Plastic surgeons assess Obama’s face at age 50

August 17, 2011

Darker skin shows less aging because it is less vulnerable to harmful sun rays.
Darker skin shows less aging because it is less vulnerable to harmful sun rays.

All President Obama wanted for his birthday was a good hamburger and a debt ceiling increase. But there’s so much on his plate that he may not realize that for the appearance-conscious American public, his birthday provoked speculation about what a 50-year-old face should look like.

“President Obama, despite his acknowledged smoking, may be one of those men who has become better looking over time,” according to a Chicago plastic surgeon. He attributes Obama’s youthful appearance to good genes and extra-protective skin pigment. Even Obama’s gray hair is attractive because it contrasts with his youthful face.
Plastic surgeons are experts on how the face ages. Denise Grady, science reporter for the New York Times, asked three prominent plastic surgeons to pinpoint those factors that can turn a high school stud muffin into a geezer.

There is a “holy trinity” of aging: (1) wrinkles, age spots and other superficial changes exacerbated by too much sun and smoking; (2) loss of facial volume, which highlights under eye bags and, finally, (3) drooping of the eyelids, nose, corners of the mouth and jaw.

But if you’re black, like President Obama, or Asian, you may be ahead of the game. Darker skin shows less aging because it is less vulnerable to harmful sun rays. It is also oilier and thicker than pale skin, making it suppler and less wrinkle prone. Blacks and Asians also start out with fuller cheeks, so that later fat loss is less noticeable.
A New York plastic surgeon sees old and young faces as two opposite triangles. “Think of the face as being an upside-down triangle, with the wide portion running cheekbone to cheekbone across the nose, that’s a youthful person, wider over the cheekbones, and narrow across the jaw line. When we’re older, it goes in the other direction, wider over the jaw line, and flatter over cheekbones.”

Soft tissue slides down over the cheekbone, producing laugh lines and making the cheekbones look flatter. The jaw line seems to widen because of the jowls that form. When the outer corners of the eyebrows droop, you look less alert and less vigorous.

Another plastic surgeon warns that frowning and dynamic expressions can produce creases in your skin. “If you’re frowning, rubbing your face, making a lot of expressions, I think you can see some long-lasting effects. Dynamic lines form perpendicular to the muscles of the face. If you’re expressive, you’re going to get creases in your skin.” Given that Obama is usually the master of cool, he’ll probably maintain his edge for at least another 10 years…at least in the “looks” department. 


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

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The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

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