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Reflection of senior woman looking at skin in mirror wrinkles

Dear Doc H:

Q: Recently I woke up and noted I looked much more tired than usual. I think that I’m getting enough sleep, but the mirror wasn’t confirming this. I recall seeing this happen with my Mother many years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my Mom, but I don’t want to look like her. Help… 

Dear Mirror: What you are experiencing is the natural maturing process, lest we say aging, as it affects the face. There are many factors responsible for these changes we’ll consider below. 

First, think about a baby. They have skin which is almost perfect, uniform, soft, blemish free. Unfortunately, from that point it’s a downhill slide as we abuse our skin over the course of our lives. Some factors aging our skin are constants, some can be modified. We’ll attack these one at a time:

The first and most obvious problem is sun exposure. Sun exposure is a fact of life and is needed for many aspects of a person’s health. As critical as the sun is, every exposure causes skin damage and takes us one step further away from that baby like skin. As with most things in life though, everything in moderation is a good mantra. We cannot avoid sun exposure completely, nor should we. Still, protect yourself when you can, always wear sun blocks and absolutely avoid an excess exposure which leads to a sunburn. Also, stay out of the tanning booth (nothing groundbreaking here). 

The second factor would be genetics. Your DNA dictates how your skin will behave and age in any particular environment. We all know that with the same exposure one person comes away with a gorgeous tan, the other a severe and risky burn. Your heritage dictates all aspects of skin aging be it wrinkling, color irregularity, loss of elasticity or sagging. We all must play the cards we were dealt and the rules of the game are not the same for everyone.

The third factor we can’t control is gravity. Unfortunately, this is pulling everything down from day one. Unless you are planning on being a space traveler or spending your life submerged in water there’s no avoiding the effects of this one. But, slowing this process perhaps comes down to facial muscle tone. Those who don’t have particularly expressive faces (the Supermodel look) will suffer the effects of gravity faster (but then, they also won’t have so many of the deeper wrinkles caused by facial muscles). People who are very expressive will tend to have less face sag over time. There are actually exercises that can slow the rate of facial droop, https://wsimag.com/wellness/36143-anti-aging-facial-exercises. Think of this as signing up your face for a gym membership.

Things that we can control would be smoking, diet and lifestyle. Clearly, everyone knows that cigarettes are uniformly bad for you in every way. When it comes to the skin, cigarettes have a way of destroying the skin’s natural elastic properties causing premature fine wrinkling. Cigarettes will also accentuate the sagging effects of gravity. There is nothing good here, so if you smoke, stop. 

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Diet also plays a factor. Diets high in foods that promote free radicals will accelerate the aging process of the face and may cause material changes within the skin architecture itself. The solution isn’t new here, avoid any type of processed food (if it’s in a highly labeled box or bag, you probably want to avoid it), excess carbohydrates, red meats, saturated fats and alcohol.  Things to eat which are skin friendly (short list) include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish, raw vegetable oils, coffee and tea.

Now, regardless of all of your fine efforts, one day you look in the mirror and still panic. Fear not, much can be done. Over the past decade (as in many areas of medicine) facial cosmetic management has taken the turn personal diligence. This means monitoring and fixing what you can with maintenance early. This month doesn’t allow for a detailed discussion (maybe next month) but in a nutshell, the face can be broken down into zones, and management of these zones varies. Aging of the upper third  of the face (forehead and around the eyes) is best managed with Botox injections. This is very effective and can impressively erase some side effects of aging. The lower 2/3 of the face are best managed by way of injectable hyaluronic acid fillers. The success of both of these treatments is volume and technique dependent. Under treatment will not achieve the desired results, whereas over treatment is worse. With Botox you get the “mask” face, and with fillers, well we all know what over treatment looks like.

So the next time you look in the mirror, before you panic, realize that there are things you can do to help. Also, some simple treatments by an experienced clinician can erase much of what you fear. You cannot completely avoid the effects of Father Time, but you can at least put up a few road blocks to slow him down.

Dr. Charles Hurbis is an ENT-otolaryngologist has been practicing in the Bay Area since 1991. His areas of interest/expertise include the diagnosis/treatment of sinus disease and nasal airway issues, treatment of skin cancer, sleep medicine, facial plastic surgery as well as the other spectrum of head and neck disease.

Dr. Hurbis's practice is located at 2695 N 17th St. in Coos Bay. 541-266-0900

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