Background: Facial symmetry is a fundamental goal of plastic surgery, yet some asymmetry is inherent in any face. Three-dimensional photogrammetry allows for rapid, reproducible, and quantitative facial measurements. With this tool, the authors investigated the relationship between age and facial symmetry.
Methods: The authors imaged normal subjects using three-dimensional photogrammetry. Facial symmetry was calculated by identifying the plane of maximum symmetry and the root-mean-square deviation. Regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between age and symmetry. Subgroup analyses were performed among facial thirds.
Results: The authors imaged 191 volunteers with an average age of 26.7 ± 22.2 years (range, 0.3 to 88 years). Root-mean-square deviation of facial symmetry clustered between 0.4 and 1.3 mm (mean, 0.8 ± 0.2 mm). The authors found a significant positive correlation between increasing age and asymmetry (p < 0.001; r = 0.66). The upper, middle, and lower facial third's average root-mean-square deviations were 0.5 ± 0.2 mm (range, 0.2 to 1.2 mm), 0.6 ± 0.2 mm (range, 0.2 to 1.4 mm), and 0.6 ± 0.2 mm (range, 0.2 to 1.2 mm), respectively. Asymmetry also increased with age across all facial thirds (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Facial asymmetry increases with age in each facial third, with a greater asymmetry and increase in asymmetry in the lower two-thirds. Contributing factors may include asymmetric skeletal remodeling along with differential deflation and descent of the soft tissues. The observed correlation between increasing facial asymmetry and age may be a useful guide in plastic surgery to produce age-matched features.