Despite facial rejuvenation being a multi-million dollar business, there are glaring holes in what we know about the aging process, according to Val Lambros, M.D., clinical professor of plastic surgery at University of California, Irvine.
Dr. Lambros, who has made substantial contributions to the literature on understanding how the face ages, presented “3D facial averaging,” yesterday at The Aesthetic Meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) in Las Vegas. During the meeting, he presented a not-yet-published study of actual aging progression using 3D imaging over a 15-year period.
“If you listen to ten plastic surgeons or dermatologists expound on the subject [of facial aging], you will hear at least eight explanations for what happens and how.... Most of these explanations have little to do with the process but quite a lot to do with the surgical techniques designed to make aging faces look better,” Dr. Lambros says.
Dr. Lambros’s research has helped to lead to such concepts in facial plastic surgery as the need to fill; not just pull. In a study published October 2007 in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Dr. Lambros reported findings suggesting among other things that vertical descent of skin, and by association, subcutaneous tissue, is not necessarily a major component of aging in those areas.
Most recently, Dr. Lambros’s 15-year study to understand the actual progression of facial aging began with a rigorous comparison of old and young patient photographs in 2000.
“Starting in 2005, I began to use a 3D camera to scan plastic surgeons, since they show up to plastic surgery meetings at intervals,” he says. “Since 3D images are digital, they can be analyzed mathematically.
In 2015, Dr. Lambros began to average the facial images together and presented the images, visually, for meeting attendees, so they could see the actual aging progression — not an artist’s conception. The 3D images are of hundreds of faces averaged down to one image and animated with another hundred in an age group 50 years older, according to Dr. Lambros.
Some revealing findings from that study include that the thinning of the lips influence the base of the nose, pulling the tip of the nose toward the lip, as well as influencing the nasolabial crease, according to Dr. Lambros.
“These images have not been seen in plastic surgery and show in the clearest possible way what happens to facial shape with age,” he says. “Some aspects are known and easily seen and some are new to this study.”
Disclosure: Dr. Lambros reports no relevant disclosures.