What's Your Unique Aging Style? The 3 Distinct Ways Your Face Changes According To A Derm
I’m always stressing that we all age differently. What works for one person, may not be a solution for another. And how we age comes down to many factors, including lifestyle, skin care habits, environments, and genetics. In addition the aesthetics of aging isn’t just about dark spots, wrinkles, and the appearance of the skin. How we look as we age is a complex interaction between many facets of our face, from bone and fat loss to changes in muscles and fascia.
Understanding the complicated nature of aging is beneficial because it illuminates why there’s no prescriptive answer to “How do I take care of myself as I get older?” But I also understand that it’s not the most helpful. Lots of folks are searching for simple skin care solutions that easily fit into already busy lives.
According to Shamban, there are three distinct aging styles that most folks fall into as they get older: The wrinkler, sinker, and sagger. And knowing how your face ages, and why, can help you understand the best routes to take going forward—and equally important, what won’t work.
So I asked her all about the various types of aging, and here’s what she had to say about each.
Wrinkles are the most stereotypical sign of aging we think about. They are a natural part of the aging process and most people will experience them in some form. It’s also important to note that the folds and lines that form when you move your face happen at every age (even kids have them), so that’s not what’s being addressed here. Rather, it’s about the lines that don’t go away when the face is at rest.
“A typical ‘wrinkler’ is someone whose face looks like a road map of their life journey with all of the fine lines and deeper wrinkles that remain when the face is static—or not in motion—as opposed to just dynamic,” she explains. “The wrinkler’s skin has multiple patterns of criss cross lines that can be superficially fine or groves that are deeper.”
Wrinklers will start to first notice small changes in the eye and lip area, as those are typically the first to wrinkle. (This is because these areas have thin, delicate skin and move quite a bit.) “The first indication that you will see if you are a wrinkler are the appearance of fine lines starting to remain etched in the thinnest skin around your eyes and above your lip,” she says.
What to do:
The good news is that dealing with wrinkles is something the beauty industry talks a lot about—so there are a plethora of treatments. Here are some solutions to consider:
- Using smart topical ingredients such as retinol (which can increase cell turnover), AHAs (which can gently buff skin), antioxidants (to fight free radicals), and peptides (which can help smooth fine lines).
- As for lifestyle considerations, be mindful of environmental factors that may be worsening the appearance of fine lines such as UV exposure, sleeping position, and smoking.
- For in-office treatments, Shambam says, “it depends on the cause of the wrinkles but I recommend neuromodulators ongoing or a biostimulator like Sculptra or Radius,” and “some photo therapies, such as light ablative lasers or microneedling, can work well to keep the skin smoother and stimulate the skin to generate new collagen, thus effacing the wrinkles.”
We don’t talk enough about how the face can sink and become sallow as we age. But as many folks get older, bone mass declines and the naturally plush fat pads in the face diminishes.
“A sinker is characterized by another aspect of aging namely the shrinkage of fat pads and underlying bony resorption,” she says. “As a result, this individual typically develops a deflated and flattened midface resembling a pancake, and a somewhat softened appearance in the lower face with some more prominent jowls.”
While this is harder to notice, the first thing you’ll see is volume loss around the face. Typically this is under the eyes and cheeks. “The first indication that you are a sagger is if you notice your skin looking like it is sliding down your face,” she says. “Here is where we can use the example of some air being lost out of the balloon.”
What to do:
Given this is due to fat and bone loss, topical treatments aren’t going to be effective. You should still take care of the skin, but it’s important we’re honest in explaining that products are not going to solve the underlying issue.
However, lifestyle choices can support bone and professional intervention (should you choose to go down that path) will help support volume.
- Prioritize bone health through lifestyle choices. There’s no topical that’s going to support bone health, but you certainly can address skeletal support through nutrition and physical health. (This, I might add, is beneficial for many things other than how you look.) Have a regular workout routine and consume enough calcium and vitamin D.
- For when you might consider in-office treatments, look into ultrasound technology like Sofwave, says Shamban. I’ve gotten Sofwave—read all about my experience. She notes a well-trained aesthetic specialist can also help mimic fat through filters.
Collagen, elastin, and your skin’s other structural components diminish with age as the body becomes less capable of producing them at a steady rate. And thanks to lifestyle factors such as UV exposure, diet, stress, and more, the natural supply is depleted. This leads to sagging skin.
“The sagger is an individual whose skin exhibits the most amount of structural loss and laxity, leading to more extreme sagging,” Shamban says. “As the foundation and building blocks of the dermis deteriorate, skin sagging increases.”
Ultimately, this will lead to volume moving south, toward the mouth and jowls. “This person often displays pronounced creases around their mouth and distinct marionette lines, contributing to the characteristic appearance of facial drooping associated with this aging pattern,’ she says.
The first indication that this is happening is usually more laxity in the jawline area, as well as sagging around the eyes. In addition, a person may notice that they have less ability to “snapback.”
What to do:
Sagging skin is one of the harder things to reverse from a skin care perspective. (However, thanks to new technology and ingredient advancements, that’s changing. Read our report here.)
Once the skin has started to loosen, it’s challenging to tighten it back up without some sort of professional treatment. That’s why prevention is so important. Then if you decide that more dramatic results are needed, a derm can help you find an appropriate solution for you.
- Use collagen and elastin supporting topical ingredients. The most famous and effective routine team-up is to use a retinol serum at night and a vitamin C serum in the morning. Retinol upregulates collagen production and vitamin C is a vital part of the collagen synthesis process.
- Prioritize nutrition that provides the building blocks of collagen, elastin, and other structural proteins. This will be things like foods with a robust amino acid profile, fruits and veggies high in vitamin C, and collagen itself. This is a proactive step that can help support your skin as you get older.
- For professional intervention, Shambam recommends “micro-coring, CO2 resurfacing or often a series of threads,” and for “non-invasive treatments, radiofrequency microneedling, high energy focused ultrasound, and Sofwave.”
We all age in very unique ways—and it’s important to understand this so we can better prioritize skin care steps and treatments. (And on the flip side, know what’s likely not going to be beneficial for us.) If you want more intel on the way skin ages as we get older, read our report on aging through the decades.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.