Masks Protect Against Viruses…and Make Wearers Look Younger

Researchers from the Wisconsin Department of Surgery recently published a study in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal that shows facial masks can be beneficial in more ways than we might think.

It turns out that covering the lower third of our faces can make us appear significantly younger. Six board-certified plastic surgeons from the University of Wisconsin-Madison independently judged the photos of 100 plastic surgery patients who were photographed with and without masks, and the results were telling.

“Our judges, who did not know the study’s purpose and who saw only a masked or unmasked photo of any single patient, determined that masked individuals appeared an average of 3.16 years younger than those without masks. That’s more than a 6% difference, comparable to results from some popular facial rejuvenation procedures like hyaluronic acid injections,” said lead author Peter J. Nicksic, MD, a resident in plastic surgery at UW-Madison.

The youthful effect increased with patient age. Those ages 18-40 only lost an average of a statistically insignificant 1.75 years, while those ages 41-65 looked 3.46 years younger, and those 66 and older appeared 3.76 years younger.

Judges also assessed both overall and visible wrinkles for each photograph they reviewed, following a field-standard and validated scale (the Lemperle wrinkle assessment scale). Masked participants appeared to have significantly fewer wrinkles than those who were unmasked.

Study designers took care to photograph participants in a standardized way wearing identical light-blue, around-the-ear surgical masks. They also controlled for the potential effects of known contributors to facial age perception, like smoking, alcohol use and BMI, as well as gender.

Dr. Nicksic and his colleagues believe their study has implications for more than cosmetic surgery.

“This research expands our understanding of how significant the lower third of the face is to perceived facial age,” Nicksic said, “and therefore suggests which part of the face patients should address first if they want to look younger. But it also provides a potential positive incentive for mask wearing.”

Access the full article here, including masked and unmasked photos of study participants.