We all know our appearance doesn’t matter as much as what’s on the inside, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care about how we look, especially as we get older. Short of turning back the hands of time—or getting plastic surgery—what can we do to look better as we age? Here are 5 steps to looking 10 years younger.
1. Take care of your skin.
According to a study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, the condition of a man’s skin influences people’s perception of his age, attractiveness, and overall health. Protect your skin from the sun, which causes wrinkles and age spots. When you’re not wearing sunscreen, use moisturizer—it doesn’t have to be fancy, even olive oil works—since dry skin appears older. And hydrated skin is healthy skin, so drink plenty of water.
2. Sleep and eat well.
Ever looked in the mirror after a late night and been horrified by the haggard monster staring back you? Or noticed how much better you look after a good night’s rest? Getting plenty of sleep prevents puffy eyes, dark circles, and sallow skin . Eating a balanced, whole-food diet will help you manage your weight and give you the energy you need to keep up with the younger guys (or leave them in the dust). And certain foods can give you a more youthful appearance. In his Anti-Aging Foods Cheat Sheet, Dr. Oz extolls the ability of foods like salmon, sunflower seeds, and spinach to make you look younger. If incorporating these superfoods into your diet feels like a stretch, supplements can also be powerful anti-aging weapons. A trial in Japan found adults who took the antioxidant CoQ10 reported a reduction in wrinkles, and vitamin C has been shown to brighten skin.
Along with a healthy diet, exercise is your best bet for keeping your body fit and youthful. According to Men’s Fitness, you lose 5-7 pounds of muscle mass every 10 years starting in your 30s, and this number only goes up after 50. Your aerobic capacity also decreases as you age. To stay toned and trim, try adding high intensity interval training (HIIT) to your workout routine—a recent study found this type of vigorous exercise may stop or even reverse the decline in the cellular health of your muscles that accompanies aging. See my blog posts here and here for more on the health benefits of exercise and check out this comprehensive exercise program from a two-time Olympian.
4. Stop smoking.
If an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and other serious health problems isn’t enough to make you quit smoking, consider its effect on your appearance. The Mayo Clinic reports smoking speeds up the aging process because nicotine impairs blood flow to your skin while other chemicals in cigarettes deplete collagen and elastin, compounds that help keep your skin from sagging. Smoking also yellows your teeth, making you look even older. Not to mention the smell… Still not convinced? To determine the aging effects of smoking on the face, researchers in Ohio photographed sets of identical twins where one smoked and the other didn’t. When they showed the photos to judges, they said the smoking twin looked older 57% of the time. In cases where both twins smoked but one had done so for at least five years more, the longer-smoking twin was judged to look older over 63% of the time. See photos from the study here. For more information on how to quit smoking, visit smokefree.gov.
5. Look sharp.
Since your days of rolling out of bed with a hangover and still looking like a million bucks are likely behind you, it’s time to start paying attention to your appearance. Notice stray hairs growing out of weird places? Invest in a good trimmer and use it. Eyebrows getting unruly? Ask your barber to trim them along with your hair. (You can also inquire about discreetly coloring your gray, although a little silver never hurt anybody.) Last but not least, dress your age. As tempting as it may be to wear trendy outfits in an attempt to look hip, wearing too-young clothing can backfire and make you look silly. Stick to simple and classic looks, which never go out of style. Whatever you wear, make sure it fits correctly—GQ says a properly tailored wardrobe is the key to dressing well as you age.
Ready to take control of your health? To help you determine where you need to focus your energy first, take my Men’s Health Quiz. It only takes a few minutes and can even be done on your smartphone.
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.