Facial aging trajectories: A common shape pattern in male and female faces is disrupted after menopause

Sonja Windhager, Philipp Mitteroecker, Ivana Rupic, Tomislav Lauc, Ozren Polasek, Katrin Schäfer

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


Objectives: Despite variation in lifestyle and environment, first signs of human facial aging show between the ages of 20–30 years. It is a cumulative process of changes in the skin, soft tissue, and skeleton of the face. As quantifications of facial aging in living humans are still scarce, we set out to study age-related changes in three dimensional facial shape using geometric morphometrics.

Materials and methods: We collected surface scans of 88 human faces (aged
26–90 years) from the coastal town Split (Croatia) and neighboring islands. Based on a geometric morphometric analysis of 585 measurement points (landmarks and semilandmarks), we modeled sex-specific trajectories of average facial aging.

Results: Age-related facial shape change was similar in both sexes until around age 50, at which time the female aging trajectory turned sharply. The overall magnitude of facial shape change (aging rate) was higher in women than men, especially in early postmenopause. Aging was generally associated with a flatter face, sagged soft tissue (“broken” jawline), deeper nasolabial folds, smaller visible areas of the eyes, thinner lips, and longer nose and ears. In postmenopausal women, facial aging was best
predicted by the years since last menstruation and mainly attributable to bone
resorption in the mandible.

Discussion: With high spatial and temporal resolution, we were able to extract a shared facial aging pattern in women and men, and its divergence after menopause. This fully quantitative three-dimensional analysis of human facial aging may not only find applications in forensic and ancient human facial reconstructions, but shall include lifestyle and endocrinological measures, and also reach out to studies of social perception.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)678–688
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number4
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 106018 Human biology
  • 106056 Biological anthropology
  • 106045 Theoretical biology


  • AGE
  • SEX
  • aging
  • face
  • geometric morphometrics
  • menopause

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