What Does Your Face Say?

One’s face is revealing of many things, sometimes good and sometimes not so good. Time, genetics, sun, illnesses, smoking, and stress or good fortune all leave their marks on one’s face. Right or wrong, people make instant judgments about one another’s age, health, mood, personality and character based on their facial features. But many things can be gleaned from a face than just a smile or a frown.

Certain medical conditions may be able to be diagnosed just from one’s face. Hypothyroidism can result in hair loss which can be seen in thinning or absent hairs of the eyebrows. A round or clsssic moon-shaped face develops when steroids are taken over a long time or high doses are given for shorter time periods. Small strokes can be detected from changes in facial expressions or laugh lines. Sleepy eyes may be a sign of a neuromuscular disorder known as myasthenia gravis which makes the eyelids droop. The ears can be a tipoff to gout as they can develop bumps under the skin which are crystalline depositions. Pale lips and eyelids can be a sign of anemia. A whitish ring at the colored portion of the eye (iris) may be a sign of high cholesterol.

One’s stated age versus their appearance can alsobe a sign of good or ill health. A youthful look is usually a sign of good health as illnesses tend to make people look older. Even if one look older than their stated age and has no medical illnesses it may also reflect various psychological disorders.

Some research studies show that certain facial anomalies, such as ears with attached lobes, hair whorls, and widely spaced eyes, are related to mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, and to physical characters, such as clumsiness. There is some evidence that structural asymmetries of the face predict hyperactivity and schizophrenia and susceptibility to infectious diseases.

The face is also a well known reflection  of one’s age and occurs in a classic triad. First, wrinkles, age spots and tiny spider veins appear which are worsened by long-term sun exposure and smoking. Secondly, a loss of volume appears which is the shrinking of the fat layers in the face, most commonly in the cheeks. This will create a gaunt or deflated look and cause bags under the eyes to stick out more than before. Lastly, certain parts of the face simply drop, the jowls, neck and cheeks sag downward due to stretched out skin and loose ligaments.

But one’s skin color has a huge impact on facial aging. The more pigment you have in your skin, the thicker it is. Thicker skin has more elastic fibers which are more resistant to aging changes. The increased pigment also blocks the sun better. In addition, darker skin has more oil glands so it remains more supple over a lifetime and less prone to wrinkling. These are the advantages that Blacks, Asians, Hispanics and people of Mediterrranean descent have over most Caucasians.

The face is truly a trove of information about our health, age and demeanor. Between good medical care and plastic surgery, one can make their face appear healthy and more youthful.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana