Plastic Surgery Out of this World, Part 2

Plastic Surgery Out of this World, Part 2

 

Effects of gravity

The constant pull of gravity obviously affects us by pulling our skin down. Other structures, such as muscle, are also pulled down, and even bone is affected by the constant force, but our skin, being the most “fluid” of the solid structures in our bodies, bears the brunt of this cosmic force. As a plastic surgeon, I have to admit that at times I have felt that feeling of being at the forefront of battle against universal forces of  gravity/evil…
Gravity affects our skin by pulling it down, but since our skin is hung from our bones, it falls down in different ways in different places. Whereas in our stomachs the skin just falls vertically down, in our faces the skin rotates forward toward our chins. An elegant experiment performed at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas in the 1980s involved strapping individuals to a rotating board, such as the one used by knife throwers, and taking photographs of them at different points of rotation that corresponded with the visual effects of aging.
Gravity has the perverse effect of pulling our faces down by one centimeter, on average, by our middles age.
A quick demonstration I use for my facelift patients is to have them look at their faces in a mirror with their heads laid back to show the possible effects of erasing gravity-related effects with cosmetic facial surgery. A point on the skin is raised by one about centimeter with this procedure, similar to the effects of a facelift.

 

Plastic surgery with no gravity

 

Armed with the knowledge of how skin ages in this world, we can perhaps extrapolate to imagine how we would look and age visually in space. 

The effects of our genetics on skin will require manipulation of our genetic codes to produce more proteins and slow down skin death. That is still a while away, though not as long as you might think.

Environmental effects can be most easily controlled. Use of sunscreens and avoidance of noxious chemicals will lead to improved quality of the skin. Preventing the effects of ultraviolet rays will be of even more importance in the atmosphere-free environment of space. Then again, the windows on spacecraft and in space colonies can be made smaller to protect us inside. Proper climate control that allows for a constant and comfy humidity will also increase skin health.

The effects of gravity on our aging skin is a little more conjectural. If we discount how a child born in space would age (since that gets things too complicated), we can consider how a young adult in his or her mid-20s might age over the course of a lifetime away from the gravitational effects of Earth. Of course, any planet will have some gravity, but assuming our young astronauts are in a minimal-gravity environment, the effects of gravity pulling their skin down should be… minimal!

This may mean that while we continue to age physiologically to some extent, our appearance may hold its own better than on this planet. Our cheeks will be fuller, our jowls dissolved back into our strong jawlines, our noses more upturned and our necks smooth. All together, the prospect of aging in space does not bode well for cosmetic plastic surgeons!