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Will Your Face Age Like Your Mother’s (Part 1)

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How much do genes play a part in how your face ages, and how much of that ageing process is in your own hands.

Have you looked in the mirror and had those moments where you’ve caught glimpses of your mother staring back at you? Or have you seen the lines around your mother’s eyes, or the loose skin around her jowls, and wondered if you’ll look the same way at her age?

Some surgeons and dermatologists believe 50 to 60 per cent of facial ageing is about genetics

Some surgeons and dermatologists believe 50 to 60 per cent of facial ageing is about genetics

Some surgeons and dermatologists believe 50 to 60 per cent of facial ageing is about genetics, but others say it’s more about lifestyle and environment.

“To a degree our facial shape and structure is determined almost exclusively genetically,” says Dr John Flynn, a Gold Coast surgeon and member of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery.

“But the way our face ages is more related to lifestyle factors. So if your mother was a heavy smoker and you aren’t, your skin will look better than hers. If your mum spent a lot of time in the sun, and you don’t, you will have better skin,” he says.

Here we look at facial ageing, genetics and what you can do to stop the clock.

Pigmentation

The problem

Brown spots are not a result of your mum’s genes – they’re due to sun exposure. Pigmentation occurs when sun stimulates the pigment cells.

“The cells try to protect their DNA from being damaged. So they form another layer around the DNA by increasing the melanin and this leads to brown spots,” says Dr Michelle Hunt

“The cells try to protect their DNA from being damaged. So they form another layer around the DNA by increasing the melanin and this leads to brown spots,” says Dr Michelle Hunt

“The cells try to protect their DNA from being damaged. So they form another layer around the DNA by increasing the melanin and this leads to brown spots,” says Dr Michelle Hunt, a Sydney-based cosmetic and laser dermatologist and member of the Australasian College of Dermatologists.

The solution

Use sunscreen and if you have brown spots, laser treatment can remove them. Fading creams don’t work that well on brown spots but have some effect on freckles, says Hunt. The ‘gold standard’ laser treatment is CO2 fractional resurfacing.

It’s like having a block of hard butter that you pull out of the fridge,” says Flynn. “Pierce it several times with a fork and you can then get a little deeper in, taking off the layers.”

Dark circles

Dark circles under the eyes can be due to genetics

Dark circles under the eyes can be due to genetics

The problem:

Dark circles under the eyes can be due to genetics, with some races more prone to this feature as they age – particularly Middle Eastern and European. In some cases, blood vessels under the fine skin below the eyes can create a shadowing effect.

The solution:

“Camouflage cream to cover the darkness is the easiest treatment. You can also use eyes creams that thicken the skin under the eye so blood vessels won’t be as prominent. A four per cent AHA cream can produce gradual results,” says Dr Hunt.

“Stay well hydrated and get enough sleep because dehydration of the skin will make dark circles more prominent.”

Wrinkles

Wrinkling is mostly due to lifestyle rather than genetics

Wrinkling is mostly due to lifestyle rather than genetics

The problem:

Wrinkling is mostly due to lifestyle rather than genetics. “Look at an older person and an area of their skin that has been protected from the sun,” says Hunt. “That gives you an idea of how they would have aged without sun exposure. There’s usually a dramatic difference between the skin on an older person’s face and those areas,” she explains.

“The UVA in sun is one of the main components that damages collagen and elastin – the skin’s support structures. As they break down, skin sags and you get wrinkles.”

Smoking also leads to wrinkles. The mechanical effect of sucking on a cigarette is particularly responsible for lines around the mouth, and the chemicals in cigarettes damage collagen and elastin.

During menopause, oestrogen levels start to decline, leading to drier, ageing skin, says hunt. So people who go through menopause and who don’t use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) appear to age more rapidly.

The loss of fat pads in the cheeks and the loss of some of the bony structure that lifts the skin is also a natural cause of wrinkling. Losing weight after the age of 40 can also age your face, says Hunt.

“When you lose weight, you lose volume in your face. After age 40, people with a fatter face are usually rated as looking younger than someone who is underweight. Before age 40 the reverse is true,” she says.

The solution:

Protect your skin by using sunscreen all year round and avoiding smoking.

“I can pick a heavy smoker as soon as they walk through the door. They have dull, heavy skin deeper lines and wrinkles. There’s no life in their complexion,” says Flynn.

Protect your skin by using sunscreen all year round and avoiding smoking.

Protect your skin by using sunscreen all year round and avoiding smoking.

As you age, from an appearance point of view, it’s also better for your face to have a little more weight rather than being too thin.

Cosmetic fillers stimulate collagen production so you get an instant fuller effect and, over time, the collagen can have a preventative effect on wrinkling. Tretinoin cream – a vitamin A derivative available on prescription – has been scientifically proven to reduce fine lines and there’s good evidence that alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) stimulate collagen production and can help reduce fine lines, says Hunt.

Dr George Marcells, president of the Australasian Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery in Sydney, says Botox continues to be effective in minimizing crow’s feet and frown mines.

“But in needs to be redone every three to six months,” he says.

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