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40 Things You're Doing That Will Make You Look Older

The aging process stops in three... two...

Whether it's a miracle of genetics, a great skincare regimen, or a youthful energy about them, there are countless envy-inducing individuals who never manage to look their chronological age. And while those lucky folks still getting carded at 50 may keep their tricks for maintaining an effortlessly-youthful appearance closely guarded secrets, there are countless ways to have people doing a double take when you tell them how old you are. While, short of finding the fountain of youth, you may not be able to look 20 forever, ditching these 40 habits that make you look older can have you turning back the clock in no time.

Hanging onto clothes you've had forever.

Woman looking through a closet

While you may have some beloved staples in your closet that you're not eager to part with, if they're misshapen, pilled, or generally reminiscent of a time that's long since passed, you could be making yourself look older. While you don't need to jump on every clothing trend to keep your look fresh, rotating out your worn-out clothing and accessories can have a major impact on how old people assume you are.

Opting for matte makeup.

woman with makeup sponge

Though matte makeup may be a go-to for those with oily skin, using exclusively matte products can make you look older than your chronological age. Unlike slightly dewy makeup, which reflects light and can obscure fine lines and wrinkles, matte makeup can make them appear more prominent. And while matte makeup may be a perennial fashion favorite, a dewy complexion always reads younger than a dull-looking one.


girl in tanning bed Skin Cancer Risks

With the exception of the stuff that comes out of a bottle, if you're tanning at all, you're doing damage to your skin and making yourself look older. Frequent sun exposure is linked to premature aging, from increased wrinkles to sun spots, all of which can make you look much older than your chronological age.

Piling on the pastels.

Woman in a pink cutout dress wedding

Pastels are staples on only two groups of people: those under six and those over 60. If you're loading up on baby blues, pinks, and buttery yellows, you're making yourself look older than you would if you opted for bright hues (or, you know, neutrals).

Keeping the same haircut forever.

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Though everyone gets stuck in hair ruts, keeping the same tired haircut for years can significantly age you. "Styles change and if you keep a style for a long time, it can make you look like you're still living in that time period," says stylist Stephanie Campbell, co-owner of Campbell & Campbell salon in Beacon, New York.

Not standing up straight.

woman at desk slouching

That minor slouch now could be a major giveaway about your age. Poor posture can make you look significantly older—as well as heavier than you actually are—so if you want to shave a few years off your appearance, it's time to straighten up.

Skimping on sleep.

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While being able to pull all-nighters may be a youthful characteristic, getting inadequate sleep is actually making you age faster. According to a study published in the journal Sleep, sleep deprivation can increase aging at a cellular level, meaning there's no time like the present to start aiming for eight hours a night.

Washing your face too frequently.

man washing his face at a sink in the bathroom

Though few dermatologists or aestheticians would advocate for sleeping in your makeup, if you're washing your face too frequently, you could be making yourself look older. Washing your face too often can strip protective oils from your skin, making it look dull and lifeless, and making you look older in the process.

Jumping on every trend.

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Though you may think that keeping abreast of trends—and incorporating all of them into your fashion and grooming choices—will make you look younger, the opposite is actually true. Just think about it: when you see someone wearing a million trends at once, all it does it draw attention to their age, rather than detracting from it. "Authenticity is not being expressed, which ends up making the older person dressing younger look older," says fashion psychologist Dawnn-Karen.

Drinking alcohol on a regular basis.

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If having a few glasses of wine is a nightly ritual for you, you're speeding up the aging process. In addition to reducing the quality and quantity of your sleep by interrupting your REM cycle and dehydrating you, which can make your skin look dry and sallow, research reveals that alcohol can actually have a negative effect on the body's ability to synthesize collagen, leading to more wrinkles and sagging in your future.

Not flossing.

Woman Flossing Teeth

Want to slow down the aging process? There's no time like the present to start taking better care of your teeth. If you're not already flossing at least once a day, you're not only increasing your risk of tooth loss, which can age anyone, you're also increasing your risk of permanent staining—and what screams "old" more than a mouth full of yellow teeth?

Avoiding exercise.

Woman on the couch eating pizza

If you're skipping the gym on a regular basis, you're doing yourself a serious disservice on the aging front. Exercising on a regular basis not only boosts circulation, making your skin look more healthy and youthful, increasing your muscle tone also helps prevent skin from sagging.

Drinking too much coffee.

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A little coffee may help you start your day with some extra energy, but overdoing it can easily age you. The combination of coffee's dehydrating effect plus its tendency to stain teeth can both take a serious toll on your looks, making you look years older than you actually are.


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It likely comes as little surprise that smoking is bad for you, many people ignore just how much it ages you. Smoking stains your teeth, causes skin damage, and can even cause premature wrinkles—all that pursing when you smoke can create vertical lines around your mouth that make you look significantly older.

Dyeing your hair too frequently.

hair dye

While adding a little dye to your routine can cover up those pesky grays, dyeing your hair too frequently may be aging you. Hair dye can cause your hair to become coarse, brittle, and dry—the antithesis of the soft, youthful locks you were likely going for.

All-black everything.

Black umbrella movie cliches

Those all-black outfits may be slimming, but they can also make you look older than you actually are. While you don't need to trade in your whole wardrobe to make yourself appear younger, a few pops of color can add a youthful vibrancy to any look.

Over-plucking your eyebrows

woman overplucking eyebrows

The ultra-skinny eyebrows popularized in the 1990s and early 2000s are doing no favors for your face. Not only does having ultra-thin eyebrows make it appear as though you haven't changed your look in 20 years, they also age the rest of your face. "As women age, eyebrows become sparse," says licensed cosmetologist Shreeda Tailor, who notes that over-plucked brows prematurely mimic this look.

Not wearing the right size for your body.

oversized outfit

Covering up your body with baggy clothes doesn't hide your flaws—it hides your age. Those shapeless outfits obscure the natural curves of your body, making you look softer and less muscular, both of which are typically associated with older bodies.

Letting stress build.

Stressed out man

If there's one habit that can make anyone look older, it's leaving stress unaddressed. In fact, a review of research conducted by researchers at Avon reveals a significant link between emotional stress and skin aging. And, of course, all that time spent frowning or scowling will naturally speed up the appearance of wrinkles, too.

Forgetting the makeup primer.

moisturizer woman towel bathroom

Think you can skip the makeup primer as you get older? Think again. Not only does makeup primer create a barrier between your skin and makeup, meaning your makeup and environmental dirt is less likely to make it into your pores, making them look larger, it also helps keep your makeup from accentuating aging. Without primer, it's easy for your makeup to slip and collect in those crow's feet and fine lines, drawing greater attention to them.

Wearing a three-piece suit.

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While there are some occasions that still call for a three-piece suit, wearing one on a daily basis can make you look significantly older than you really are. In an increasing number of offices around the world, three-piece suits are going the way of the dinosaur—just look at CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Evan Spiegel, none of whom are known for their stuffy attire.

Hanging onto those last 10 pounds.

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Though having a particularly round face may make you look younger as a kid, hanging onto those extra pounds as you age can make you look significantly older. Extra weight can obscure your bone structure, increase sagging, and may even emphasize some of those creases in your face.

Getting an anonymous short cut.

woman with short hair

Who said that everyone over 40 needs a short haircut? If you're choosing an easy-to-maintain, but ultimately unflattering cut, don't be surprised when people mistake you for someone significantly older than you actually are.

Wearing sneakers with more formal clothing.

Sneakers, wardrobe

If you're still adhering to this business-meets-casual aesthetic, you're definitely making yourself look seriously older than you actually are—after all, these days, there are tons of attractive, comfortable footwear options that won't make you look like you're auditioning for a part in Working Girl.

Lining your lips in a color that doesn't match your lipstick.

woman lining lips

While using lip liner that matches your lipstick can make your mouth look youthful and full, using contrasting colors will only make you look older. Not only has this look been out of style for over a decade, the darker lip liner can draw attention to those fine lines around your mouth.

Avoiding moisturizer.

Woman Applying Tretinoin Cream Anti-Aging

Though those with oily and breakout-prone skin may avoid moisturizer like the plague, doing so can make you appear older than you actually are. Hydrated skin has more of a youthful, dewy glow, and the right moisturizers, like those with hyaluronic acid, can help reduce the appearance of fine lines.

Wearing the wrong size bra.

bras in drawer

If you're wearing the wrong size bra, you could be adding years to your appearance. Not only can wearing the wrong size bra increase the appearance of rolls on your back, it can also make your posture worse, and may even make your skin appear saggy—all told, not exactly a youthful look.

Not smiling.

older woman smiling

That permanent scowl you've been wearing is doing more than just making other people avoid you: it's making you look older, too. In fact, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin found that study participants judged individuals shown smiling to be younger than their actual age,

Not drinking an adequate amount of water.

woman drinking a glass of water

If you're eager to start getting carded again when you go out, it's time to start adding some extra water to your routine. Dehydration can make your skin look dull and lifeless and may even emphasize fine lines and wrinkles, while well-hydrated individuals typically enjoy more plump and youthful complexions.

Wearing too much eyeliner.


Dragging that eyeliner across your upper and lower lids isn't just a waste of makeup, it's also a great way to make yourself look older than you actually are. In doing so, "We end up accentuating [signs of aging] by lining and accentuating eyes that have texture around them," says Tailor.

Making your outfits too matchy-matchy.

woman with matching accessories

Matching outfits may look adorable on babies, but on adults, they only serve to make you look older than your chronological age. The trend toward wearing matching outfits has long since passed, so if you're still making sure all your accessories are in the same tonal range, you're definitely aging yourself.

Overdoing the powder.

woman putting on makeup

A little powder can help reduce shine, but too much only makes you look older. "As your skin gets older, the tendency is for it to be drier. Skipping powder after moisturizer or foundation will help the skin look dewier," says makeup artist Mindy Green, founder of mobile beauty salon MG Beauty. "Unless you're very oily, try to avoid powder foundation and excessive setting or pressed powder. These have tendency to settle into lines and emphasize texture on more mature skin."

Not grooming your eyebrows.

man with bushy eyebrows

While over-plucking your brows can make you look older, doing nothing to them won't help, either. Those long, unkempt hairs make you look significantly older than you are in addition to drawing attention to the fine lines and wrinkles on your forehead and around your eyes.

Relying on metallic makeup.

eye liner makeup

A little glow goes a long way, but relying on metallic makeup is likely to age you in the long run. "Anything you place sparkle or shimmer on will be emphasized. If you are concerned with looking older, avoid sparkle on cheeks and your eyelids. Both areas can start to lose firmness as we age, and placing sparkle there will draw attention to those areas," says Green.

Growing your nails super long.

long fake nails

Those talon-like nails aren't giving you the youthful look you might have hoped for. Long nails accentuate the length of your fingers and make them look thinner, making your hands look older, and since shorter nails are more au courant, this look only emphasizes your age.

Washing your hair every day.

woman showering

If you don't want your hair to age you, there's no time like the present to skip that daily hair wash. "Depending on the shampoo you use, it can strip your hair of its natural oils," says Campbell. "Cleansing it too much can make it look dry and dull."

Splurging on sugar.

woman eating cake unhealthy

Bad news for anyone with a sweet tooth: regularly indulging in dessert could be the reason you look older than you actually are. In fact, according to researchers at Baylor College of Medicine's Department of Dermatology, regular sugar consumption is linked to a more rapid rate of skin aging.

Spending too much time staring at screens.

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Those hours spent staring at your phone or computer are making you look more than a little worse for wear. In addition to the squinting and neck-craning that often accompanies our screen habits—both of which can promote wrinkles—researchers at the University Hospital of Nice have found that the blue light emitted from screens can actually cause skin pigmentation that makes us look older, too.

Piling on the mascara.

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While full lashes are always in, clumpy ones only make you look older. Those spider-like lashes draw attention to the lines and wrinkles around your eyes while obscuring one of the more youthful parts of your face: your eyes themselves.

Acting angry.

angry man

Though we all get angry from time to time, wearing a permanent grimace or having a generally angry affect can make you seem significantly older than you are. After all, there's nothing like a little joie de vivre and a well-placed smile to make you seem and look young.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more