Study: Gravity not to blame for facial drooping

Dec 04, 2007, 5:00am

Durham, N.C. - Researchers at Duke University Medical Center say they believe that changes in bone structure, not gravity, may be the cause of sagging facial skin, HealthNewsDigest.com reports.

Durham, N.C. - Researchers at Duke University Medical Center say they believe that changes in bone structure, not gravity, may be the cause of sagging facial skin, HealthNewsDigest.com reports.

Furthermore, investigators say, the changes appear to occur more dramatically in women than in men.

Lead author Michael Richard, M.D., an oculoplastic surgeon at the Duke Eye Center, says his team’s findings may have significant implications for cosmetic eye and facial surgery. He presented the research at the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons.

Noting that surgeons traditionally focus on tightening and lifting soft tissues, skin and muscle in an attempt to cosmetically restore youthful appearance, the study says it may be more effective to restore the face’s underlying bony framework.

According to the study, the assumption has been that the skull stopped growing after puberty. Using CT scans of 100 men and women, however, researchers found that the bones in the skull continue to grow as people age - and as the bones move, the overlying muscle and skin move as well, subtly changing the shape of the face. This, in turn, results in sagging and drooping skin.

The research team also found that women experience more rapid bone changes than men. Investigators write that this opens new areas of research, including the role of menopause in facial bone growth and whether drugs used for osteoporosis affect facial-skeleton changes that occur with aging.

In addition, researchers say their findings may well affect the future of facial cosmetic surgery. They note that one of the risks of facial surgery is the potential for hitting the facial nerve, which could cause paralysis. If the focus of facial surgery becomes the bone surface rather than soft tissue, cosmetic facial surgery could become safer.