It’s probably flooding your Facebook feed (and if it hasn’t yet, you can start the trend in your own social circle): The Microsoft-developed how-old.net tool, where you can upload a photo and then find out (in seconds!) how old you supposedly look.
The tool is going viral worldwide, as users clamor to upload selfies for analysis — and to compare results with significant others, family members, and friends.
The magic behind the tool involves Microsoft’s face detection application programing interface (API) tools, combined with its Azure developer platform to intelligently “read” human faces.
While Microsoft hasn’t given away its secret sauce by detailing exactly what the face detection is assessing, leading dermatologists and plastic surgeons have a pretty good idea what clues a tool that distinguishes age is likely looking for. Here are some ways our faces can be dead giveaways of our age:
As we all know, a classic indicator of age is wrinkles – though not all wrinkles are equal. “There is a medical grade wrinkle scale that evaluates the severity of lines, which is likely the basis of this software,” plastic surgeon Julius Few, MD, director of the Few Institute for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, tells Yahoo Health. Tone and texture also changes, as pores become more prominent and skin gains crepiness with age. Brown spots caused by accumulated ultraviolet ray (UV) damage appear, as well as increased redness and broken capillaries, adds dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Dermatology.
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A window to the soul, this area is also a window to chronological age since it’s the thinnest and most delicate skin on the face. Eyelids become soft and loose with age and begin to droop, as hollows form under the eyes and can cause puffiness, says Zeichner. Meanwhile, the eyebrow — which has more elevation in youth — becomes lower and flatter with the passing years. “The outer corner of the eye also drops down, taking on a sadder and more tired appearance,” says Few. The skinny lines known as crow’s feet emanate from the outside of the eye, and darkness underneath the eyes becomes more visible as skin in this area thins.
As cheeks drop with gravity over time, the effect actually becomes apparent next to the mouth, where the sagging skin turns into the pronounced nasolabial folds that are often referred to as “smile lines.” It’s also the cause of the lower part of the cheeks drooping, which results in the jowls that many patients complain about, says Zeichner. “There is also a tendency to form a valley or groove in the cheek that runs from the lower eyelid at an angle down toward the ear – this deepening depression ages the face,” adds Few.
LIPS AND NOSE
As the recent Kylie Jenner challenge attests, full lips are a sign of youth. With age, the upper lip actually becomes longer and drawn out, while the corners of the mouth turn downward, and can cause the marionette lines that run from outside the lips down the sides of the chin. As we get older, our noses also appear longer because the bone that supports the nose widens with age, says Few.
JAWLINE AND NECK
With the passing years, the skin tone of the neck changes to a less-consistent color, a condition known as “poikiloderma.” It’s marked by varying levels of dark and light patches on the neck, says Zeichner. And sagging skin results in the “turkey neck” that bereaves many of the tighter tone and defined jawline of younger years.
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