Face: Imaging Study Shows How Aging Eyelids and Brows Alter Facial Expressions

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (May 13, 2000) — As we begin to show visible signs of aging, the position of our eyelids and brows changes, modifying our facial expression in subtle but significant ways. A study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) in Lake Buena Vista analyzed how alterations to eyelid position and brow shape, including those that occur as part of the aging process, influence the way other people perceive our moods and emotions.

The study used digital imaging software to modify a photograph of a youthful upper face in a variety of ways. Some alterations were designed to simulate aging effects, others simply to change the brow shape. Twenty study participants were asked to look at 35 versions of the photographic image, each version with slightly different positioning of the brow and eyelid areas, and quantify on a scale of 1 to 5 the presence of each of seven expressions or emotions: surprise, anger, sadness, disgust, fear, happiness and tiredness.

Brow shape had the greatest influence on perceived expression. When the medial brow (the inner third) was placed lower, scores for "anger" and "disgust" nearly tripled. Elevation of the lateral brow (the outer third) doubled scores for "surprise."

"Plastic surgeons are interested in these findings because they have implications for the way in which we perform brow lifting and cosmetic eyelid surgeries," says the study's co-author, plastic surgeon John Persing, MD, of Yale University. "The brow lift not only raises the brows and reduces forehead wrinkling, it also can change the brow shape and, when skillfully done, enhance facial expresssion."

The position of the eyelids also is important. In the imaging study, lowering the upper eyelid to create the appearance of excess or loose skin hanging down greatly increased the scores for "tiredness." Elevation of the lower eyelid, which can be achieved with cosmetic eyelid surgery, dramatically increased the scores for "happiness."

ASAPS statistics show that about 185,000 cosmetic eyelid surgeries were performed last year, making it the third most popular aesthetic surgical procedure.

Co-authors: Doctors Keith J. Attkiss and John A. Persing of New Haven, CT.


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 nonsurgical 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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