There’s no one magic trick to looking younger. If there were, we’d all be doing it. But there are lots of small, daily habits you can develop to help achieve a more fresh, youthful appearance.
We spoke to experts and checked the research to come up with these everyday habits that can make you look younger — and none of them involve going under the knife.
You might be doing some of these things already. If not, decide on a few that fit in with your lifestyle and see if you notice a difference.
The general consensus among skincare experts is that softer, smoother skin = younger-looking skin. This makes an exfoliator a great investment. Exfoliating your face and body at least once a week won’t only feel great — it removes dead, dulling skin cells and gets blood circulating at the skin’s surface, helping to create a brighter appearance.
Dr. Cristina Psomadakis says there are two ways to exfoliate your face: physical exfoliation, where you use a scrub with granules or texture in it to get rid of dead skin cells manually, and chemical exfoliation, where an ingredient breaks up the bond of dead skins cells, allowing them to shed off more easily.
“Overall, dermatologists tend to prefer chemical exfoliation because you can adjust variables like the strength of the ingredient and the time it is on your skin,” she tells The Delite. “The strongest chemical exfoliant is glycolic acid, and you can find it in toners, masks and chemical peels. For more sensitive skin types, good options are lactic or mandelic acid or fruit enzymes.”
Make Exercise A Priority
In 2014, a small group of adults between the ages of 20 and 84 took part in a study at McMaster University in Ontario. Researchers found that participants over the age of 40 who exercised regularly had skin that closely resembled the skin of people in their 20s and 30s. They suggested that exercise creates substances within the body that can help slow aging in skin, and which may even reverse skin aging in people who become more active late in life.
Connect With Loved Ones
Oxytocin, the so-called “happy hormone,” is what the body churns out when certain cells in the brain are excited. Production of oxytocin is mostly associated with childbirth and lactation, but it’s also released during social contact and social bonding. And this hormone has been linked to anti-aging.
In an animal study published by the University of California at Berkeley in 2014, researchers who gave oxytocin to old mice found that the mice were able to regenerate a greater amount of new muscle fibers. So spend time with family and friends and it might just make you look a little younger!
Nourish Your Body
In a 2012 study published in Dermato-Endocrinology, researchers concluded that eating fruits and veggies can make you look younger by combatting dull complexions and fine lines. Take watercress, for example. This leafy green is a great source of calcium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus and vitamins A, C, K, B-1 and B-2. Its antioxidants may neutralize harmful free radicals, keeping those fine lines and wrinkles at bay. And papaya is a rich source of vitamins A, C, K and E, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins. The exotic fruit also contains an enzyme called papain, which provides additional anti-inflammatory (and therefore anti-aging) benefits.
Reconnect With Nature
If you subscribe to the theory that when you feel younger, you look younger, it’s time to get back to nature. A 2016 study published in Nature found that spending time outdoors can make you happier and more energized, which in turn makes you feel more youthful. If you’re not into long hikes, go on a bike ride or take a walk around a park — it will have the same effect! And, of course, it keeps your body moving and in shape, which also helps maintain a more youthful appearance.
Get Plenty Of Sleep
Ginger Houghton, LMSW, CAADC, who owns a therapy practice focused on anxiety, trauma and sleep issues, says “sleep is one of the cheapest and most affordable ways to look better.”
“Part of this is due to inflammation from lack of sleep, which creates puffiness,” she told The Delite. “And chronic lack of sleep contributes to significant signs of aging in our skin.”
While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night to stay physically and mentally healthy. Create healthy sleep habits by sticking to a regular bedtime and ensuring your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.
Wear A Ponytail
Something as quick and simple as a hairstyle can quickly give you a more youthful appearance. A tight ponytail instantly opens up your face and emphasizes your eyes, eyebrows and cheekbones. And if you prefer a messier ponytail, that can also say young and chic. Create more texture with dry shampoo and pull a few strands of hair out around your face if you don’t like the scraped-back look.
Sleep On Your Back
Everyone has a favorite sleep position — but it might be making you look older. When you sleep on your stomach or on one of your sides, you’re putting constant pressure on your face, which may create “sleep lines” over time. However, there’s a quick fix. By sleeping on your back, you take all the pressure off your face. If you’re a habitual back- or side-sleeper, the change of position might take a little getting used to — but it’s worth persevering with if you want a more youthful complexion.
Stretch Every Day
When it comes to a younger appearance, it’s not all about your face. Daily stretching is important to maintain a more youthful body, as it keeps the connecting tissues elastic. Yoga, gymnastics and pilates are great stretching opportunities, and you don’t even need to sign up for a class. A 10-minute YouTube tutorial every morning is enough to work all your joints.
Avoid The Sun In The Middle Of The Day
Board-certified dermatologist Brooke Jackson, M.D., says skin damage, caused by prolonged sun exposure (specifically UVA and UVB rays), is cumulative. And exposure to UV rays makes us look older because they damage the skin and lessen its ability to protect us.
“Prevention is the best intervention,” Jackson tells The Delite. While your skin needs some sun to synthesize vitamin D, you should avoid the sun in the middle of the day (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m), as this is when the sun’s burning rays are strongest.
Before you head to the beach, the pool or any place you’ll be outside in the sun, make sure you apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin. Stephen Loyd, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at JourneyPure, recommends a mineral sunscreen containing zinc oxide as the primary ingredient, as it’s far less irritating to the skin than most chemical sunscreens but still provides enough protection.
Use Skincare Products With SPF
To reduce the signs of aging from sun damage — such as wrinkles, rough patches, sagging and skin discoloration — use products with SPF agents every day.
“Make it part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth,” Jackson says. She advises applying a moisturizer with SPF 30 or greater after you wash your face every morning.
Psomadakis agrees that wearing daily SPF, rain or shine, is her No. 1 skincare tip.
“It may sound boring, but sunscreen is the best youth cream we have!” she says. “UV exposure is the No. 1 cause of wrinkles and pigmentation issues, so protecting against the sun’s harmful rays is paramount for healthy, glowing skin.”
Don’t Neglect Your Hands
Remember, your face isn’t the only part of your body that’s severely affected by sun rays. Jackson recommends applying sunscreen to your neck, chest and the backs of your hands as well as your face.
“Most people neglect these areas of their bodies,” she says. “However, when it comes to anti-aging regimens, it is important to have all of your skin look the same age. You don’t want a 40-something face with 60-something hands or chest.”
Make Time To Meditate
Lots of people make time for meditation as a stress reliever, but research also suggests that the practice may slow down aging and reduce its signs by improving well-being and hormonal health. A study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience in 1982 measured the biological age of long and short-term meditators versus the general population. After taking blood pressure, vision, hearing and skin elasticity into account, the verdict was clear: Long-term meditators appeared 12 years younger than the general population. And even short-term meditators looked five years younger.
Curl Your Eyelashes
Virginia Beach-based makeup artist Jordan Artistry recommends curling your eyelashes for a more youthful appearance in an instant.
“It’s a really simple way to open up your eyes and make them look younger,” Jordan tells The Delite. “Gently squeeze an eyelash curler on your top lashes before you apply mascara.”
Apply A Smoothing Primer
Soft, smooth skin always looks younger than a rough, patchy complexion. Jordan recommends applying a smoothing primer before you apply your makeup.
“It helps fill in fine lines and pores, giving you a smoother canvas for your makeup products, and it also helps your makeup last longer,” she says.
Smell Like Grapefruit
If you smell younger, you might look younger — right? One 2011 study published in Chemical Senses found that volunteers knocked five years off the biological age of participants who wore a grapefruit scent. It’s not known why grapefruit has such age-altering powers but the next time you’re shopping for a new scent, you might want to go for a citrusy option and see if you feel more youthful.
Use Lightweight Makeup Products
When it comes to makeup products, Jordan advises against using matte powder products, as these can make you look older.
“These products can settle in fine lines and exaggerate the appearance of wrinkles,” she explains. “Instead, use fluid and sheen products that give a light coverage.”
And don’t forget to take your makeup off every night to avoid irritation and clogged pores!
One of the simplest ways you can look younger is simply to smile more.
“Frowning makes people perceive others as older — but a big, bright smile gives off a youthful look that will make people perceive you as younger,” Loyd says.
A study published in Psychology and Aging in 2012 showed that when people looked at photos of happy faces, they guessed the age of the person in the photo to be younger than in photos of the same person displaying a neutral or angry expression.
Cut Back On Alcohol
You don’t have to go teetotal, but drinking too much alcohol is proven to make you look anything but youthful. Research has found that excessive drinking can lead to premature aging, as well as a whole host of other serious health issues, like an increased risk of cancer, liver disease, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
When it comes to your skin, alcohol depletes levels of vitamin A, which can reduce levels of collagen, leading to premature wrinkles as well as a loss of elasticity and fullness in the face. Booze can also cause dehydration, which can result in more wrinkles and problem dry skin. One 2017 study found that people who drank to excess were 33% more likely to have gray rings around the corneas of their eyes (arcus senilis), a condition that doesn’t normally occur until someone is in their 60s.
Drink Lots Of Water
In 2015, Organic Authority carried out a study of five people who drank very little water to see if upping their intake to eight glasses a day made them look younger. Although the results weren’t drastic, most of the participants felt they looked fresher and had clearer skin with less noticeable fine lines. This makes sense because our bodies are made up of 80% water and, if we don’t stay hydrated, we can suffer from dry skin and a loss of energy.
Switch From Coffee To Tea
In 2009, researchers from Kingston University teamed up with skincare company Neal’s Yard Remedies to test the health properties of several plant and herb extracts, including white tea. Among the many health benefits, including a reduced risk of cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, the study found that white tea prevented the activities of the enzymes that break down elastin and collagen, which can lead to the wrinkles that typically accompany aging.
Improve Your Gut Health
Trista Best, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements, says the key to looking better (and younger) on the outside is to start on the inside — with gut health.
“We can improve our gut health in two ways — through the food we eat and supplementing with probiotics,” she tells The Delite.
According to Best, the healthy bacteria in probiotic supplements work to counter the “bad” bacteria that lead to signs of aging, inflammation and overall poor health.
“Probiotics also help to restore the healthy colonies of bacteria in the colon that may have been lost to sickness or poor diet,” she explains. “When the gut is healthy, the body is better able to rid itself of toxins and harmful substances, which can wreak havoc on the immune system and our health otherwise.”
Follow The Two-Minute Moisturizer Rule
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Todd Minars, MD, says everyone can benefit from the “Two-Minute Rule.”
“It’s very simple,” he tells The Delite. “You apply whatever moisturizer you use daily within two minutes of exiting the shower or bath. Often, someone will lose their youthful glow due to hydration loss, which is common during cool dry winters and warm summers spent outdoors sweating. This rule ‘locks in’ the moisture before it has a chance to evaporate from your skin.”
Minars also recommends looking for products that have the right kind of moisturizer within them.
“I recommend moisturizers that have lactic acid, which makes them different than most moisturizers that act as a sort of greasy barrier,” he says. “Instead, lactic acid acts instead as a humectant, which draws water into the skin. This is beneficial because many people who suffer from dry skin have flare-ups in the affected regions due to water loss.”
Enjoy The Power Of Touch
Therapist Kelly Edwards, LMFT-A, from Just Mind Counseling, says touch is another way to stimulate the production of the feel-good hormone oxytocin.
“Studies show that increases or decreases in neurotransmitters such as oxytocin can have a striking impact on thoughts, feelings and behaviors, which we know is tied to our outward appearance, too,” Edwards tells The Delite. “Touch is therefore incredibly important to the human experience and increased quality of life because the oxytocin it stimulates helps to negotiate the experience of attachment and creates a feeling of well-being. Stress or sadness often leaves us looking haggard, whereas an optimistic and nurtured mindset can have the opposite effect.”
If you’re feeling beat up or worn down, Edwards recommends making a deliberate effort to spend time with friends or loved ones daily to get your oxytocin levels up. If you’re on your own, he suggests taking a warm bath while visualizing an embrace from a loved one, having a video chat with someone you care about with a weighted blanket on top of you, or giving yourself caresses and massages.
While skin aging is inevitable, Dr. Alain Michon, medical director at Ottawa Skin Clinic, points out that aging can be divided into intrinsic and extrinsic aging.
“Intrinsic aging is from the passing of time, as opposed to extrinsic aging, which is from environmental aggressors — including exposure to pollution and smoking,” he tells The Delite. “Extrinsic aging can easily be modified by changing our behavior.”
So if you’re a smoker and want to look younger, you know what you need to do. If you need help to quit, your doctor can give you advice and help you find a cessation program.
“It’s always easier to prevent than to heal — your skin will look younger and healthier,” says Michon.