Does Your Nose Grow With Age?

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Everyone's body naturally changes over time. 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 actually growing, but because of changes to the bone, skin, and cartilage that shape your nose. Cartilage is the strong, flexible tissue that supports the end of your nose.

This article explains how and why your nose changes as you get older. It also answers some common questions about nose growth.

Young boy touches his mom's nose while sitting on her lap at desk or table. - stock photo

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How Your Nose Changes Over Time

In one study, researchers examined photos of 700 White faces from people age 20 to 80 years old. The purpose of the study was to make facial recognition software better at predicting how faces change over time so images of missing persons can be updated. Researchers looked at 36 different facial "landmarks," measuring the distances between them.

They found that age-related changes cause the nose to slope downward with age. The distance from your nose to your mouth also decreases as you get older.

The researchers also noted that the outer part of the nostrils tended to widen. These changes don't mean the nose is getting bigger, but that its changing shape could make it look bigger.

Nose Growth in Early Life

In childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, the nose is growing. Think of the nose you had as a baby, and what it looked like later as a teenager. Your nose obviously got bigger. 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 others say it stops at an older age, around 16 or 17, or even early adulthood. Gender and ethnicity may explain these differences.

Once you reach adulthood, the nose stops growing. Therefore, a "larger" nose isn't because of growth, but because key structures within the nose change.

Structural Nasal Changes in Later Life

In adulthood, the nose undergoes many structural or anatomical changes, such as:

  • Nose skin thins and loses elasticity (the ability to stretch and "bounce back").
  • The tip of the nose droops.
  • Cartilage inside your nose weakens and softens.
  • Nasal cartilage sometimes becomes brittle like bone.
  • Pieces of cartilage that attach the top and bottom parts of the sides of your nose can separate.

These changes can lengthen your nose, even though it isn't actually growing.

Implications of a Larger Nose

Your nose 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 how well it works. The changes can lead to an obstruction or blockage.

The nose also has aesthetic value for many people. Its age-related changes can mean you aren't as happy with the way your face looks. Some people opt for surgery on their nose to improve their appearance and/or quality of life.

Summary

Your nose grows throughout childhood and your teen years. It may even grow a bit during early adulthood. But after that, any changes you notice are not related to nose growth. Instead, they're the result of changes to your skin and cartilage that alter the shape of the nose. These changes are a natural part of aging.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is my nose getting bigger and turning red?

    Rhinophyma may cause redness and swelling. This skin condition is a type of rosacea in which the skin on the nose becomes thick, bumpy, and inflamed. Once, people thought the condition came from heavy drinking, but there's no link between the two.

  • Can you fix a nose that's very small?

    Yes. Doctors can elongate the nose. Cartilage from other areas of the body (such as the ribs) or synthetic materials can be surgically grafted onto the cartilage to fill out the nose.

  • When does your nose stop growing?

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

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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