The aging perioral region -- Do we really know what is happening?

J Nutr Health Aging. 2012;16(6):581-5. doi: 10.1007/s12603-012-0063-7.


Objectives: The perioral region is subject to a myriad of different treatments for rejuvenation, many of which are applied without a clear understanding of the underlying physiological processes of perioral aging. The results of these procedures are therefore sometimes not optimal and do not achieve a natural youthful appearance. The aim of this study was to put the results of three investigations into the perioral aging process into relation to clinical application in aesthetic medicine.

Design: Three different investigations were performed to evaluate the complex 3-dimensional changes during the perioral aging process. Perioral proportions of 182 standardized subject photographs were measured in a photomorphometric study and correlated to age. In cranial MRI scans of 30 women aged 20-35 and 30 women aged 65-80 relevant anatomical dimensions were measured. Histological cross cuts of the upper lip complex of 20 individuals in two age groups, young (< 40 years, n = 10) and old (> 80 years, n = 10), were analysed. The results were then set into relation to today's lip rejuvenation procedures.

Results: All studies showed a statistically significant lengthening of the aging upper lip. The photomorphometric study further showed an increase of prolabium skin at the cost of a decreasing visible upper lip vermilion. The MRI scans showed a decrease in thickness and redistribution towards a length increase but no total volume loss. Histomorphometric analysis revealed statistically significant thinning of the cutis, thickening of the subcutis and a degeneration of elastic and collagen fibers. The orbicularis oris muscle becomes thinner and shows a decrease of the forward curve defining the vermilion border. The results show that the main processes of lip aging are redistribution from thickness to length without total volume loss and a decrease of structural components of the lip, which leads to the decrease of pouting, an inversion of the vermilion and a ptosis of the lip.

Conclusion: A new and better understanding of the underlying physiological changes of perioral aging is essential and will lead to a better and more specific implementation of perioral rejuvenation procedures which will lead to more natural results.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Face / anatomy & histology*
  • Facial Muscles / anatomy & histology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Lip / anatomy & histology
  • Lip / cytology
  • Male
  • Mouth / anatomy & histology
  • Photography
  • Pigmentation
  • Skin Aging
  • Subcutaneous Tissue / anatomy & histology
  • Young Adult