Skin, Muscles, and the In-Between: How to Treat Each Layer of Your Face

When you think of an attractive, healthy-looking face, you probably only consider what you see on the surface. But as we age, all the layers of our facial tissue start to change, from the outermost layers of the epidermis to the middle layer of the dermis to the innermost layers of fat, muscle, and connective tissue. We’ll consider those changes here, and the treatments available to slow the effects of aging.

How Our Faces Change as We Age

In our late teens and early 20s, our faces are typically at their peak condition. Young facial skin is smooth and flexible. Below the surface, the dermis is rich with collagen, which keeps the skin resilient and moist. A young face is also full and rounded with fat deposits below the deepest layers of skin.

By the time we reach our 30s, some of this starts to change. The level of collagen production in the dermis drops gradually over time, and the skin starts to thin and lose some of its smoothness and flexibility. Repeated contractions of expression muscles around the eyes and mouth and in the forehead start to leave fine lines and creases. The density of fat in our faces also starts to shift. Our once-plump cheeks start to flatten.

This progression happens at different rates for each of us, but by the time we reach our 50s and 60s, almost all of us are experiencing them in more advanced stages. Our skin becomes significantly thinner and less resilient, loosening, and dropping with the effects of gravity and showing more wrinkles. What began as fine expression lines are now deeper and harder. Our cheeks and the areas under our eyes start to sink and hollow out as facial fat disappears or shifts down on our faces. Our facial muscles, too, start to weaken, loosen, and settle into slightly lower positions, affecting our facial contours.

Facial Treatments for the Early Effects of Aging

Early on, treatment with anti-aging creams can help slow the effects of facial aging. When expression lines begin to deepen and harden to the point where you look older than you feel, treatment with Botox® or Dysport® to relax the underlying muscles can be helpful. With fewer and less intense muscle contractions, the surface skin has a chance to smooth and recover.

Fortunately, it’s possible to correct mild to moderate lines and wrinkles and loss of volume, especially in the cheeks and under the eyes, with injections of dermal fillers, such as Juvéderm® and Restylane® or with microfat grafts.

Treatments for Loosening Skin and More Advanced Effects of Aging

As collagen levels in the dermal layer drop, the skin on the surface, the epidermis begins to loosen, stretch, and sag. Correct mild to moderate skin looseness with Protégé skin tightening, a radiofrequency treatment that stimulates the production of collagen in the middle layers of the skin. This state-of-the-art procedure triggers a tightening effect that smoothes and tightens the skin on the surface.

When facial skin reaches a more advanced state of loosening and sagging, which typically happens in our 50s or 60s, a facelift can set the aging clock back several years. Today’s facelifts correct drooping, wrinkly skin from the innermost to the outermost layers. They lift the position of muscles that have fallen and weakened over time, resculpt the fat layer, and reattach the trimmed surface skin for a smooth, youthful, natural look. If you don’t need a full facelift yet, a mini or mid-facelift might be the solution.

As you move up the scale from early to more advanced signs of aging, you can choose to combine any of these treatments. A facelift with dermal fillers or microfat grafts, for example, can lift and tighten facial muscles and skin and fill in areas that have hollowed with loss of fat. And anti-aging skin creams can be a valuable part of your skin-care routine at any age.

Learn More About Facial Treatments

Dr. Robert Singer, in La Jolla and San Diego, is a board-certified plastic surgeon with expertise in the many treatments for facial rejuvenation. Call us at (858) 455-0290 or contact us today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Singer.

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