Understanding the Aging Face

Do you look in the mirror and see fine lines and wrinkles appearing?

When we are young, our face manifests as one dynamic unit with smooth facial contours.

But gravity, bone movement and facial muscle movement begin to change the structural appearance.

This natural and uncontrollable ageing process affects our facial structure over time.

So join us as we take a fascinating look under your skin to understand how those structures age your face.

Anatomy of the Face

Your face is made up of the following structures:

  • skin
  • bone
  • muscle
  • fat pads

How we Age

Anatomically, as your skin ages, the following things begin to happen:

  • collagen production and elastin fibres begin to break down
  • fat cells reduce, resulting in skin sagging, especially around your jaw and cheeks
  • your skin’s ability to retain moisture decreases, and it becomes dehydrated
  • frown lines appear due to the repetitive contraction of the small muscles
  • cellular turnover slows down, leading to your skin becoming dull and sallow

So many changes start to occur as we hit our mid-30s, our skin loses its natural elasticity and bounce; it becomes dehydrated as transepidermal water loss increases.

This study shows that the elastin and collagen organisations become disorganised, causing volume loss (1).

The repeated activity of your muscles leads to the formation of rhytides over muscle contraction regions, such as the orbicularis oculi and oris muscles, which cause ageing around your eyes, mouth and forehead.

Smoking, photo-damaged skin, and environmental factors contribute to increased intracellular reactive oxidative species, a subject we discuss in detail here.

In fact, if you look under a microscope, you can see cellular age-related changes, such as epidermal thinning, collagen loss, and dermal-epidermal junction flattening.

Changes in Your Skin’s Volume

We all know that a plump, youthful glow characterises a young face.

But sadly, as we age, the subcutaneous layer where our skin’s fat cells are housed starts to deplete, causing loss of fullness in the following areas on our face:

  • brows
  • upper eyelid region
  • forehead region
  • the temple

The decrease in our face’s regular subcutaneous fat compartments causes an increase in skin laxity, which becomes apparent in the distinctive folds around our nose and jowl area.

This makes the bony structure of our skull, brow muscles and temporal more pronounced.

Interestingly, whilst some facial areas, such as our forehead and cheeks, lose fat, other places, like our mouth and jaw, can also gain fat.

Still, when combined with the breakdown of your internal scaffolding collagen and elastin, these changes in fat pads cause contour deficiencies, which visibly age your face.

The zygomatic muscles in our cheek area and mandibular around the jawline create a drooping appearance to the soft facial tissues, contributing to the formation of the tear trough and jowls.

The Aging Face

As this research (2) shows, let’s take this one step further and break down the aging face into three distinct areas.

This method provides a profile of the aging process, a technique known in the industry as face mapping.

Upper face aging

Skin layers: This area loosens and dehydrates, resulting in the formation of frown lines, forehead wrinkles and crow’s feet
Fat pads: Loss of volume in fat pads creates hollowing around your eyes and temples, causing your eyebrows to lower.
Bone: Bone loss can cause hollowing around your eyes and temples.
Muscles: Repetitive facial movement creates lines at rest in the forehead area

Treatment options

  • Forehead lines
  • Frown lines
  • Eyebrows
  • Temple hollowing
  • Skin rejuvenation
  • Crow’s feet

Midface aging

Skin: Midface volume loss creates lines under your eyes and nose-to-mouth lines, which become deeper over time.
Fat Pads: Loss of volume in midface areas and fat pads accentuate tear troughs and nose-to-mouth lines.
Bone: Bone loss in your cheek area accentuates mid-face flattening.
Muscle: Repetitive movement; this creates lines at rest in your midface

Treatment options

  • Tear troughs
  • Cheek enhancement
  • Nose-to-mouth lines
  • Nasal bridge improvement
  • Skin rejuvenation
  • Acne scar improvement

Lower face aging

Skin: Loosens and dehydrates, creating lines around your mouth and chin.
Fat Pads: Volume loss in the fat pads, combined with gravity, creates jowls and lower facial lines.
Bone: Bone loss along your jawline accentuates jowls.
Muscles: Repetitive movement creates lines around your mouth, chin and lower face.
Lips: Lip volume decreases with age.
Bone: Bone loss causes your lips to appear inverted.
Muscle: Repetitive movement creates lines around your mouth, chin and lower face.

To conclude. The naked truth

So, as you can see, the shape of your face is determined by the underlying muscles and supporting structures of your facial ligaments.

These ligaments stabilise a youthful face, but the constant activity of your facial muscles.

This progressive lack of structural support for your face, combined with the pull of gravity, leads to soft facial tissue and the drooping appearance often associated with ageing.

This, combined with the many intrinsic ageing changes, causes these ligaments to weaken, and your skin becomes loose, creating an aging face.

To learn how to prevent this, our article on the science-backed anti ageing ingredients is a great place to start.


1: Characteristics of the Aging Skin

2: The Pathobiology of Skin Aging: New Insights into an Old Dilemma

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