Is Gen Z Aging Faster Than Other Generations?

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Generation Z, often shortened to Gen Z, is the term generally applied to those born between 1997 and 2012. Recent viral theories suggest this generation may be aging faster than others, particularly in the way they look. Some millennials, the prior generation, have commented that members of Gen Z appear to be in the same age bracket as the millenials (born between 1981 and 1996). This viral phenomenon may be related to the use of Botox, fillers and retinol creams; lifestyle factors such as smoking/vaping; poor diets and being less active, and increased stress. But are the theories myth or reality? 

Does Botox Make You Age Faster?

Botox is a drug that blocks signals from nerves to muscles. This has a relaxing effect on “expression lines” (otherwise known as wrinkles, crow’s feet and fine lines) and results in a smoother-looking face. While Botox does not physically age you, it can affect your appearance to make you appear older.  

On the other hand, Botox is often used as a preventive method to stop wrinkles from forming early in order to maintain a youthful appearance. This use is increasingly common among Gen Zs in their 20s. If used conservatively, Botox can slow the signs of aging, but when used unnecessarily or too early. it can affect the natural development of the face and impact muscle weaknesses later in life.  

In addition, people who start Botox often have trouble stopping its use because they are accustomed to a wrinkle-free appearance. If they reduce Botox, wrinkles and other expression lines will return and cause them to appear older.  

Botox vs. Fillers

Botox and fillers are both cosmetic treatments that affect the way your face looks. Botox freezes muscles to prevent expression lines like wrinkles, while fillers are meant to make areas of your face look fuller. Fillers are most often seen in the lips, but can also be used on facial areas to decrease shadows or wrinkles under the eyes or to fill in static wrinkles along the mouth or cheek. Much like Botox users, those who use filler often find it hard to stop, causing a phenomenon called “filler fatigue.” This is when individuals get more filler injections than needed and get them redone sooner than necessary, eventually diminishing the effects of the treatment.  

The Effect of Social Media on Cosmetic Procedures

Social media has a large influence in our lives, from viral recipes and social trends to must-have products and even health care decisions. Botox and fillers are non-invasive cosmetic procedures that are rising in online search interests. Studies have shown that online sources, including social media, are key factors in researching or pursuing cosmetic procedures. Interest can come from testimonials, advertisements or influencers and celebrities. Members of Gen Z, having grown up with the internet and social media, are particularly influenced by online content and influencers.  

The societal definition of beauty has also played a role in the increasing interest in Botox or fillers. The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reported that in 2020, “72 percent of cosmetic surgeons saw patients who ‘wanted to look better in selfies’ coming for consultations.” Research has also shown that body image insecurities and social media pressures surrounding what is considered “beautiful” has led to an increased interest in cosmetic procedures which can impact the natural aging process.  

Retinol in Skin Care: Is It Safe?

Retinol is made from vitamin A and is a common skin care ingredient. It increases skin cell and collagen production and exfoliates the skin. This can reduce some markers of aging like fine lines and wrinkles. It can also be used to treat acne and sun damage. 

Retinol can aggravate skin conditions like eczema and rosacea. It can also increase sun sensitivity, so it’s important to wear mineral-based sunscreens when going outdoors.To decrease sunsensitivity, apply retinol at night. Medical professionals also advise against using retinol during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.


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How to Manage the Use of Retinol

Retinol is not a “fast fix” to repair your skin and appearance. It may take weeks to several months to notice a difference in your skin. 

When beginning retinol, it’s common to experience dry and irritated skin, redness, itchiness and peeling skin. To help prevent or lessen these side effects, it is best to start using retinol every few days and gradually increase the frequency. Additionally, you can start with a lower dose and increase the strength as your skin adjusts. Waiting 30 minutes after washing your face also reduces side effects. 

It is always best to talk with your dermatologist or primary care doctor before starting new skin care products.

The Dangers of Vaping

Many Gen Zs are “vaping,” or using electronic cigarettes. E-cigarettes are similar to traditional cigarettes in that they are filled with nicotine, but with the added appeal of flavor options like bubble gum or cotton candy. Despite ongoing efforts to restrict the sale of e-cigarettes and raising the legal age of vaping to 21, it is still a popular activity for Gen Z. In 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that 20 percent of middle and high school students – the younger end of the generation – have tried vaping. While it can be viewed as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, there are still significant health risks involved. 

Is Vaping Worse Than Smoking?

Vaping can have negative effects on the body and increase the chances of developing other diseases or health issues later in life. While lung damage seems to be the obvious area affected, vaping can also negatively impact your brain, mental health and heart. 

Nearly all e-cigarettes contain nicotine — some have almost as much as a pack of cigarettes — making e-cigarettes addictive like regular tobacco products. The aerosols of e-cigarettes do not have all the contaminants that are found in tobacco smoke, but there are still harmful substances. In addition to nicotine, the chemicals in e-cigarettes include diacetyl, nickel, tin, lead and other cancer-causing chemicals, and volatile organic compounds. If the liquids used in e-cigarettes are swallowed, breathed or absorbed through the skin and eyes, they can be poisonous.  

E-cigarettes can also cause lung diseases, affect your brain and mental health, and cause cardiac issues similar to smoking.  

Does Stress Make You Age Faster?

Stress can come from all parts of life, from work to relationships. While usually associated with mental health, it also greatly impacts your body and physical health, including how quickly you age. Stress can increase your biological age, which refers to how your body looks, feels and functions. Biological age can indicate how healthy you are and reflect your lifestyle and health habits. Your body is sensitive to stress, which can cause aging to occur more quickly than it ordinarily would.  

Stress releases cortisol and adrenaline, which can cause inflammation if excess amounts are produced over a long period of time. It can also damage cells and DNA that can lead to premature aging. The ends of chromosomes, known as “telomeres,” are markers of biological aging and become shorter during stressful periods. 

The good news: despite the “aging” stress can cause, it can also be reversed. Research has shown that recovery from stress will help your body return to its baseline. When not under stress, your body can more easily fix damaged cells and return to its normal level of functioning. For instance, gray hairs, which can be caused by stress, may regain some color, even if the color is slightly diferent from before the stressful period. 

Managing Stress and Anxiety

Stress can cause acne, baggy eyes, dry skin, wrinkles, gray hair or hair loss, which can all indicate faster aging. Managing stress and anxiety is important to prevent premature aging. A good way to reduce stress and its effects is by practicing self-care. Self-care can vary from person to person, but helpful practices for everyone include:  

  • Exercising regularly 
  • Getting enough sleep 
  • Staying hydrated 
  • Eating a better diet 
  • Take time for yourself 
  • Practicing gratitude 

Peninsula, a division of Parkwest Medical Center, can help you learn ways to reduce stress and anxiety in your life. To learn more, visit Peninsula’s website or call 865-970-9800

Do Diets and Exercise Affect How Fast You Age?

A healthy diet benefits all areas of life, including the skin. Diets can be directly linked to skin aging and inflammation. 

Drinking enough water, eating enough fruits and vegetables, choosing lean protein over processed meat, and limiting sugars, carbohydrates, alcohol and tobacco are all ways to keep your skin healthier and younger-looking.  

Water helps maintain the skin’s internal balance and tissue function to reduce signs of aging and skin inflammation. Proteins also help to repair skin tissue and keep your skin energized. Fruits and vegetables help fight skin inflammation Healthy foods are also packed with more vitamins which positively impact not just your skin, but your overall health. 

On the other hand, fats and sugars create skin inflammation which can make you look older. Tobacco products can accelerate skin pigmentation, and alcohol can destroy the barrier function of the skin and change the permeability. To prevent early signs of aging, avoid these products.  

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The Effects of Not Exercising

Exercise promotes well-being and can slow aging. Research shows that an active lifestyle can reduce cell decline that occurs with aging. It also increases flexibility, strengthens muscles, improves your mental health, manages your weight, decreases your risk of diseases and more.  

A lack of exercise and living a sedentary lifestyle speeds up biological aging. A study among women found that low physical activity, which equated to exercising less than 40 minutes and sitting for more than 10 hours a day, created as much as an eight-year biological age gap compared to women who participated in regular physical activity.  

Now is the time for Gen Z to include exercise in their daily routines in order to build the habit as they grow older. This can be as simple as parking farther away from your destination, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or participating in group fitness classes. Anything that gets you off the couch and increases your blood flow will help slow the aging process, and you’ll reap other health benefits as well. . 

So, Is Gen Z Aging Faster?

The good news for Gen Z is that most indications of aging faster are based on lifestyle choices that can be chanted to slow the process — and Gen Z has time to reverse some negative health trends. Hold off on the Botox, fillers and retinol use until you’re older. If you currently vape or smoke, quit. Learn good stress management techniques, eat a good diet and exercise regularly to help keep your body young, in both health and appearance.. 

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Covenant Health

Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, Covenant Health is a community-owned, healthcare enterprise committed to providing the right care at the right time and place. Covenant Health is the area’s largest employer and has more than 11,000 compassionate caregivers, expert clinicians, and dedicated employees and volunteers.

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