One of my trade secrets to keeping my clients looking young and refreshed is something I call predictability. Most people already know that neglecting to manage the aging process leaves cosmetic surgery as the only truly effective option. Knowing not only when, but how our skin is going to age is the key to preventing fine lines, wrinkles and sagging. We all have that crystal ball at our disposal; all you have to do is look at your family tree.
There is a genetic component to aging, and most people resemble a parent. For the most part, daughters age like their mothers and sons age like their fathers. I ask my patients to bring in photos of their parents as well as photos of themselves from several years ago so that I can identify their specific aging process. Everyone has a weakest link in their genetic chain; for each person, there are certain features that will age more than others. This family aging trait is your predictable pattern of aging.
Once you’ve identified those features, you can apply that insight to your own skin. In my book, Future Face, I advise readers to divide their face into three zones: the forehead, eye area and lower face. Each of these zones has their own predictable course. As you begin to lose collagen, it manifests as different issues—fine lines, creases, wrinkles, sagging—depending where your face is most vulnerable. With that in mind, let’s plan your zone-by-zone defense.
The top zone of your face includes your forehead, eyes and brows. On your forehead, you’ll see horizontal lines running all the way across, while the brows show the “11’s”—vertical lines between the brows.
This zone includes the wrinkles around the outer corners of your eyes—known as crow’s feet—and the laxity of the skin underneath the eyes and eyelids.
The bottom zone encompasses your mouth, jaw and chin. Aging in the mouth area includes lip lines, nasal labial folds and marionette lines (the lines that extend from your lower lip down to your chin—like the mouth of a ventriloquist dummy). The big issues with the jaw and chin are sagging and jowls.
The majority of wrinkles are caused by general wear and tear—like raising your brow or squinting. Sagging and drooping is due to collagen loss. The progression of these problems follows a predictable, standard pattern. Take forehead wrinkles, for instance. In your 20’s, your forehead is smooth. In your 30’s, you’ll notice that when you raise your brow, fine lines will appear across your forehead, but they disappear when you release your brow. As you age, those lines appear permanently and become deeper. It’s the same for squint lines, which go from temporary to permanent.
How quickly and severely your wrinkles and sagging appear goes back to predictability. Based on your genetics, you’ll have more vulnerability in your weakest zone, which will make you more susceptible to excess wear and tear in that area.
Depending on which zone your problem area will fall in, your approach will be different. To promote collagen production and keep your skin firmer longer, look to certain fillers, ingredients and lasers. For these wear and tear problems, Botox is a perfect preventative action. If you freeze those muscles and minimize the movements you are making with them, it will take much longer for those wrinkles and creases to manifest.
Predictability teaches us that the best anti-aging strategy is anticipating your aging pattern, identifying your specific skin weaknesses, and intervening before it’s too late. While you may not have any control over your genetics, you do have the power to slow down the aging process by attacking problems before they become permanent.
Board-certified dermatologist, dermatological surgeon and native New Yorker, Dennis Gross, M.D., founded his NYC practice in 1990 following extensive research at prestigious institutes, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering. He and his skincare expertise have been featured in publications including The New York Times Magazine, Elle, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Find him on Instagram at @dennisgrossmd or www.dennisgrossmd.com.