grow as we get older, and this evidence led to a surprising theory: it may very well be this growth-not gravity-that leads to sagging and wrinkled skin.
Most of the bones in the body stop growing after puberty, but unlike the rest of the skeleton, the skull isn’t made of growth plates. Researchers used CT scans on 100 men and women to find that the facial bones essentially tilt forward with age. The result: muscle and skin become less supported, creating subtle changes in the shape of the face. This occurs in both sexes, but it’s notably more dramatic in women.
This discovery could ultimately have an enormous effect on cosmetic surgery. Duke Eye Center’s Michael Richard, MD explained, “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.”
It could also mean safer surgery. “If we can move the focus to the bone surface,” and away from the facial nerve, Richard says, “we may create an even safer, less extensive surgical procedure than the ones we perform today.”
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