Even after more than twenty-five years as a board certified plastic surgeon and otolaryngologist, I am often amazed by how much facial plastic surgery can accomplish. Non-invasive facial rejuvenation treatments can temporarily address many of the traditional signs of facial aging while cosmetic plastic surgery techniques can shift underlying tissue and fat, lift and tighten facial muscles, and even sculpt the facial features to bring them into a more aesthetically pleasing balance. However, one of the most pervasive problems with older skin is its loss of elasticity. Not only does this issue contribute to skin looking older and more worn, but it also can diminish the effectiveness of many facial plastic surgery procedures. Quite a few of my patients have asked me how this loss of elasticity occurs and if they can do anything to prevent it.
Elasticity specifically refers to the ability of young, healthy skin to return, or “bounce back”, to its original position and shape after it has been stretched or pulled. Primarily the result of an essential protein called elastin, tissue elasticity is the reason why lungs and blood vessels can stretch without bursting and young skin remains taut no matter how much the underlying fat, tissue, or muscle may grow or shrink. Unfortunately the gene responsible for the production of elastin functions most strongly during the first few years of life, when the cells are first developing. After that point the body’s production of elastin steadily declines until, by the time we are middle-aged, only a trickle of elastin is produced. As time goes by and the body’s reserves of elastin are depleted, the skin gradually loses the elasticity it once had.
One of the best ways to preserve skin elasticity is to avoid the many different environmental factors that damage the skin and force it to use its limited elastin for self-repair. Cigarettes, for example, contain substances that negatively affect collagen synthesis and increase its breakdown, while simultaneously diminishing nutrient delivery to the skin. Cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, causes inflammation and slows down the skin’s reparative mechanisms. Finally, exposure to certain types of ultraviolet radiation can destroy the collagen in the skin directly and has even been known to cause mutations in the DNA of skin cells that can lead to skin cancer. Taking steps to minimize these damaging elements can go a long way to keeping your skin looking young and healthy.
Additionally, even after decades of environmental damage, there are facial rejuvenation procedures that can help restore the appearance of the skin. Minimally-invasive approaches, like laser skin resurfacing and chemical peels with trichloroacetic acid (TCA), gently remove dead and damaged skin cells and stimulate the rapid production of collagen, resulting in fresher, more vital-looking skin with only minimal downtime. Injectable dermal fillers, like Juvéderm®, add volume to facial tissues by restoring hyaluronic acid, a substance that occurs naturally in healthy skin and helps prevent it from losing moisture, but also appear to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin in the skin cells themselves.
Even though getting older is unavoidable, a variety of facial plastic surgery and rejuvenation procedures can help temporarily counteract the effects of time and sun damage and maintain the skin’s healthy and youthful appearance. If you are interested in learning more about a plastic surgery procedure I perform, please contact me, Dr. Fernando Burstein, today. Be sure to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the latest facial plastic surgery news.