What does it mean to look younger?

Most patients who come to my office don’t come in asking for a full facelift. Most come asking for a specific face procedure to “make them look younger”.

If they are relatively young, they focus on the nasolabial folds the lines that go from the side of the nose to the corners of the lips). Or they may mention the lips, how they are getting thinner. If they are somewhat older, they will focus on the jawline and neck. I listen to them, because that is what they are concerned about, but then I have to ask: Do you want to look better to yourself or to others? It is an important question to answer because other people focus on different parts of your face than you do.

How do others see me?

If you want to look younger to others, let’s consider these findings of how a person ‘sees’ things. There was a fascinating study tracking eye movements of a person as they scan a face. In short, there are a lot of back and forth movements that go from one eye to the other, then a few sweeps from one eye to the other eye to the nose and back to the eye, then back to the eyes, and finally a single scan to the entire contour of the face. Think of when you talk to somebody else. You look at their eyes most of the time.

The signs of ageing you are most likely to notice in another person are around the eyes, because eye contact is very important to pick up on cues about emotional states while communicating. Very seldom will you focus on their mouth, nasolabial folds, jawline, or any of the things they complain to me about. As a matter of fact, when people complain to me about their eyes, it’s usually because somebody else somebody told them “they look tired”, or ask them if they are worried or angry (frown lines).

Things are different when you look in the mirror. You know yourself, you don’t need to look in your eyes. But you discover signs of ageing unexpectedly while looking in the mirror applying makeup or whatever else. You notice small changes that are common in people of a certain age, but they are new to you and bother you. When did THAT get there? In my own case, the first thing I noticed was the nasolabial folds (I was 34 then) while looking in the sideview mirror of my car. Other people hardly notice these changes because you are just another person of a certain age.

So my advice is that if you want to look younger to others, focus on the area round the eyes. The areas that others see first are the eyes, eyelids, forehead, and upper cheeks.

By Dr. Ricardo L. Rodriguez MD Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Cosmeticsurg Baltimore, Maryland Ricardo L. Rodriguez on American Society of Plastic Surgeons.