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Science Says Wrinkles Don't Make You Look Old—These Do

New research pinpoints the area that is aging’s biggest giveaway.

| June 3rd, 2014
wrinkle newsy

If you ask people for their aging grievances, the list typically looks the same: crow’s feet, sun spots, wrinkles, sagging skin and rough texture. Yet the lines known as nasolabial folds that run from the nose to the corners of the mouth beat out all these common aging symptoms in a study on the features that most influence an individual’s perceived age.

In an April 2014 study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, researchers gathered 120 female participants aged 41 to 49 and had an expert panel of six dermatologists make an educated age guess for each one. Smokers, skin tanners and those with medical or skin disorders were not included.

The goal was to develop an objective algorithm that measures facial features to determine perceived age so that physicians can have a uniform starting point by which to determine the amount of “change” a patient undergoes after a cosmetic procedure in order to assess its success. Before and after photos are certainly compelling, but this team wanted a more scientific way to gauge results.

The outcome of the testing was surprising. The length of the nasolabial groove scored the highest indicator of age, followed by skin redness, eyebrow sag, pigmentation spots and rough texture—with wrinkles around the eyes coming in at the bottom of the list. The algorithm that researchers came up with based on this scale correctly identified age with 92 percent accuracy. 

While the formation of nasolabial folds is part genetic lottery, New York City and Miami dermatologist Fredric Brandt says this is one area where having some extra weight can actually work to your benefit by making you look younger in the face. “Weight loss can exacerbate nasolabial folds, as thinner people often tend to have more visible lines around the mouth,” he tells YouBeauty.

The observation wasn’t lost on French actress Catherine Deneuve, who is often famously quoted as saying, “After a certain age, a woman has to choose between her fanny and her face.” The implication meaning that either you put on some weight to enjoy a fuller and younger face but bigger bum, or lose some weight for a tighter body at the cost of an older-looking face.

Fortunately, Dr. Brandt says you no longer have to choose if you’re open to a non-invasive procedure. Since nasolabial folds occur within the deeper dermal layer of skin, he uses the injectable gel known as Juvéderm Voluma XC to fill the soft tissue of the dermis. The filler was recently approved by the FDA for injection into the cheek area to correct age-related volume loss.

The folds don’t come from repeat expression like fine lines do, but from the breakdown of collagen in other parts of the face. “I always believe in replacing fat compartments in the cheeks and cheekbones to lift and restore the face as well as to soften the nasolabial folds,” explains Brandt. “After I’ve replaced lost volume in the face, the last place I then treat is the folds themselves as needed,” he adds.

Brandt, who helps keep the visage of A-listers like Madonna looking eternally youthful, is not surprised that crow’s feet and fine lines didn’t correlate higher as age indicators in this study. “Even people in their 20s can have crow’s feet and fine lines,” he says. “When it comes to making us look older, I feel it’s more about the shape of the face.”

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