Why do some people look like their teens in their 40s, while others see the start of a sagging face at 30?
That’s the multibillion dollar question that has driven the anti-aging industry for thousands of years. And today, thanks to a growing body of research and powerful scientific tools, aging is less magic than science.
There is no one factor that determines why some people look 5 or 10 years older or younger than their chronological age. Psychology, fashion, nutrition, biology–many camps have claimed to crack the secret to longevity, but the fountain of youth has more than one spout. Below, we’ll explore why people seem to age differently, even though our clocks all tick at the same pace.
They may really be aging slower
People who look biologically younger may actually be aging slower than their chronological age, according to a longitudinal study spanning more than a thousand people. In a twist straight out of superhero comics, the data reveals that chronological and biological age is not always one is to one. Some people literally age physiologically faster than others–up to 3 years in just a single calendar year–while some appear to age backwards, appearing physically younger in their 30s.
They live healthy lifestyles
While a large part of youthfulness may come down to winning the genetic lottery, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us are powerless against aging. Sedentary lifestyles, poor health and sleep quality, smoking, and alcohol have all been linked to faster cellular aging.
They have better mental health
The secret to aging may remain elusive, but it’s common knowledge that stress can dramatically shorten your lifespan. Adolescents who suffer from mental disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder are at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, illnesses commonly associated with old age.
However, in a chicken or egg situation, researchers also posit that mood disorders can be a consequence of premature aging. “Our study provides the first evidence that familial risk for bipolar disorder is associated with shorter telomeres, which may explain why bipolar disorder patients are also at a greater risk for aging-related diseases,” says Timothy Powell, lead author of a study that looks at the correlation between premature aging and bipolar disorder.
They’re smart about ageing
Youthfulness may have a large physical component, but according to a study by psychologist Yannick Stephan, your intelligence also affects how your body ages. It seems that the cliche “It’s all in the mind” may actually have a kernel of truth to it. But while this finding may delight geniuses (someone tell futurist Ray Kurzweil he may not have to freeze himself to live forever), what about the rest of us who were born with just above average or average intelligence?
Thankfully, better longevity isn’t exclusive to the likes of Elon Musk. Delving further into his findings, Stephan and his team noted that traits related to high IQ, and not the score itself, can affect aging. Greater openness to new experiences, resilience, and a stubbornness to accept the “limits” of aging, all personality characteristics exhibited by people with high IQ, may affect the aging process. So when you’re feeling particularly pressured by your years, remember that the body takes its cue from the mind, and you are only as old as you let yourself feel.
They take care of their skin
The skin harbors the most glaring, telltale signs of aging. One only need to spot fine lines and wrinkles forming at the corners of the eyes and lips to be reminded that time marches ever forward.
But just because sagging, wrinkles, and fine lines are inevitable doesn’t mean you can’t delay or slow their onset. There are tons of anti-aging products and vitamin supplements that can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines and even lift sagging skin. Most of these products don’t only make the face look more firm and taut, but also support good skin health against free radicals and UV damage.
They dress well
Looking young may also come down to wearing flattering clothes. Fashion stylists offer a few quick and tested ways to look as young as you feel–don’t wear black, avoid oversized clothes, wear pants that fit properly, and choose soft and rounded patterns instead of harsh lines that may accentuate wrinkles and fine lines.
Color plays a big part, too. Staying colorful is important to looking youthful, but need to know which color is age appropriate, and which are better left on the rack or handed down. “With each year, hair and skin tone changes subtly, and at some point, those same colors are no longer as flattering as they once were. To keep your older and wiser self glowing, your colors need to complement how you look right now,” says Kate Smith, president of color research company Sensational Color.
They have had work done
While getting cosmetic surgery to restore youthfulness is more mainstream today than in previous years, some may still not be overly enthusiastic letting the world know about procedures they’ve had done. The reticence is understandable–after all, the promise of anti-aging cosmetic procedures like skin tightening facials is the effect should look natural and subtle. One major sign of a poor, botched attempt is if someone can clock your implants or botox injections even from a distance.
One may think that anti-aging procedures aren’t common because a lot of people choose to stay tight lipped about their own experiences. However, cosmetic surgeries, especially minimally invasive procedures, are more popular than they’ve ever been. In the US, there’s been an increase of people who get Botox, soft tissue fillers, and microdermabrasion. In South Korea, the world’s “plastic surgery capital”, some 1 out of 3 women have undergone some sort of plastic surgery.
We’ve established that youthfulness can be game of luck, wit, and smart fashion choices. But for most of us who didn’t hit the jackpot in the genetic lottery and want quicker, more noticeable results than playing the mental game, cosmetic surgery and aesthetic non-invasive treatments by a physician is still the surest path to a more fresh, radiant visage.