November 13, 2007
Facial Bone Growth Contributes To Aged Appearances

If we could control facial bone growth we could prevent a substantial portion of aged appearances of faces.

Using CT scans of 100 men and women, the researchers discovered that the bones in the human skull continue to grow as people age. The forehead moves forward while the cheek bones move backward. As the bones move, the overlying muscle and skin moves as well and that subtly changes the shape of the face. "The facial bones also appear to tilt forward as we get older," explains Richard, "which causes them to lose support for the overlying soft tissues. That results in more sagging and drooping."

The problems from these aging changes extend beyond cosmetic concerns. Drooping tissues around the eyelids can lead to vision problems, dry eyes, and excessive tearing.

Richard and colleague Julie Woodward, MD, Duke's head of oculoplastic and reconstructive surgery, also determined that women experience more rapid bone changes then men. That, says Richard, opens new areas of research, including the role of menopause in facial bone growth, and whether drugs commonly used for osteoporosis may affect the aging changes seen in the facial skeleton.

This study by researchers at Duke University reaches conclusions similar to a previous study at Stanford. For the results from Stanford see my post. Facial Bone Aging Contributes To Aged Appearances.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 November 13 11:23 PM  Aging Appearances

Brock said at November 14, 2007 7:53 AM:

Maybe I'm wrong (I'm no surgeon), but that sounds a lot harder to fix than soft-tissue nips and tucks.

This is another data point though on the side of "Anti-aging will require a suite of tools; there is no magic bullet." Even with regenerative medicine and other pharma/bio-science solutions, some things will still probably require surgical solutions.

I think we're going to be in for an odd century, cosmetically, with lots of people who look both old and and young at the same time. I believe all of the important solutions will come with time, but not at the same time. In the mean time some people's features will look youthful, while others (which don't have cures at that time) will look old. But even that will be an improvement over the part-old, part-weird people today, like Joan Rivers.

Thorny said at November 14, 2007 2:43 PM:

I agree that it would have to take a quantum leap in surgery techniques in order to shift around the bone mass of the skull. I also think that we will take rejuvination medicine in steps and work on soft tissue problems such as cardiovascular plaque, high blood pressure and cancers before getting to the rest - this doesn't include teeth and jaw bone however, we do have working experiments on how to manage them. Unfortunately our generation, the 20-40 year olds, will probably BE those wrinkled up and distorted old people by the time guaranteed life extension therapies hit the mainstream market. As for cosmetics on the bone level, that's like supertechnology at the moment. I'd imagine that we'd need an incredible computer to control the presumably billions of nanotech particles it would take to safely augment the body en mass. At that point though, with full digitization of the human body, we could probably become as flexible as a cartoon.

Jerry Martinson said at November 14, 2007 6:42 PM:

After my kid had bicoronal craniosyntosis after being born (which thankfully resolved itself after 2 weeks without any intervention), I googled the rather invasive corrective procedures and had an idea that maybe changing the structure of facial and skull bones could be controlled during growth by using adjustable braces and selective fracturing. Obviously, there's tremendous risks to controlling the brain containing portion of the skull for cosmetic reasons.

My concept is similar to how they currently grow out the limbs of some very short people to give them a few extra inches of limb length.

For an adult, I think there are places that you could access portions of the maxilla, mandible, and the cheekbones from inside the mouth. You might also be able to access portions of the very lower forehead through the nasal cavities. By installing adjustable braces and controlling fractures, you could likely increase the size of the lower face. Perhaps much of the bracing hardware could be inside mouth for weekly adjustments.

Randall Parker said at November 14, 2007 7:05 PM:


The future isn't in surgery. The future is in finding ways to instruction cells to selectively grow in some directions while selectively dying in other directions.

How to do that? Maybe lots of tiny injections of compounds that slowly diffuse out of gels and encourage certain cell types to go toward the chemicals.

Fly said at November 15, 2007 11:50 AM:

Presumably tissue responds to pressure, vibration, electrical fields, magnetic fields, or some such external force. Go to sleep each night wearing your ideal face mask. (Contacts are used to shape corneas.)

Brock said at November 15, 2007 4:36 PM:


I don't think (though I could be wrong) that your technique would allow for the requisite control over the final position and appearance of the bony structure. If a surgeon (human or robotic) went in, he/it can very carefully shape and sculpt to get exactly the desired result. Since this type of surgery would be mostly cosmetic, I think that will be a controlling factor. The comment at the end of the article suggests that such surgery may actually be easier than the surgery they do today (which also undermines the first point of my prior post).

In fact, such a surgery would probably also be an opportunity to get those nice, Brad Pitt-like cheekbones.

I expect that "the future" of this type of surgery would be a one time "position and shaping" surgery, followed by a treatment that brings the continued growth of the facial bones to a crawl or full halt. Facial bone growth beyond the age of 20 seems to be one of nature's "Eh, it won't kill you before lions do, so it doesn't get bred out" defects that we can certainly live without.

Brett Bellmore said at November 16, 2007 7:13 AM:

I would expect that you could selectively pulverize facial bones via ESWL, and then push them to where you wanted them. Healing would probably be relatively quick, with no appreciable gap for the bones to have to bridge. Of course, having high energy shock waves going through the body that close to the brain might be a bit iffy.

What we need is a drug delivery system where administration is systematic, but the drug can be directed to only take effect in localized areas by administration of some outside energy source. Then you wouldn't need to turn the patient into a human pincushion.

Randall Parker said at November 16, 2007 8:20 PM:


Think of sculptors of marble. They've got solid marble to work with. To sculpt bone one needs to make bones thicker and then cut them back into desired shapes. That seems inefficient and extremely invasive.

Brett Bellmore,

Yes, localized activation of drugs can certainly help. So can localized delivery.

Surgery is just so mechanical. That's the wrong level at which to operate. Biological approaches are needed. Use the force.

suzy said at November 17, 2007 1:30 AM:

I can't believe that they only realised this now. It's kind of obvious that bone thinning etc would occur. To move bones is not such a radical idea as people think. Operations such as le fort and saggital split osteotomy of the mandible, moving the jaws to correct jaw and bite defects has been around for years. As have cheekbone advancements and rotation etc. A le fort III for example moves the whole face forward. HOwever, up to now, they have been used on people who have deformities of the face and they are major operations and can take a couple of years to heal (I had both jaws moved forward). A newer idea called distraction is also being used more and more, whereby they fracture the bone and move it forward very slowly (eg 1mm per day), so new bone can fill the gaps, this is less invasive and lets the muscles adapt, but it takes time and commitment. There are some surgeons who realised some time ago, that the bony structure of the face has a strong influence on the overlying tissue, hence it is possible to get implants for every bony structure of the face to try to build up volume. It's only a matter of time before all these ideas to treat facial deformitity, get put out into the cosmetic surgery world. I've got a feeling that the use of implants will become more popular (especially orbital rim and cheekbones)over the coming years.

Olivia said at November 17, 2007 6:28 PM:

Hi everyone,
Does anyone know what it means to say the facial bones 'tilt forward'??
If you picture the bony structure from below the eye to the chin, how would the parts of the skeleton actually be moving?

If they moved forward from the bottom, they would tilt this way: \

BUT, if they moved forward from the top, this way: /

Does anyone know?!



Punnet said at November 29, 2007 6:39 AM:

Hi Every one,
My age is 25 year and Height is 5'10.My facial bones are very small (small face or can say abnormal).Is there any way or medicine by which face can grow normally.

Does anyone know?!

I need your Help


Paul said at April 22, 2008 6:34 PM:

We CAN now regrow the prominence of the cheekbones in relation to the forehead ridge.
When we're young, the cheekbones are more dominant on the face than the forehead.
As we age, the cheekbones recess as the forehead protrudes.
Now, with the F.A.M.I. technique (originated by Dr. Roger Amar and used by several clinics around the world) we can use the stem cells from our own fat to grow lost bone and muscle in the mid-face. Google F.A.M.I. and Amar.
This is all done by deep injections into the facial muscle, where it meets the bone.

James said at April 24, 2008 3:13 AM:

I thought Punnet's question, dated nov 29th ,'07 was interesting. It's one thing getting older and loosing bone mass and skin elasticity of the face but quite another to grow up with an immature looking face, where there seems to be a lack of adult growth and proportion in the actual features (distance between eyes, mouth and nose), resulting in a baby face. Im no surgeon but i guess stem cell technology and or using a brace to slightly reposition the bones could give an adult with a young face a more mature appearance. Does anyone have information on this one?


Bryan said at November 16, 2008 1:39 PM:

I have a question rather than a comment. When I was 18 years old I experimented with a 6 week cycle of anabolic steroids(deca or test). I am now 25 years old, but I have a very young appearance. Could that cycle have caued any type of structural bone growth problems in my face? thanks.Bryan.

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