What Role Do the Muscles Play in Facial Aging?

There are a wide variety of cosmetic skin treatments for anti-aging offered at medical spas, dermatology offices, and plastic surgery clinics, and most of them focus largely on firming the skin by building collagen. While the loss of collagen is certainly a core factor in facial aging, there’s much more going on under the surface, too. Fat falls from the cheeks to the jowls, some bone loss occurs to change even your basic bone structure, and fat around the eyes shifts to create under-eye bags. And then there’s the muscle. Facial muscles actually contribute to an aging appearance in several ways, and understanding more about them can help you gain a better grasp on the aging process itself and the plastic surgeries that fight it.

What Role Do the Muscles Play in Facial AgingFor many patients, some of the earliest signs of aging appear in the form of “crow’s feet” (a series of fine lines that start in the outer corners of your eyes and extend outward, shaped a bit like the feet of a bird) and other lines throughout the forehead area. While the breakdown of collagen does contribute to these lines, the most profound cause is actually the muscles under these areas. When you make facial expressions, the muscles in your forehead and around your eyes contract, wrinkling the skin on top of them. Over time and with repeated facial expressions, the muscles can remain in a somewhat contracted state. In other words, the “wrinkles” you see aren’t just wrinkles in the skin, they’re wrinkles in the muscle, too. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean we can’t treat them. Injections like Botox® and Dysport® are injected into these very specific muscles to relax them for several months at a time. Over the course of a week or so, the muscle gradually smooths out, and so do the wrinkles in the skin. As an added bonus, during the approximately three months when your injection is effective, the medication keeps your muscle from contracting so that the wrinkles won’t get worse.

The other major way muscles impact aging involves the midface. In this area, the muscles gradually lose tone with age, and this makes them droop, giving the midface area (like the cheeks) a more “hollowed,” aged appearance. Keep in mind, however, that for these muscles, the tone is not affected by how much or how little they’re used. Instead, the only way to actually lift these muscles and restore them to a more youthful position is through cosmetic surgery like a facelift. Depending on how much correction you need, you may instead be a candidate for a Band Aid Mini Face Lift, which is performed in-office using gentle numbing. During an in-person consultation, I will be able to examine your appearance and discuss whether or not this minimally invasive option may work for you.

It seems as if, on every street corner, there’s someone who claims to have a way to fight aging. Some methods certainly have merit, like laser treatments and chemical peels for people with rather mild signs of aging of those who just want to maintain an already rejuvenated appearance. But keep in mind that your muscles, bone, and fat all play a part as well, so only a cosmetic approach that addresses aging both internally and externally will produce truly comprehensive results. To learn what procedures may be available to treat your own signs of aging, schedule a consultation with me, Dr. John L. LeRoy. And, for more fun facts, helpful plastic surgery tips, and even special offers, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.