Aging facial bones could cause wrinkles, crow's feet
January 5th, 2011
02:06 PM ET

Aging facial bones could cause wrinkles, crow's feet

Beauty is more than skin deep.

The signs of aging – sagging skin and wrinkles - may come from deteriorating facial bones, according to a study released Tuesday in the medical journal, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

CT scans of facial bones in 20 young, 20 middle-aged and 20 older people were compared.  Dr. Robert Shaw Jr., a plastic surgeon at the University of Rochester Medical Center and his co-authors  found that the facial bones - much as other bones in the body - shrink with age.

“What we (plastic surgeons) focus on is the aging of soft tissue - how skin and fat ages,” he said.  “Those aren’t the only structures in your face. Bones provide scaffolding and your muscles, fats and skin drape over bones.  If you tighten skin, but the scaffolding has deteriorated it’s not going to bring patients back to a youthful look.”

Researchers observed the following changes:

– Eye sockets became wider and longer with age.  This could result in sinking of the eyeball into the sockets, which alters how the soft tissue in your upper brows rolls over the bones.

–  The bones in the middle of the face such as the brows, nose and upper jaw shrank too. These changes may lead to drooping brow bones and formation of creases near the eyes and crow’s feet.

–   The size of the lower jaw shrank with age.  This makes the chin projection appear smaller.  The mandible provides the foundation of the lower face.

The biggest physiologic changes in the bone structure occurred between middle age and old age.

“The bones receded,” Shaw said.  “When they’re deteriorated, it provides less support.  The eyebrow and skin, they droop down a little bit… The overall process is that it loses volume and loses projection, all your soft tissues kind of droop because you don’t have the bones pushing out.”

So what’s the point in taking care of your skin if aging bones contribute to wrinkles?

These wrinkles probably occur from a combination of bones and the skin losing elasticity, Shaw said.

“The skin aging is a big part of it,” he said.  “It’s not just using creams; it’s taking care of yourself for bone health and skin health.”

He suggested keeping up on calcium to maintain bone health.  People who elect to have surgery might need a two-fold approach of tightening up the skin and adding volume, such as skeletal implants, deep space fillers or even fat to make up for bone loss.

Shaw said the next research was to examine how bone density changes with age.

Read more about the study from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

soundoff (648 Responses)
  1. Orchid

    It's more than just the bones though. Skin becomes far less elastic with age. If you're over 50, pinch the skin on your arm up an inch or so and release it. Thinking back, did it take so long to flatten back down to normal as it did 30 years ago? Also, throughout our lives, particles, both atom sized and smaller, are poking holes in us. How deep they go depends on their energy...frequency. Low energy particles likely do not penetrate. High energy particles...xrays, gamma rays, alpha and beta particles, neutrinos (tough one to prove since scientists insist they pass through us without ever touching a single cell...) and others easily penetrate the skin and into deeper tissues or beyond. Some support structures do not regrow normally. Damaged muscle cells grow new muscle cells, along with scar tissues. But tendons, ligament and fascia do not replace themselves with the same cells they started out with. If the fascia surrounding a tiny muscle around the eye, for instance, is damaged, it's not replaced with a fascia cell, rather a less flexible amount of scar tissue. The same story applies to the small tendons and ligaments attached to muscles that we use to frown, smile, express surprise or fear...as well as the supporting structures for the skin itself...therefore the muscles in the face sag and wrinkle with age. It should come as no surprise that those of you that stayed out of the sun for the bulks of you lives and have otherwise kept healthy have far fewer wrinkles and sags than those of us that spent much of our lives outdoors. We've been exposed to far more radiation and high energy particles than you. I can think of no way to stop mother nature from making us into swiss cheese. Plastic surgery is a mere stop gap measure and often a bad choice, considering the outcomes.

    January 5, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Lobna


    January 5, 2011 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. mary

    Swiss cheese is good.

    January 5, 2011 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. fajita

    "People who elect to have surgery might need a two-fold approach of tightening up the skin and adding volume, such as skeletal implants, deep space fillers or even fat to make up for bone loss."

    sounds like more $$$ for plastic surgeons.

    January 5, 2011 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LEB

      Don't fault them for providing a service that consumers ask for. Besides, this discover has more than just cosmetic applications. The research may lend itself to repairing congenital facial deformities or victims of injuries, certain cancers, and accidents, too.

      January 6, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
  5. Dea

    this is an interesting study, but scans of 60 people are not enough to prove or disprove this theory. I'd like to see scans of related people, adult child, parent, grandparent, repeated in several hundred family groups. Then we can see how the bones age in relation to their genetic features as well.

    January 5, 2011 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Kerlin4321

    Oy, can't we all just age in peace, please?

    January 5, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cpope

      NO.... why?!?

      January 5, 2011 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Yes, you CAN age in peace. Don't pay a plastic surgeon to do any of that work.
      Me? I've EARNED my gray hair, gray beard and wrinkles.

      January 5, 2011 at 18:31 | Report abuse |
    • LEB

      Aging should be accepted gracefully... but put off for as long as humanly possible.

      January 6, 2011 at 14:48 | Report abuse |
    • Kevlyn

      absolutely NOT! Let's fight it every step of the way!

      January 6, 2011 at 21:44 | Report abuse |
  7. Alex

    How on Earth can one compare the bone structure of a young vs. old subject when the subjects are different people? People, this BAD science!!!

    January 5, 2011 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • A


      there are various statistical tools which can help evaluate whether the observations are causal or not.

      You don't necessarily need to compare the same individuals to draw inferences, even by common sense. Suppose you walk into a science lab and see a bunch of ants in one container of clear liquid all dead, and ants swimming around in another container of blue liquid. Without putting the live ants into the container with the dead ants, you might at least suspect that the clear liquid killed the ants. You looked at different individuals in two different groups, yet you couild still draw an inference about what the clear liquid did to the ants (perhaps it was acid, and the blue liquid was water with food coloring...)

      January 5, 2011 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
  8. hippy26ish

    AAAHHH!!! im not prone to be vain, however this is disastrous news for me and possibly any woman who has spent money in an effort to ward off aging as much as possible

    January 5, 2011 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Lisa

    Interesting study, unfortunately the implants as depicted in the scans are not an ideal solution. I've worked in the plastic surgery industry for years and have seen tons of disasterous results after faces were augmented with different types of implants. The depicted implants allow tissues to grow in and because of that can't be removed when problems occur. Skin is thinning when you're aging and the implants become visible: imagine the longterm problems associated with them. Your skin can't cover up the implants anymore as you age and the skin is thinning drastically. In addition implants also cause skin thinning, so called contracture which adds up to the problem. Would personally not go there.
    Taking care of your skin is important. Lots of young faces have underdeveloped bone structure but the skin has good elasticity and 'molds' itself perfectly around the bone structure nonetheless. Perhaps fat could help to correct some bone deficiencies, if injected correclty.

    January 6, 2011 at 03:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. fireybuddha

    IT'S CALLED GETTING OLD! IT HAPPENS! Why are we so damned obsessed w/staying young forever? What is wrong w/aging and wisdom and experience? Please, tell me.

    January 6, 2011 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LEB

      Because you can do more for longer and with less pain when you're young. The longer you stay youthful, the longer you live... and who doesn't want to live as long and healthy of a life as possible, not to mention stay looking good while they're at it? Pretty simple, really.

      January 6, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse |
  11. pt barnum

    Aging bones causing inelastic skin????!!!!!!!! what a load of BS by a bunch of infomercial, used car, furniture, implant selling salesweasels. But you know the PT Barnum quote.

    January 28, 2011 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Think

      Ptbarnum, nothing in this article said bone loss is causing inelastic skin. Gee. Both are sources in the decline of our youthful looks...
      Stop and pull out some photos of your parents or grandparents as they moved from middle-aged to elderly. Look at their eye sockets. It makes sense that the change is not just skin/body fat deep! This study makes plenty of sense as EVERYONE's bone are in a constant "remodeling" of loss and growth through out life, adapting to the stresses we do/don't place on them. That is an anatomical fact. Next step we'll have skin estheticians offering zygomatic bone shaking to keep our cheeks full!

      January 28, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
  12. Wendy Skinny

    I have combination skin and always have mild-to-moderate sun spot issue on my cheeks....other than that, I have pretty great skin and happy with it. I purchased the pH Equilibrant Moisturizer from Made From Earth – as I started to notice fine wrinkles around my lips, and decided to try a this Made From Earth product. The texture of the pH Equilibrant Moisturizer is a lightweight cream and it is absorbed so quickly when you apply it. I used it for a good solid week, and was shocked by the result. Not only did it diminish all the fine lines, it also improve my overall complexion and my skin is much brighter.

    I will def repurchase when I run out of it.

    May 11, 2011 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Well the facial wrinkles information on this blog is fantastic.

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  15. accelmcomputers

    This was a really interesting blog post. I think many people are quick to assume that their skin is the only contributor to the wrinkles they are seeing. In fact, I had not even given it a second thought that perhaps the bones underneath the skin were the underlying factor. I live in an area where cosmetic surgery is quite prevalent, and I see it often. My opinion is to each their own. Some people embrace aging while others resist the process. It is important to research a quality cosmetic surgeon to achieve the results your truly want. A response above indicated that implants may not always do the trick, so putting in the extra effort is surely something that should not be taken lightly. All and all a really informative read.

    November 13, 2013 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
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