Looking younger than your age? Your physical and mental health may explain why

Are you worried that you might look older than your actual age? A study [1] shows that looking older than your age may indicate that you are at increased risk of diseases such as glaucoma or loss of vision and osteoporosis. 

The study [1], published in the British Journal of Dermatology, examined high-resolution facial photographs of 2679 men and women in a population-based cohort study. The men’s and women’s chronological age ranged from 51.5 to 87.8 years old. All cohort study participants were of European descent and were assessed based on their perceived age and chronological age. Age-related morbidities of the participants’ different organ systems were recorded too. 

Researchers of the study guessed the age of the participants and examined if there were trends in the morbidities of the participants against their perceived and chronological age. 

Results showed that participants who were perceived to be five years younger than their actual age were shown to have better cognitive or thinking skills. They were also 25% less likely to suffer from age-related morbidities such as cataracts. 

The study’s lead author observed that “if you look younger than you are, then the health of your organ systems, body and mind are likely to reflect this.” 

Investigators investigated the association between various common age-associated health issues and looking young. They found that youthful links are related to lower measures of systemic aging

The researchers warned that the findings are not definitive. However, the results indicated that perceived age might also reflect the individual’s internal aging. 

During the study, an independent panel composed of 27 people was asked to estimate the age of the cohort study participants. All participants were not wearing makeup in their pictures. Differences between their estimated and actual age were calculated. For example, an individual who is perceived to be five years younger than their biological age would have a score of five. 

The higher the perceived age score, the younger the person appears in the photograph. Following the estimation of their ages and calculating the perceived age scores, the investigators then examined the health data and lifestyle of the participants. For instance, the weight of the men and women in the cohort study was recorded along with lifestyle habits such as smoking. 

Results indicated that those who looked five years younger than their actual age performed better in a cognitive test than those who looked their exact age or older. 

Looking younger than your age? Your physical and mental health may explain why

In addition, people who looked younger were also 24% less likely to have age-related hearing loss. The researchers noted that those who looked younger had the highest BMI and were mainly men. Researchers explained that the filler effect of fats on the face could help those with high BMI look younger. 

Since the study was only observational, cause-and-effect relationships could not be established. The reasons behind the results should have been investigated in the study. Further, the researchers noted that the respondents were all of the European descent. It is essential to examine if the same findings can be observed in other sample populations. 

What causes skin aging? 

Over time, the skin can begin to exhibit signs of wrinkling. Environmental factors such as sun exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause the skin to sag and wrinkle. The UV rays can make the skin less elastic, while gravity can cause skin sagging. In addition, certain habits, such as smoking, can cause early aging and wrinkling of the skin. 

The genes largely control when aging occurs. Intrinsic aging refers to the appearance of lines and wrinkles over time. However, some factors can cause early aging or premature aging. Premature aging is also called extrinsic aging. Taking precautionary measures to prevent premature aging would help maintain that youthful skin. 

What are some of the signs of early skin aging? 

Although the aging process may be different for each person, as a whole, some signs point to premature aging. Here are some signs of early aging. 

Gaunt hands 

Over time, the skin’s topmost layer becomes thinner. Further, the collagen content of the skin layers reduces, which leads to skin sagging and wrinkling. 

You will notice once you are in your late 30s or early 40s that your hands may start to look thin, veiny and wrinkled. 


Age spots, or sun spots, are hyper-pigmented spots that develop in your forearms and face. These spots tend to appear in your 50s. People who are white or have fairer skin tend to develop sun spots earlier than those who are tanned. 

Dry or itchy skin 

Thinning of the skin and dehydration can cause itchiness or dryness. You will also notice that your skin tends to become flaky. 

Hyperpigmentation or inflammation along the chest 

Patchy discolouration of the chest begins to develop. Similar to sunspots, these pigmented areas may be due to too much exposure to the sun. 

Wrinkling or sagging 

Wrinkles may begin to appear together with gradual loss of collagen fibres, the skin’s connective tissues. 

Hair loss 

Although genetics play a role in hair loss in women, most women in their 50s to 70s may begin to experience hair loss. Apart from genetics, environmental factors and hormone changes can also contribute to hair loss. 

How to prevent premature skin aging 

The sun plays a critical role in premature aging. Apart from UV rays from the sun, there are other things we usually do that can lead to premature aging. To prevent skin aging quickly, here are some tips to help you. 

Protect the skin from the sun 

Protecting your skin from the sun is essential whether you are enjoying the beach or running errands. You can save your skin by doing the following: 

  • Use a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when enjoying the beach. 
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and water resistant. 
  • Look for clothing that has an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label. 
  • Use sun-protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt. 

Stop smoking

If you smoke, stop. Smoking can speed up skin aging. It can cause a sallow complexion, wrinkling and skin dullness. 

Looking younger than your age? Your physical and mental health may explain why

Drink less alcohol

Alcohol dehydrates the skin and can damage the skin when taken for long periods. Frequent drinking of alcohol hastens skin aging making you older than your actual age. 

Exercise most days of the week

The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise per week to maintain optimal health. The good news is regular exercise also helps make the skin look younger and delay premature aging. Further, exercise boosts the immune system and improves blood circulation, which can explain the youthful appearance of those who exercise regularly. 

Gently clean your skin. 

Gently wash your skin to remove makeup, pollution and other substances. Scrubbing your skin can only irritate this and increase aging. 

Apply moisturizer every day

Always apply moisturizer to your skin to give it a youthful appearance. A moisturizer can trap water in the skin, giving this a supple appearance. 

Eat a healthy diet 

A well-balanced and healthy diet is essential in preventing premature aging. Fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants can help reduce or prevent early cellular aging, which in turn can help delay skin aging. 

Avoid exposing your skin to chemicals and pollutants 

Gaunt hands are often due to loss of collagen, skin thinning and dehydration. However, if you are frequently exposed to chemicals and pollutants, such as doing household chores, this can only hasten skin aging. 

Wear gloves when washing the dishes or gardening to protect your skin’s hands from pollutants and chemicals. Apply cream or moisturizers to your hands to lock in water and moisture in the skin. 

[1] https://academic.oup.com/bjd/advance-article/doi/10.1093/bjd/ljac100/6979846 

Photograph: Rido81/Envato
The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.