- Jowls are a result of reduced collagen and elastin
- Smoking, weight loss, dehydration and genetics contribute to their development
- Several treatments are available to reduce their appearance
- Adopting good skin care routines and healthy habits will help you avoid developing jowls
Jowls are the result of thinning skin, loss of elasticity and sagging at the jawline. Factors such as sun damage, weight loss and genetics can increase your risk of developing premature jowls. However, a combination of preventative methods and treatment options can help keep them at bay.
What Causes Jowls?
Jowls develop when skin has low levels of certain proteins that are key to skin elasticity and firmness. While most protein loss is due to aging, lifestyle and genetics also play a role.
Collagen and elastin loss
Connective tissues are made up of collagen and elastin, proteins that keep skin taut and firm. As people age, these proteins break down, loosen skin and result in jowls.
Too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays results in damage to the skin, known as photoaging. Photoaging contributes to accelerated elastin breakdown, which reduces the skin’s ability to maintain a smooth state. Lack of elastin leads to increased signs of aging such as crow’s feet, forehead lines and jowls.
Those who experience extreme weight loss can also develop jowls – and loose skin on the body, in general. Skin stretches to accommodate extra weight, so if you drop pounds quickly you run the risk of your skin not having time to “bounce back” and it remains in its stretched-out shape.
Nicotine constricts blood vessels, robbing skin of the vitamins and oxygen necessary to maintain a youthful appearance. Moreover, smokers have lower rates of collagen production than nonsmokers. In the long term, if adequate levels of collagen are not maintained, the greater the likelihood of sagging skin and inevitably, jowls.
Look to older members of your family for clues to genetic predisposition: If they have jowls, the likelihood is greater that you will too eventually. Something beyond your control makes it all the more important to control the things that you can, such as following a healthy lifestyle.
Reducing the Appearance of Jowls Without Surgery
Many nonsurgical methods are available to reduce the appearance of jowls. The reason you developed them and the amount of skin laxity you’re currently experiencing may determine which procedure or procedures you’re a good candidate for.
In cases where jowls are caused by photoaging, one reductive measure is a chemical peel. This procedure is proven to reduce signs of skin damage caused by ultraviolet exposure. A chemical peel can both remove the uppermost layer of damaged skin and stimulate collagen and elastin production. Potential side effects are redness, changes in pigmentation and in rare cases, scarring.
Laser treatments use a noninvasive radiofrequency device to heat the deep dermis of your facial skin. The heat tightens collagen that already exists in your skin, effectively firming and improving skin’s appearance. Side effects may include temporary redness, swelling and itchiness.
In recent years, ultrasonic waves have been touted as a relatively painless alternative to facelifts. These waves penetrate deeper into the skin than a laser to kick-start collagen production and slow development of jowls. This procedure has been known to cause mild swelling, redness and bruising.
Fillers, also known as jowl lifts, involves injecting filler into the hollow space where the chin meets the jawline. By smoothing the dimpled area and matching it to the curve of the jaw, the filler reduces the appearance of the jowl.
Most fillers last for a few months before they are absorbed by the body. As a bonus, some injectable products also encourage collagen growth over time. Redness, bruising and swelling may occur around the injection site.
Neurotoxins for the jowls are injected at strategic points depending on facial construction and is often used in conjunction with fillers to plump up the overall look of the jawline. Potential side effects are similar to those for fillers.
Surgical Treatments to Get Rid of Jowls
For those experiencing moderate to severe skin laxity, a surgical procedure may be the most effective solution. Two lifting procedures are recommended by cosmetic doctors:
During a neck lift, the surgeon makes small incisions behind each ear or under the chin and removes excess skin. While the results can be impressive, surgery is by far the most expensive option and may require considerable downtime.
The more recently developed, minimally-invasive technique of thread lifting is better suited for those looking for a subtler result. It involves the insertion of a biodegradable thread in the upper cheek to pull the skin of the lower face upward.
A thread lift has little to no downtime and requires only a local anesthetic, making it far less invasive than a traditional facelift, and is considered safer than previous nonabsorbable thread lifting methods.
However, as it is a newer technology, its potential side effects are not well known.
How to Prevent Jowls
While it is inevitable that jowls will develop with age, there are still a number of recommended measures to reduce or delay their development. Here are a few proven methods:
Break bad habits
As previously mentioned, smoking can cause accelerated jowl development. Other factors such as chronic alcohol abuse may also be a contributing factor, along with poor skin hygiene and an unhealthy diet lacking fats and antioxidants.
Avoid sun damage
To stave off premature jowls, protect your face from the sun. Apply a daily application of SPF, (ideally from your face moisturizer) and for extra protection, follow with a layer of sunscreen.
Contrary to popular belief, good hydration cannot prevent the signs of aging. However, adequate water intake does contribute to skin plumpness, thickness and resilience, so drinking enough water is still a worthwhile habit to reduce the appearance of loose, thin skin.
Follow a good skin care routine
The most essential step of your anti-jowl skincare routine is a well-formulated moisturizer. A moisturizing cream creates a barrier between your skin and its environment, effectively holding in hydration and promoting a firmer-looking jawline.
For a more aggressive treatment, consider retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A. Retinoids boost collagen metabolism and are considered particularly effective at reducing premature signs of aging caused by sun damage, including the loss of elasticity that leads to jowls.
Facial Exercises for Jowls
Search online and you’ll find dozens of anti-aging exercises for the face (also called “facial yoga”) which involve stretching the jaw, pursing the lips and lifting the chin. Proponents of these exercises claim they must be performed almost daily in order to see results.
Do they work?
A number of studies have positively correlated facial exercises with facial rejuvenation. However, a 2014 review from Ghent University concluded that the existing studies didn’t follow proper study methodology, therefore the results were inconclusive.
Ultimately, facial exercises only target the muscles of the face and do not promote collagen production or improve skin health to reduce a jowly appearance.
Developing loose facial skin is an inevitable part of aging, but there are measures you can take to prevent skin from forming unattractive jowls.
While facial exercises may not be effective, good anti-UV protection and lifestyle habits such as avoiding smoking will set you on the right path to maintaining youthful, taut skin.
If you’re already noticing the development of jowls, there are a variety of surgical and nonsurgical treatments available.
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