NEW YORK - In a new study of people who'd had surgery to reshape their sniffers, observers looking at before and after shots decided the patients looked a year or two younger, on average, with their new noses than pre-surgery.
"I wouldn't say that in terms of the findings of this study, it adds a major reason to go forward with the procedure," said Dr. Ali Sepehr, from The OC Center for Facial Plastic Surgery in Irvine, California, who led the study.
"It's just a nice added benefit when somebody's already going to get the procedure for another purpose," he told Reuters Health.
Sepehr and colleagues from the University of Toronto consulted the medical charts of 53 people who'd had a nose job, with face-on and side photos from before the surgeries and a year afterward.
Most of the patients were women, and ranged in age from 15 to 61.
The researchers asked 50 unrelated people to guess the age of patients in both sets of photos, giving them at least a month in between assessing before and after shots. Half of the observers saw the photos out of order, rating the age of patients in their post-surgery shot first.
Taking into account that nose job patients were a year older in their second photos, the researchers calculated that the procedures took an average of one and a half years off each person's perceived age, based on the ratings.
People whose nose originally had a hump or a droopy tip -- signs of an aging nose, researchers said -- got more benefit from the procedures in terms of their apparent youthfulness, according to findings published in the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery.
Older patients also tended to cut more years off their appearance after surgery, but that finding could have been due to chance.
Dr. Anthony Sclafani, the head of facial plastic surgery at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, said that plastic surgeons have long suspected that especially by removing a hump on top of the nose and turning up the tip, they can make patients look younger.
"Even if it's a matter of proving what we always thought, it's an important finding," Sclafani, who didn't participate in the new research, told Reuters Health.
The procedure, known medically as rhinoplasty, typically runs at about $4,000 to $5,000. It involves lifting the skin off the nose through a few incisions, then making changes to the bone and cartilage underneath, all while a patient is under general anesthesia.
Risks of the surgery include infection and bleeding -- and, of course, the chance your new nose won't look exactly as you'd envisioned going in.
Plastic surgeons agreed that the possibility of getting a more youthful face out of a nose job shouldn't be the driving force behind going under the knife.
"I have not personally noticed a large change in patients' apparent age following rhinoplasty. I think a 1.5 year difference would be very hard to detect," Dr. Marcus Moody, a reconstructive and cosmetic surgeon from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, told Reuters Health in an email.
"I think the two primary motivators for nasal surgery (rhinoplasty in particular) should be either a patient's desire to change the way their nose looks or to improve their breathing through their nose," added Moody, who wasn't involved in the new study.
"I would not encourage a patient to have this procedure if their primary motivation was to lower their apparent age."
"If you told somebody who's 48, 'I can make you look 47,' it's not the greatest sell in the world," Sclafani said. "I think it's another reason to consider the rhinoplasty. It's not the primary reason; it's certainly an additional benefit."