Illustration: Tim O'Brien
Your Nose and Ears Seem to Be Growing
Looking in the mirror one morning, I noticed this unpleasant surprise: My ears seemed to be larger than they used to be; not a lot, but definitely bigger. Then I started discreetly examining my friends and other older women. Slightly bigger ears on most of them. Was I imagining it? Evidently not. Though our ears are 90 percent grown by age 6, and our noses are almost fully grown by the time we're teens, both do change shape and appear to enlarge as we age. One theory about the nose is that it has a large number of sebaceous glands, which have a high cell turnover rate and therefore growth potential, says Neil Sadick, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City. But both the ears and nose droop as soft tissue (skin, fat, and muscle) relaxes and structural support changes (bone recedes with time, so there's less foundation to hold the skin and cartilage up), says Alan Matarasso, MD, clinical professor of plastic surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City. Plus, loss of elasticity and collagen in the skin causes sagging. He's seeing increasing requests for rhinoplasty and earlobe surgery among patients having facelifts. Heavy earrings can stretch the soft tissue of your earlobes; wear light ones. But if you've been hanging major bling from your ears, there's earlobe reduction, an in-office procedure that takes about 15 minutes per ear, requires a local anesthetic, and heals well, says Robert Klausner, MD, medical director at the Center for Cosmetic Surgery in Bonita Springs, Florida.
You can't entirely prevent your nose and ears from drooping, but you can minimize it by following Matarasso's advice: Avoid the sun, smoking, and weight fluctuation, and start using prescription-strength skincare products, including retinoids (which help preserve and regenerate collagen), in your 20s.
Next: How to guard against gum recession