There are just some signs of aging that fly under the radar. Think about it: many of us remember the first time we spotted a gray hair, or the moment when our elevens seemed to pop in the mirror. However, for most, the jawline evades scrutiny until suddenly, we’re looking more saggy than sculpted.
According to board-certified dermatologist, Annie Chiu, MD, founder of The Derm Institute™ in North Redondo Beach, CA, the jawline is worthy of close attention, as changes that occur in this area can actually alter your face’s shape. “Our faces have naturally occurring fat pads that descend with age and gravity, leading to the appearance of heaviness along the jawline,” explains Dr. Chiu. “There’s also significant bone loss that occurs along the jawline with the process of aging, so the overlying skin loses support and looks saggy along the jawline.” However, you don’t just have to accept sagging skin: there are both in-office and at-home options to treat this complicated body part. Keep reading to see which could possibly work for you.
As we age, we lose collagen — a naturally-occurring protein that’s responsible for skin firmness. The consequences of collagen loss are particularly apparent on jawline skin, which can droop as it loses its structural support. The good news: It’s possible to slow down collagen loss — and even promote new collagen production — with retinol. The oft-lauded vitamin A derivative supports collagen-producing cells called fibroblasts, says Francesca Fusco, MD, a dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Wexler Dermatology™ in NYC.
[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by those who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]
By supporting the cells that make collagen, retinol can help maintain structure and definition in the skin. Ergo, Fusco suggests applying retinol directly on the jawline if skin sagging is a concern. (If retinol is already part of your routine, double check that you’re extending application beyond your face and down along your jaw.) Retinol newbies will benefit from a gentle retinol formula such as the Lancer® Advanced Retinol Treatment, ($95), which contains squalene to offset potential irritation. (Or peruse our favorite retinol picks for sensitive skin and first-timers, here.)
Skin tightening might not be the first association most of us make with ultrasound, but Chiu says this type of energy treatment can, in fact, help tighten a slack jawline. “[Energy treatments like ultrasound] can tighten the skin by heating up collagen fibrils, causing both better recoiling and new generation of collagen to tighten the skin,” she explains. (If aging collagen is a stretched-out hair tie, improving its recoil is like giving it the snap of a new, taut elastic.)
Fusco is a fan of Ultherapy® — an in-office ultrasound treatment — because it can deliver results in just one session. The downside is that it has a reputation for being painful. Still, “Patients often ask and worry about the discomfort level, but I find that most people tolerate it quite well,” she notes. Sensitive patients can also take pain relievers beforehand to minimize discomfort during the procedure, she adds, but you should consult with your provider on what is best for you.
[Editor’s note: As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.]
Similar to ultrasound procedures, radiofrequency treatments also use heat to renew and spur new collagen. One advantage: They’re virtually painless. (Case in point: The sensitive, delicate eyelid skin is one of the most popular spots for radiowave frequency treatments.) Chiu is a fan of using radiofrequency heat alongside microneedling (a treatment in which small needles create micro-injuries in the skin). The Lutronic® Infini™ device pairs the two and is a favorite of Chiu’s. “It’s shown nice results for tightening the jawline,” she says. However, keep in mind that this kind of therapy usually takes multiple sessions to see results, which could drive up the cost.
For an instant lift, Dr. Fusco turns to microcurrent facials. “[These treatments] use low-voltage electrical currents to stimulate collagen, activate muscles, and increase circulation,” she explains. In doing so, they offer a skin-tightening effect. However, optimal results from microcurrent requires frequent treatment. For this reason, Dr. Fusco loves an at-home microcurrent device like the NuFACE Trinity® ($325).
“I have many patients who are very loyal users and state that regular use has slowed down the rate of sagging,” she says. (For microcurrent facials, she recommends Sue Mun, an esthetician based in New York City.)
The bad news first: The jawline ages in such a way that your face begins to take on a squared-off shape, which looks more mature. The good news: Threads can help restore a youthful, heart-shaped appearance by essentially functioning as scaffolding underneath the skin. Here’s how it works: Threads are inserted into the skin by a plastic surgeon. “Threads have small barbs or cones that gently latch onto the skin from the underside, providing lifting vectors,” Dr. Chiu explains. Eventually, the threads absorb into the skin. This means the results are temporary (anywhere from six months to three years, depending on the type of threads used). That said, there is minimal downtime.
Dr. Annie Chiu is a paid Allergan® consultant.
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