There’s a big difference between looking mature and looking old.
According to research from the U.K.’s University of Stirling, men who look “mature” have squarer jaws, more prominent cheekbones, and thinner cheeks than baby-faced dudes. All of these are “masculine” features that tend to make a guy more attractive to women, the researchers say. On the other hand, looking old—think pale and lined skin, graying hair, sunken eyes—definitely doesn’t make you more appealing to women.
Unfortunately, if you’re the type who’s always stressed about money, your cash concerns are aging you, finds a new study from Brandeis University.
The Brandeis team asked men to rate how old they felt and looked, and to answer a bunch of questions about their stress levels. The researchers also asked strangers to rate how old the men looked in current and 10-year-old photos.
The dudes who had the most financial stress aged the most during those 10 years, the study found. (The money-stressed men also reported feeling older.)
Yoga and meditation are proven stress beaters. A boatload of research shows spending time in nature—hiking in parks, staring at the ocean—is also great at knocking down your stress levels.
Once you’ve got your stress under control, watch out for these six other things that could age you prematurely.
Slamming cookies, soda, and other sugar-heavy foods screws with your skin’s ability to repair itself, finds research from Dartmouth Medical School. As a result, people who eat or drink sugar-loaded foods tend to look older (and less healthy).
Foods like avocado, red bell pepper, and almonds contain nutrients that make your skin look younger and healthier. Swap them for sugar.
HOLDING A GRUDGE
Walking around feeling angry and bitter about a slight ramps up your body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And cortisol can mess with your DNA in ways that speed aging, finds a study in Biological Psychology. Understand that your grudge only hurts you—not the guy or girl you’re pissed at—and you may find it easier to let go. When you do forgive or forget, your cortisol levels will plummet, the same study found.
SPLASHING ON AFTERSHAVES THAT CONTAIN ALCOHOL
Patrick Bateman wasn’t lying to you. Aftershaves that contain alcohol “degrade the lipids in the top layer of your skin,” which dries out your hide and makes you look older, says Adam Friedman, M.D., a dermatologist with the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Look for products that say “alcohol free” or that don’t include alcohol or “ethanol” on their lists of ingredients.
Heavy drinking—getting messed up, not having a beer or two—triggers the release of a hormone called “glucocorticoid,” which fires up some pro-aging damage inside your cells and organs, finds a study in Alcohol Research & Health. Stick to one or two drinks a day and avoid binges, and your drinking habit shouldn’t mess with your looks.
Like booze, the toxins in cigarettes can disrupt the repair processes that go on inside your skin cells, shows research from Italy. Smoking has also been linked to DNA-related damage that can age you prematurely. One more good reason to quit.
TOO LITTLE SLEEP
A Scottish team found that people who don’t get enough sleep have older, less-healthy looking skin. If you’re sleep-deprived, your skin also struggles to repair itself from sun damage, which not only ages you but also ups your risk for skin cancer, the researchers say. You need at least six hours of sleep a night—ideally eight—to look and feel your best.