Does Your Nose Grow With Age?

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Everyone's body naturally changes. Your nose does grow with age, but only up to a certain point. After that, it may change size and shape—not because it's growing, but because of changes to the bone, cartilage, and skin that give your nose form and structure.

Mother touching daughter's nose
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How Your Nose Changes Over Time

In order to determine how the nose changes over the course of a lifetime, researchers in one study examined three-dimensional analyses of photographs of almost 900 Caucasian study participants between the ages of 4 and 73 years.

The researchers examined several nasal "landmarks"—height, bridge length, the lengths of both nostrils, the tip protrusion to nasal height ratio, nasal width, and tip angles. Then they sorted the data by age and gender.

They found that all measurements were significantly affected by age—specifically, nasal volume, area, and linear distance increased. In other words, they found that noses appeared to get bigger and longer over time.

Nasal Growth in Early Life

In childhood, adolescence, and perhaps into early adulthood, the nose is definitely growing. Think of the nose you had as a baby, and what it looked like later as a teenager. Your nose obviously got bigger, as it grew along with the rest of your face and body.

When exactly the nose stops growing is debated among experts. Some researchers report that the nose stops growing around age 12, while other researchers report an older age, around 16 or 17, or even early adulthood. Gender and ethnicity may explain these differences.

This all said, once you reach adulthood, the nose stops growing. Therefore, a "larger" nose cannot be attributed to growth, but rather to the deterioration of key structures within the nose.

Structural Nasal Changes in Later Life

With aging in adulthood, the nose undergoes many structural or anatomical changes, such as:

  • Thinning of and loss of elasticity of the nasal skin
  • Drooping of the nasal tip
  • A weakening and excessive softening of the nasal cartilage
  • Nasal cartilage ossification, which makes it brittle (some instances)
  • Separation of the attachments between the upper and lower cartilage pieces on the sides of the nose

Ultimately, these changes can result in the overall lengthening of the nose.

Implications of a Larger Nose

Your nose is an essential organ that serves two key purposes: bringing warm, humidified air into your lungs, and providing the sense of smell. Age-related changes to the nose can impact its functioning and contribute to progressive nasal obstruction (blockage).

Though not a health concern, the nose also carries aesthetic value to many, as it is such a prominent facial feature. Cartilage and skin changes may prove cosmetically unappealing to some.

As such, some people opt for surgery on their nose to improve their appearance and/or quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my nose getting bigger and turning red?

Rhinophyma may cause redness and swelling, making the nose appear larger and misshapen. This skin condition is a type of rosacea in which the skin on the nose becomes progressively more inflamed and thicker. Although heavy drinking was once thought to cause rhinophyma, there is no link between the two.

Can you fix a nose that's very small?

Yes. Doctors can elongate the nose. This is often done in cases of inherited or acquired deformity. Cartilage from other areas of the body (such as the ribs) or synthetic materials can be surgically grafted onto the nasal cartilage to fill out the nose.

When does your nose stop growing?

It varies from person to person, like height. For boys, though, the size and shape of the nose is probably settled by 14 and for girls it’s probably set around age 12. The nose continues to change, however, especially later in life when gravity and skin cause several facial changes.

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