Woman with sagging face

Signs of aging – Sagging skin and a loss of volume

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From the age of 25, skin ageing begins and changes start to occur in every layer of the skin. This is due to a combination of internal processes and external factors.

Signs & Symptoms

General skin ageing and loss of volume

Loss volume skin illustration
With each passing year there is a structural change of every layer of the skin.
Woman face loss volume
The shape of the whole face changes over time and can be explained by loss of volume.

The way we age is partly due to our genetics. This intrinsic ageing combines with environmental and lifestyle factors to trigger the slowing down of key processes and functions in the skin. It is this slowing down which causes the most visible signs of aging: loss of volume, wrinkles and radiance.

One of the main changes that causes these visible signs is the decrease of volume-giving cells.

This loss of volume, together with wrinkles and radiance, causes facial skin to start looking older. Sometimes difficult to describe, loss of volume is very common and alters the structure and shape of the whole face. It can also sometimes be referred as saggy skin, loss of contours or ‘looking drawn‘, and is often associated with a negative look to the face.

How to recognise a loss of volume

The triangle of beauty

As a loss of volume can be difficult to describe or indentify, a visual reference can be helpful. It clearly shows how this particular sign of ageing changes the shape and structure of the face in several subtle but transformative ways.

The ‘triangle of beauty’ demonstrates how diminishing volume can cause the face to take on a negative, sad or stressed look. This in turn can lead to incorrect perceptions of a person’s mood or outlook.

Triangle beauty illustration
The triangle of beauty is associated with a youthful attractive appearance.

The even distribution of volume in our facial skin when we are young helps it to look attractive. The main features of a younger looking face can be clearly seen as part of the ‘triangle of beauty’. These include:

  • High cheekbones
  • Full jowls
  • Smooth skin
  • A lean, well defined jaw line

These features combine to create a face shape and structure that is wider as the top, tapering down to the narrowest point at the chin. The over-all look is relaxed and positive.

Inverted triangle beauty skin
Over time the triangle of beauty inverts and leads to a negative sad perception of the face.

As we age, the signs of a loss of volume mean the triangle is inverted. This is due to the following changes:

  • A wider, slacker jaw line
  • Sagging facial shape
  • Flatter cheeks
  • The forehead and brows wrinkle
  • The corners of the mouth point downwards

It’s the combination of these factors that equate to an aged appearance. As is seen here, the triangle is now turned upside down, and now the wider area is towards the bottom of the face. As volume diminishes and skin sags, the perception of the face is altered. Now this facial appearance could be perceived as sad or stressed.

Contributing Factors

Why does the triangle of beauty invert?

Apart from chronological, internal ageing, the processes that lead to a loss of volume are contributed by a variety of factors, both internal and external.

Lady smiling
During the menopause, women experience significant changes in their hormonal balance.
Sun exposure
The amount of tolerated sun exposure differs due to the individual skin type.

Hormonal changes
In puberty, oestrogen levels are high. Skin is smooth and elastic and the skin contours are defined. As we age, hormone levels decline and volume-giving cells decrease in both size and number, leading to a loss in volume and less defined facial contours.

As part of general skin ageing a loss of volume is also caused by the same external lifestyle factors that also contribute to wrinkles and radiance. These include:

  • Smoking: Nicotine and chemicals in cigarettes further degrade the collagen in the skin.
  • Sun: Spending too long in the sun can contribute to more damage to collagen and a compromised skin structure.

These lifestyle factors combine to cause oxidative stress. This occurs when molecules known as ‘free radicals’ are formed internally and attack cellular structures including those that help the skin look smooth and firm. Once the structure is weakened, and collagen and elastin decline, general skin aging is accelerated. The visible signs including loss of volume, radiance and wrinkles are more apparent on the surface.

Why does a loss of volume occur?

General skin ageing takes place as the skin’s processes and systems slow down with age. Most importantly with this particular concern, a gradual drop in the ‘filler’ substances that keep skin looking firm and feeling smooth lead to a loss of volum, reduced definition and sagging skin.

This occurs in the following areas of the skin’s structure:

Skin structure
1 Epidermis 2 Deeper layers of the skin

The Epidermis. As we age, the upper layers of skin produce less Hyaluronic Acid and fewer lipids.  Skin is less able to bind in moisture, becomes drier and, as a result, wrinkles appear. Skin also appears thinner, and its texture may be dry and rough.

The deeper layers of the skin. A 1% annual loss of collagen worsens the thinning effect together with a declining level of elastin. As elastin is partly responsible for the skin’s elasticity and strength, a decrease in these two substances together results in a sagging, less elastic skin. The volume-giving cells that keep skin ‚filled out’ reduce in size and number, leading to a shrinking of these layers. The result is a more drawn and sunken look to the skin, with hollow cheeks.

Over time, the blood flow delivering nutrition slows, resulting in dullness and a tendency towards dehydration and slower healing. Deeper wrinkles are now more likely.


What can be done?

Although a loss of volume is a complex concern and is in many ways inevitable, the visible effects can be treated in a variety of ways.

Active ingredients

Found in some anti-ageing products, these ingredients can address the causes of skin sagging, loss of volume and poorly defined facial contours. Treating these issues can help to restore a youthful look to the face.

Woman looking into the mirror
Some ingredients, found in anti-ageing face care formulas, such as Magnolol, Oligo Peptides and Hyaluronic Acid, can help to restore the youthful look.
Woman doing skincare
A daily face care routine, using volumising care products, can help to reduce the visible loss of volume.


  • Magnolol
    Magnolol, naturally-derived from the bark of the Magnolia tree, is a highly effective ingredient in anti-ageing products.  In-vitro research has shown that it activates volume giving cells by increasing their number and size. Skincare products such as Eucerin Volume-Filler Concentrate, which contains a high concentration of Magnolol, can help to address the causes of skin sagging, loss of volume and poorly defined facial contours. When used alongside daily volumising care products, it can help to restore a youthful look to the face.
  • Oligo Peptides
    Extracted from Aniseed fruits, these peptides stimulate and support the collagen network for a firmer skin structure. They enhance skin’s metabolism, reactivate skin cell interactions and strengthen connective tissue (tested in-vitro).  Microcirculation and collagen synthesis improve, the dermal network becomes stronger and skin feels firmer and smoother. Oligo Peptides are one of the key ingredients in Eucerin Volume-Filler Concentrate and are also used in addressing a loss of density.
  • Hyaluronic Acid
    Hyaluronic Acid is one of the three active ingredients in Eucerin Volume-Filler Concentrate, where it works to improve moisture retention. Used alongside volumising care products, this intensive skin care treatment can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Find out more about skin benefits of hyaluronic acid and daily skincare routine.


Invasive dermatologist treatments

Invasive skin treatment
Volume-giving invasive treatments show short-term results and need regularly repetition.
Woman plastic surgery
Every risk and benefit of each plastic surgery has to be considered in advance.

Fat transfer
This involves surgically removing fat from one area of the body and transplanting it to another. It’s most commonly used to replace volume in the cheeks and is long lasting. Swelling is not unusual and the treatment usually requires a period of downtime.

Injectables are used to temporarily replace volume and give instant, short-term results. Usually used for under the eyes, cheeks, temples and lips.

One of the main changes that causes these visible signs is the decrease of volume-giving cells.

Injectable Hyaluronic Acid can also help with eye wrinkles.

Cheek implants
These give the most permanent result. A plastic implant is placed under the skin to restore volume in certain areas, usually the cheeks. Originally more popular, they are now less commonly requested than Fillers and Fat Transfer as they require the most recovery time.

Non-Invasive dermatologist treatments

Non invasive skin treatment
Dermatological ageing treatments can be useful.

Uses radio frequency technology to heat the deep collagen layers of the skin. This heat promotes the production of new collagen and tones the existing collagen with the aim of restoring lost contours.

This treatment uses ultrasound to lift, tone and tighten loose skin.

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