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 by Manuel Batlle
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A Sundial perspective on facial aging
       “This is so beautiful!” These are the comments heard when visiting tourist’s come to visit the iconic Sundial Bridge in Redding, California. The bridge is a cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge that was designed by the Spaniard Santiago Calatrava and completed in 2004. The water flowing underneath is from the Sacramento River while in the distance Mt. Shasta and Lassen show their peaks. It is amongst the largest sundials in the world and is only accurate one day a year during the summer solstice. USA today has donned it as one of the “Best road trips stops between Seattle and L.A.”
       One day I picked up my smartphone and through the wide screen I could see the reflection of my squinting eyes. I noticed I had 3 well-demarked epidermal-furrows (wrinkles) radiating from the corner of both eyes. Where did these wrinkles come from? I asked. It was obvious that the assistant in plowing the furrows of my epidermis was the sun. “Crows feet” is a phrase that was first recorded in a poem (Troilus and Criseyde) by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1380’s. I personally prefer “eagles feet.”
       In an article of May 2001 from the journal of “Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America” goes into great detail in the article titled “Anatomy and pathophysiology of facial aging.” The authors describe the major forces that bring about facial aging. The forces mentioned are gravity, soft tissue maturation, skeletal remodeling, muscular facial activity and solar changes.
       Gravity exerts a continual force by acting on our skin that as we age becomes thinner, drier and less elastic. Some facial bones, like our jawbone, decrease in size. This will in turn decrease the smoothing out effect it originally had on our skin. The bone around our eyes decreases in size and give the impression that the area around our eyes (orbits) have increased.
       With soft tissue maturation, there begins to show a thinning of the skin associated with loss in water retention by the different cellular layers both in and outside of cells. There begins to be a reduction in the capillaries that deliver nutrients (blood) to the skin. The effect is the pale appearance of the skin and the thinning of the hair. The effect photoaging or aging by exposure to the rays of the sun is evidenced by studies showing that cells of the different layers of the skin now have a shorter lifespan. We are in the peak of summer so protect your skin. The options are many and the variety suits all different preferences.
With all previously mentioned, we add the forceful contractions of the muscles that are beneath the skin that surround our eyes when we open or close them. These make concentric folds that emanate from the lateral aspect of our eyelids.
       As I put down the smartphone I look up at the sundial bridge and wonder if these lines or wrinkles are not my own sundial. I am past 30 so maybe each wrinkle represents 10 years. I definitely do not have to wait for the summer solstice to know the accuracy of time.
       Below my epidermal sundial I have a network of rivers (capillaries) that strive to preserve the structure above. My busy schedule makes me a tourist to my own facial changes. What will I say when I look in the mirror next time?
Much human effort and materials of all kinds led up to the construction of the Sundial in Redding. A wise man once said, “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head.” Since I have also noticed a gray hair, I must say these eagle feet are beginnings of beauty.