Ageing mosaic: The BIG Picture of Intrinsic Facial Ageing

Youth and youthful look were cultivated since the beginning of time. Today, given technological advancements and superior knowledge in the areas of health, dermatology and cosmetology, youthful look seems to be more attainable than ever before. It is probably fair to say that, in their own time, women and men come to consider utilising available options in order to revitalise their facial youth. As I am making myself comfortable with the 30+ age category, I am certainly not an exception to exploration of options of eternal youth. Preparing to write this post on the mechanism of facial ageing, I came to believe that if beauty is skin deep, then ageing is a far deeper matter.

If we were to consider the basic human anatomy as bone – muscles – skin structure, we would see ageing of the face as ageing of the whole system and not limit ageing to skin alone. Within this broader ageing perspective, ageing of the face is a result of gravity impact, muscle action, loss of volume and redistribution of superficial and deep fat, loss of bony skeleton support. All of those factors lead to changes in overall shape and contour of the face:

Muscle action Some facial muscles hold hypertension while others lose tone over time. Such muscle action will be reflected on the appearance of our facial features.

Mimetic and chewing muscles affect ageing on our face the most

Volume and redistribution of visceral and subcutaneous fat Young people have full facial features due to the presence of subcutaneous fat. With age as well as due to yo-yo dieting and extreme exercising, the amount of subcutaneous fat on our face decreases which leaves our face looking dry and hollow
Bone support for the muscles and skin Over time, facial bones lose volume and recede providing less support to facial muscles and contributing to the structural changes of the face


Above mentioned information gives the big picture of gradual internal changes that lead to the ageing of the face. That said, such perspective is not widely advertised but rather collectively attributed to “ageing of the skin” to combat which cosmetic companies offer numerous “anti-age” treatment products and procedures. Personally, I am very sceptical about the ability of all those treatments to address loss of muscle tone, bone mass and volume of subcutaneous fat.


Having major and more fundamental layer of facial ageing in mind, we can progress to discussion of the skin itself. Outside environment, ethnic background, overall health of the person and cultural expectations bring substantial number of particular variables into the picture. To keep things more consistent and universally applicable (as much as possible), I would like to focus on the skin from the standpoint of wrinkles since it is their presence that we track presence and development of ageing by. Keeping the bigger picture of facial structure in mind, 4 distinct types of wrinkles can be better understood without being seen as issues solely related to the skin (epidermis and dermis). On the note of “anti-age” skincare, companies usually promise “general” wrinkle reduction. More invasive cosmetic treatments consider the structure of the face and are able to offer more targeted approach.

Type of wrinkles Wrinkles explained Examples Cosmetic Solutions
Atrophic Crinkling Rhytids Fine lines that run parallel to each other on the face Fine lines that are due to squinting of the eyes because of the sun or poor vision


Permanent Elastic Creases Crease lines that end up becoming permanent wrinkles as we age


Lines on the lips from continuous smoking, lines at the base of the neck and rings around the neck


Mimic / Dynamic Expression Lines Creases and folds that are caused by our habitual facial expressions. Sleep wrinkles are included here as well


Forehead wrinkles, frown lines, crown’s feet Treatments that paralyze muscles causing the excessive movement
Ageing / Gravitational Folds Wrinkles which are due to loss of collagen and loss of muscle tone. Those wrinkles tend to be deeper and more pronounced Marionette lines, eye wrinkles, sagging cheeks These wrinkles are more apparent on people with lean face and thinner skin. Cosmetic industry offers fillers for such cases (Though fillers increase the pressure on the muscles that are already weakened and losing tone)



If we put the above aspects of ageing mosaic, what can we realistically expect when facing the ageing issue?

It would be true to say that people age differently; however, there are 5 types of ageing that could be used as a guideline when accessing our personal ageing tendencies:

Ageing type Typical candidate Characteristics of ageing
“Tired” –          Body complexion: Thin

–          Face shape: Oval

–          Skin type: Normal or prone to dryness


Slight deformation of face oval due to decreased muscle tone and skin firmness

–          Dull looking skin with moderate manifestation of photoageing such as pigmentation spots, fine lines, thread veins

–          Moderate sagging in the lower third of the face

–          Medium depth nosalabia folds and marionette lines (nose to mouths and mouth to lower jaw lines)


This is the starting stage of ageing and its progression is up to the person him/herself.


–          Good night sleep!

–          Serums and creams with Vitamin C as well as AHAs

–          Chemical peels that help to synthesize collagen


Wrinkled –          Body complexion: Slender, thin

–          Face shape: Oval

–          Skin type: Thin, sensitive and frequently dry


Dry and dehydrated skin with numerous fine lines

–          Skeletonised looking face due to reduction in subcutaneous fat in midface

–          Shape of the face stays as it was in youth: muscular tone decreases minimally so tissue sagging is not very visible

–          Fine wrinkles are present in large quantities. Some deep lines

–          Obvious difference between skin conditions of the face and neck ( the face being better than the neck)


–          Increase presence of lipids in your diet and cosmetic skincare

–          Quit smoking



Deformative –          Body frame: Heavily- built

–          Face shape: Round , full / “meaty” face with large facial features

–          Skin type: Thick and oily / oily prone skin


Swollen face which might not have many fine wrinkles but has deep lines due to evident sagging of heavy facial mass

–          Excessive subcutaneous fat on the lower face results in formation of double chin, “jowls”, neck folds

–          Reduction of the deep fat pockets in the cheeks, which along with excess fat in the lower face, drags the face down

–          Baggy lower eyelids and overhanging upper eyelids

–          Deep nosalabial folds can eventually converge with marionette lines leading to one long fold between nose and chin accompanied by jowling


–          Overall weight loss

–          Ensure proper salt – water balance

–          Strengthen veins

–          Lymph drainage massage


Combination –          Body frame: Prone to weight gain and water retention

–          Skin type: Combination


Presence of ageing signs according to the listed above types (in different proportions)
Muscular –          Face shape: Rectangular / round face with well – developed facial muscles and low amount of subcutaneous fat

–          Skin type: Oily prone

Young and dewy face   that keeps its youth for a very long time. Process of ageing is drastic: within a year or two a person will go from young to very old due to loss of muscle tone

–        When muscles loose tone expect numerous deep lines

–          Pronounced high cheekbones which appear to flatten with age resulting in fallen – in’ cheeks

–          Pronounced thickened skin with deep furrows like elephant hide due to photo ageing (sun exposure)

–          Greater tendency of pigmentary disorders such as age spots


–          Regulate skin pigmentation



As you can see, none of the above ageing types can be addressed by means of cosmetic skincare alone. Facial ageing is a complex process and it should be addressed according to the major contributing factors.


What can we do about the “big picture” as we age?

Gravity  Hm??????
Loss of muscle tone Gymnastics for facial muscles


Loss of subcutaneous fat Healthy lifestyle and nutritional choices / habits

No crush diets and excessive exercising


Loss of bone mass and volume Keep hormones in balance: adequate levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are important for bone maintenance. Excess levels of cortisol, insulin and parathyroid hormone can lead to bone loss

Calcium- rich diet (make sure it is the right kind of calcium and that your body is actually able to absorb it i.e. calcium is not blocked by stomach acidity)

Healthy lifestyle habits: physical exercises routine; quit smoking; limit alcohol intake; cut down on sugar and caffeine

The concept of self –care that encompasses bones – muscles – skin as integral components of duly care for the self has certainly expanded my perception of the scope of work to be done. Given the context of this post and reflecting on your current  self care regimen, what do you care for?


Thanks for reading,

2 thoughts on “Ageing mosaic: The BIG Picture of Intrinsic Facial Ageing”

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