“Do You Think I Look Younger and Prettier?”

Perceived Age Reversal and Improved Attractiveness after Aging Face Surgery

contemplative womanRecently I was the senior author on a peer-reviewed publication that received a lot of attention in the international media. We had articles in or interviews with The New York Times, The Today Show and The Huffington Post.

We think that most patients seek cosmetic surgery to look good for their years, and therefore we wondered how much younger patients actually looked after their surgery. And, we wondered whether looking younger actually made a person appear more attractive. Our study was divided into patients having upper facial rejuvenation (forehead lift, upper and lower eyelid lift), lower face (face and neck lift), or both upper and lower face.

We designed a randomized single-blinded study and had 50 raters analyze pre- and postoperative photographs of 49 patients. The raters estimated the age of the patient and the patient’s attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 10. No rater saw the same patient photographs both as a before and after, only one or the other.

What we found was that upper face rejuvenation provided an average improvement in perceived age of 1.3 years, lower facial rejuvenation 3.2 years, and both upper and lower rejuvenation 4.3 years. Overall, the average was 3.1-years’ improvement.

This was less than a previous study we published showing a 7.2-year improvement in perceived age. We felt this was related to the fact that our current study was more stringent.

Our findings on perceived changes in attractiveness with these surgical procedures were very interesting. We found a trend towards increasing attractiveness with decreased perceived age, but this was not statistically significant. We postulated several reasons this may have occurred. Firstly, the “power” of the study may have been inadequate, meaning there were not enough patients to show a statistical difference, only a trend. Also, most people rated “attractiveness” in a very narrow range – this was not totally unexpected as it fits with our perception of attractiveness and Darwinian evolutionary theory. We also wondered whether once another person ascribes a certain age to you, they determine your level of attractiveness with that in mind. If this is true, an attractive person in youth retains their attractiveness throughout life, even as they age.

More thoughts to ponder…! And, we are planning further studies to advance our work and discover more about this fascinating, and sometimes elusive, topic.

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