Does Your Nose Keep Growing As You Age?

Aging changes your body. That is one of the few absolute facts in life. Each person ages in their own unique way but it's inevitable that as the years pass, we all change. Some changes are subtle, while others, like the changes to our faces, are more obvious. Even the obvious changes, however, are not always what they seem to be.

Changes to our nose serve as a perfect example. Conventional wisdom holds that our nose keeps growing as we age. The rest of our facial structure is more or less set by adulthood but our nose and ears continue to grow, changing the way our faces look as we age. Comparing pictures of a person in their 20s to that same person in their 70s or 80s seems to confirm this idea, as the nose almost always looks larger later in life.

According to Dr. Thomas A. Lampertis, M.D., conventional wisdom is wrong. In answering questions for Real Self, he stated that the idea of the ever-growing nose is based on the belief that cartilage never stops growing. It turns out that this belief is a myth. When it comes specifically to the nose, Flushing Hospital Medical Center says that gravity is to blame for the changes we see as we age, not growth.

Nose size is an optical illusion

Our bodies are always fighting gravity. For much of our lives, our skin wins that fight thanks to collagen and elastin. But as Dr. Billy Goldberg, M.D., and Mark Leyner wrote for NBC News in 2008, collagen and elastin break down as we age. Eventually gravity wins out and the tip of our nose starts to droop.

Compared to how we view our noses earlier in life, the drooping tip makes our nose seem larger. And, as Flushing Hospital Medical Center puts it, this optical illusion is exaggerated by the fact that our cheeks and lips tend to thin out as we age as well. Without the added volume of our other facial features surrounding it, the nose draws more attention and dominates the face. Some people may even see the skin at the tip of their nose start to thicken, according to Dr. Lamperti (via Real Self). And taken altogether, these three factors result in the impression that our nose continues to grow as we age.