Longevity

101 Facts About Ageing #57: Ageing Of The Lips

Posted on 7 February 2022

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an American sociologist, politician, and diplomat once said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”. And we wholeheartedly agree. A shared set of facts is the first step to building a better world with longevity for all. In that spirit, we are creating a series that covers 101 indisputable facts about ageing, health and longevity.

Lips are structures containing layers of soft tissue including fat and muscle, and serve multiple important but often neglected functions. Lips make the closed mouth airtight and water-tight, holding food and drink inside. They hold food between the upper and lower teeth during chewing. They are also needed for the production of various sounds during speech, as well as being an important contributor to facial expression.

With increasing age, lips become thinner and may lose some of their reddish colouration. The former is mainly due to a loss of connective tissue and fat, while the latter is the result of decreased blood supply. As the lips lose volume, they may have the appearance of rolling inwards, while the upper lip’s ‘cupid’s bow’ becomes less distinctive. Ageing lips may also develop more wrinkles and become more prone to dryness, which happens because of changes in the skin covering the lips.

Details are in the caption following the image
Representative photographs of lips from different age groups.
Age-related changes in lip morphological and physiological characteristics in Korean women.
https://doi.org/10.1111/srt.12644

Skin ageing was discussed in fact #30, but here’s a brief reminder: with age, skin becomes less elastic and less firm due to a reduction in collagen and elastin production. These two molecules are long, structural proteins that act like scaffolding to hold cells together. Additionally, transfer of moisture between layers of the skin becomes slower, while sebaceous (oil) glands shrink, making the skin drier and duller. As with skin elsewhere on the body, smoking and exposure to ultraviolet light can accelerate these changes.

While some of the above changes are primarily cosmetic in nature, lip ageing does put older people at greater risk of diseases that can affect lip tissue, including sores (ulcers) and oral cancer.


References

Age-related changes in lip morphological and physiological characteristics in Korean women: https://doi.org/10.1111/srt.12644

Age Changes of Jaws and Soft Tissue Profile: https://dx.doi.org/10.1155%2F2014%2F301501

Anatomy of the ageing lip: https://www.thepmfajournal.com/features/post/anatomy-of-the-ageing-lip

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