Let’s face it: Sagging’s only cute if you’re a Shar Pei. For most of us, our jangly jowls and hanging cheeks are a source of chagrin as we age. Here, five myths and facts about facial sagging, plus ways to stop the droop:
1. Running causes your face to sag
FALSE. Sagging skin is due to two age-related reasons: loss of collagen, which gives skin its elasticity, and loss of facial fat, the absence of which causes skin to droop. While your whole body bounces up and down while you’re jogging, it’s highly unlikely that you’re jostling around enough to damage collagen, points out Las Vegas–based plastic surgeon Michael Edwards, MD, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
A more likely cause? Long hours exercising outdoors equals more UV exposure, which over time breaks collagen down. Make sure you slather up with plenty of sunscreen before venturing outside, even in colder weather.
2. Sleeping on your stomach causes sagging
FALSE. Your sleep position won’t actually cause sagging, but it can lead to sleep wrinkles: those creases and fine lines you see each AM in your bathroom mirror. They’re caused by your pillow tugging at delicate facial skin as you sleep. When you’re younger, it’s not an issue, as fresh, elastic skin bounces back easily, but as you age, skin becomes less resilient and can settle into these lines. Your best way to avoid this is to sleep on your back, says Dr. Edwards.
But if you’re a die hard tummy sleeper or flip flop through the night—some studies have found sleepers switch positions 11 times a night on average—you can try the Juverest, a so-called “sleep wrinkle pillow” ($195; amazon.com). This specially formulated pillow has a head cradle to encourage back sleep and graded steps to minimize contact between your face and the pillow if you do roll over onto your side.
3. You can do facial exercises to reduce skin sagging
TRUE—but with a catch. “They increase the size of facial muscles, which, while theoretically taking away some of the slacking skin, also causes expression lines,” points out Dr. Edwards. So while a few workout moves might help relieve basset hound–like eyes, they’ll probably also worsen crows’ feet. If you’re not opposed to getting some help from a dermatologist or plastic surgeon, you may get better results from Botox.
4. Weight loss causes skin sagging
TRUE. When you gain weight, the skin on your face stretches to go along with your extra padding, just like it does everywhere else. But if you’ve finally lost it, you may notice that you’re sporting under eye bags and a slack jaw. “As you age and your skin loses elasticity, when you stretch it out it won’t bounce back the same way it did when you were younger,” explains Dr. Edwards. But don’t despair: products like Retin-A can help, as can injectable fillers such as Voluma.
5. There are products that may help fight sagging skin
TRUE. You can slow down the sag from the outside in: Try topical products like over-the-counter retinols or prescription retinoids, which boost collagen production, and vitamin C serums, which help restore elasticity, advises Dr. Edwards. In one study, a daily supplement of pycnogenol, a French pine bark extract, increased skin elasticity and hydration and increased production of hyaluronic acid, a skin plumping ingredient, by 44%, according to a 2012 German study (which was funded by the maker of the raw material used in the supplements).