I have, as many people tell me, a “baby face.” You know, like Ellen Page or Selena Gomez. My whole life, people have always thought I was at least three to five years younger than I am. I don’t know exactly what gives me my baby face: My round cheeks, maybe, or my cartoonish circular eyes. Perhaps the freckles that dot my nose and cheeks. Regardless, as a teenager, I hated it. I wanted nothing more than to look 25. People told me when I got older I’d be grateful to have such a cherubic face. Of course, this aggravated me to no end.
But a year and a half ago, I turned 22, and my perspective shifted. For the first time, I found myself warming up to the idea that I’d be carded at bars until I was 35. Finally, I was glad to have a baby face.
But just as soon as I’d gotten used my youthful visage, a professional age-evaluator burst my bubble. According to the discerning eye of board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, I would decidedly not look 22 for the rest of my life. In fact, my aging process had already begun. Bowe could tell exactly how my face would continue aging. She could even tell where and when.
Today, I’m 24. And according to Bowe, I’m going to start showing my age in the next three to four years, mostly thanks to one pesky thing: my facial expressions.
When we emote, the muscles in our face contract, which causes creasing in the skin. As the emotionally charged years go by, this repetitive creasing leaves wrinkles behind. But not everyone wrinkles the same way. According to Bowe, there is a simple method for telling exactly where a person’s future lines will appear, no special tools or expertise required.
“During a conversation, I can tell within five minutes where someone is destined to develop wrinkles,” she says. How? It’s all based on a person’s pattern of expression. In other words, most of us tend to default to one type of facial expression no matter what we’re doing, and this reveals itself to an attentive onlooker within mere minutes. “People fall into one of three categories,” Bowe says. The categories are…
This pattern of expression certainly seems nicer than constant frowning. But alas, it still leads to wrinkles. Bowe says that people tend to squint as they smile, so if you’re a default grinner, expect to develop crow’s-feet in the delicate skin around the eyes. “Smiling can also contribute to creating more pronounced nasolabial folds,” Bowe says, “those big parentheses of skin that arc downward from the sides of your nose to the corners of your mouth.”
Unfortunately, I fall squarely into this category. Even when I’m not upset—when I’m simply concentrating, or even smiling—my face tends to crumple into a deep frown.
Over the years, repeated frowning causes that unholy pair of vertical lines between the brows. Bowe calls these the “angry 11s.” At 22, Bowe said my frown lines were already visible. (Not exactly a baby-faced quality.)
Ever since learning that I’m a frowner, I’ll sometimes catch myself scowling in the middle of a conversation and do my best to relax my face. Though I’ve tried to cut down on the glowering, at 24, my angry 11s have gotten just a little bit deeper. In 10 years, this is where a dermatologist will invariably suggest I get Botox. (Jury’s out on whether or not I’ll comply.)
Ever met someone who always looks surprised? “Forehead raising, or looking surprised, leads to horizontal creases across the forehead,” Bowe says.
In addition to these three categories, there are a few other patterns of expression. “Some people pull the corners of their mouths down using a muscle called the depressor anguli oris,” Bowe explains. “That can lead to marionette lines” on either side of the mouth. Others tend to scrunch up their chin, which “can also create an aged look by making the chin look like an orange peel—we call it peau d’orange,” says Bowe.
So, other paralyzing our faces, what can be done to slow the aging process? “Repeated muscle contractions in the face leads to wrinkles,” says Bowe, “but other things like sun damage, stress, lifestyle habits, and genetics can also factor in.” In terms of prevention, these are the factors we should focus on.
Dermatologists agree that the most important anti-aging product for women in their 20s is sunscreen. “You can start seeing results from sun exposure by your 30s, so make sure to apply sunscreen every day—even in the winter,” Bowe says. Bowe is also a huge advocate of applying antioxidant serums before sunscreen. “Environmental stressors such as UV rays, infrared rays, and pollution can create free radicals, and sunscreen simply isn’t enough to protect you from all that damage.”
Making sure to cleanse your skin every night and moisturize with hyaluronic acid products also helps stave off fine lines and wrinkles, says Bowe. “It also doesn’t hurt to begin applying a retinol at night before bed to help brighten and even skin tone.”
Hey, anything to help maintain that baby face.
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