A new study of identical twins provides robust evidence on exactly what ages us. And yes, it appears weight loss is a factor. But first some facts:
This study by Dr Bahaman Guyuron, one of the world's leading experts on the subject, is published in the Plastic and Reconstructive Journal. By studying identical twins it clearly shows which life experiences and environmental factors age us the most.
So, what are the findings?
You guessed it, sun exposure and smoking greatly accelerate ageing. Around 10 years of smoking added two and a half years of ageing to a face, while those who spent a lot of time outdoors, for example playing tennis or distance running, also looked older.
Stress was also a major factor. Divorced twins appeared to be at least two years older than a twin who was married or widowed.
Antidepressants appeared to exacerbate facial ageing, although it is unclear whether it is depression itself, or the drugs that relaxed facial muscles, which increased the appearance of ageing.
Now for more bad news. If you’re over 40 and on the skinny side, there may be a price to pay as there was a strong correlation between facial ageing and body weight. Below the age of 40, a heavier body weight resulted in an older appearance. However once over the age of 40, the study showed that being heavier was associated with a more youthful look. Clearly, the more subcutaneous fat maintained in the face, in particular the cheeks, the younger you will appear to be.
So Catherine Deneuve was right. After a certain age, it really is a choice between your face and your thighs.
Dr Harris advises against excessive dieting, which can not only make women look gaunt thanks to volume loss in cheeks, but where there is yo-yo dieting, can also stretch supporting ligaments. Repeated volume loss and gain in the face can deepen nose to mouth folds and cause the appearance of jowls.
While maintaining a healthy weight is something that is controllable, other factors such as divorce, aren’t. What we can do is control our responses. Stress affects the immune system and the inflammation that results shows up in the skin, so focus on relaxing activities and try not to worry too much. If it gets too much and volume loss is happening too quickly, this can always be counteracted by careful use of fillers.
The last word should go to Dr Guyuron, "What we've essentially discovered is that, when it comes to your face, it is possible to cheat your biological clock.” So relax, slather on that sun screen and stay happy!