Why Does Gen Z Look So Old?

Of all the conspiracy theories on social media, one of the most innocent yet perplexing: Why do millennials (born 1980-1996) look younger than Gen-Zers (born 1997-2012)?


For starters, millennials are one of the most health-conscious generations. They often developed skin-care regimens early on, and have long valued healthy eating, exercise, and abstaining from alcohol. While they’re the first generation to encounter social media in their late childhood or young adulthood, it’s not indigenous to them, and they didn’t obsess over their appearance in selfies from a young age. And when they were teens and young adults, Botox and other “enhancements” weren’t available as readily as they are today.



Millennials also benefit from the effect that many facial procedures and enhancements leave patients looking “mid-to-late-twenties.” The same is true for those who wear heavy makeup with dramatic contouring. When an older millennial gets fillers and makeup leaving them with a mask-like appearance of someone in their mid-twenties, this sets the clock back 10-15 years. But when someone who’s 18 undergoes these same procedures, they tend to move the clock forward by a decade or so.

Experts also point to other lifestyle factors that might prematurely age Gen Z. They’re a generation especially likely to vape, a habit that can create facial wrinkles. They’re digital natives, constantly glued to their screens, and the blue light emitted by these devices could be aging them more rapidly, as well as a lack of fresh air and exercise if they’re always indoors. And perhaps their higher stress levels over climate change, income inequality and student debt are aging them more rapidly as well.

As a result, numerous posters on X have started raising this question. The Daily Mail recently investigated this phenomenon, posting side-by-side photos of Taylor Swift (age 34) and Emma Chamberlain (22); Avril Lavigne (39) and Millie Bobby Brown (19); Kim Kardashian (43) and her sister Kylie Jenner (26); Sarah Hyland (33) and Billie Eilish (22); and Selena Gomez (31) and Sabrina Carpenter (24), all looking about the same age.

Even the New York Times weighed in, asking, “Why does Gen Z Believe It’s ‘Aging Like Milk’?” However, their writer came to a different conclusion, hypothesizing that Gen Z isn’t aging more rapidly, but instead, is just hyper-aware of any signs of aging, as a generation that grew up on selfies, and can trace the smallest signs of aging across their Instagram posts.

What can brands do to help Gen Z look and feel better?

*Promote age-appropriate skin care. Before teens and young adults go down the road of Botox and fillers, promote organic solutions such as sunscreen, acne treatments, moisturizer and exfoliators, to protect and preserve vulnerable skin.

*Get them moving outside. Fresh air and exercise (while using a high-SPF sunscreen) also tend to create a youthful appearance, as well as a healthy “glow” from working up a sweat. Brands can recommend fun activities to make Gen Z more physically fit while also helping them make connections "IRL” that transcend social media.

*Encourage them to quit vaping. Not only does the act of smoking cause creases on the face, but it also has the potential to artificially age the cardiopulmonary system…and nobody really knows what’s in those chemicals that Gen Z is sucking down, or their long-term effects. For any Gen Z-targeted brand, a solid CSR initiative would be to encourage them to give up vaping in favor of edibles, gummies, mocktails, coffee or just about anything else.

With a little care and creativity, brands can help Gen Z rediscover the fountain of youth, and look and feel their age once again.

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