How Your Nose Grows With Age

Some Body Parts Just Keep Getting Bigger

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Think you're finished growing? Turns out some body parts keep getting bigger, even after the rest of your body is fully grown. If you've watched older family members age over the years or have looked at yourself in the mirror, you might suspect that the nose is one of those ever-evolving facial features. Our noses continue to grow as we age, thanks to changes in soft tissue, muscles, skin elasticity and the cartilage that makes up the underlying nasal structure.

Unlike bone, cartilage continues to grow over time.

What Research Tells Us

A number of studies have examined changes in the nose amongst members of many different ethnic groups, including one published in Forensic Science International. The study looks at those of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, central European and Afro-American descent and assesses how much the nose changes with age and the particular changes that occur. Both long-term studies and cross-sectional data show that older people tend to have larger noses than younger members of the same gender or ethnic population. This trend persists amongst most of the ethnic groups studied.

Researchers at the Functional Anatomy Research Center (FARC) in Milan write that the changing shapes of noses is of particular interest to plastic surgeons attempting to correct age-related facial changes through procedures like rhinoplasty. Additionally, forensic scientists rely on accurate data of aging facial features in their efforts to identify crime victims, assemble data from skeletal remains and age photos of people gone missing.

To determine how the nose changes over the course of a lifetime, the researchers conducted three-dimensional analyses of photographs of almost 900 Caucasian study participants between the ages of 4 and 73 years. They examined several nasal "landmarks": height, bridge length, the lengths of both nostrils, the tip protrusion to nasal height ratio, nasal width and tip angles.

Then they sorted the data by age and gender.

How the Nose Changes With Age

According to the FARC researchers' analyses, all measurements were significantly affected by age. Nasal volume, area and liner distances increased. In other words, they found that noses get bigger over time. Another consistent finding is that the nasal tip angle - the angle created along the bridge of the nose, around the tip to the vertical space above the upper lip - decreases, meaning the nose tends to droop with age.

From youth to old age, growth in the nasal soft tissues was greater and occurred earlier for adolescent girls than in boys of the same age. Nasal height increases the most, doubling from birth to the age of 20 or so. Overall, males have larger noses than females, but noses seem to grow a bit faster in girls than in boys when measurements are compared over a lifetime. For females 3 to 4 years old, the volume of the average nose was about 42 percent of the size it reached by early adulthood, or 18 to 30 years of age.

For males, the average volume was roughly 36 percent.

By the time an adult reaches the age of 30 or so, nose growth slows down considerably. Between 50 and 60 years of age, nasal volume in men will typically increase by another 29 percent; in women, 18 percent.

See Also

Sources:

Aging Changes in the Face. US National Institutes of Health Public Information Sheet. Accessed March 12, 2014.
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/004004.htm

Edelstein, David R. "Aging of the Normal Nose in Adults." Laryngoscope. 1996 Sep;106 (9 Pt 2): 1-25.

Sforza, Chiarella, Grandi, Gaia, De Menezes, Marcio, Tartaglia, Gianluca M and Ferrario, Virgilio F. "Age- and Sex-Related Changes in the Normal Human External Nose."  Forensic Science International.  Vol 204, Issue 1-3, pp. 205.e1-205.e9

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