Harvard Health Letter

The aging face

Between acceptance and defiance there's a middle way of relatively small tweaks that will make an old face look younger.

Age affects every nook and cranny of the body, but nowhere are the consequences on such open display as on our faces. Dozens of changes take place as the years add up, some of them obvious and familiar: foreheads expand as hairlines retreat, for example. Odd things occur. Ears of an older vintage often get a bit longer because the cartilage in them grows. Tips of noses may droop because connective tissue supporting nasal cartilage weakens.

There are also structural rearrangements going on behind the scenes. When we're young, fat in the face is evenly distributed with some pockets here and there that plump up the forehead, temples, cheeks, and areas around the eyes and mouth. With age, that fat loses volume, clumps up, and shifts downward, so features that were formerly round may sink, and skin that was smooth and tight gets loose and sags. Meanwhile other parts of the face gain fat, particularly the lower half, so we tend to get baggy around the chin and jowly in the neck (see illustration).

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