Gen Z Trends You Should Skip If You Don't Want To Look Older

Millennials and Gen X might admire Gen Z's knack for innovation and creativity, but the younger generation's propensity for rapid and on-demand content consumption doesn't always work in their favor. For Gen Zers, there's always a new trend to keep up with due to the high turnover of social media content and influencers — and these trends can make them appear to look older than they actually are. Gen Z questions why they're aging faster than their millennial counterparts, but is this true? "Of course not," cultural theorist and professor Meredith Jones tells Dazed. "That's biologically implausible." Instead, it's more likely that Gen Z indulges in specific lifestyle habits, styles, and beauty trends that just make them appear older. For instance, factors such as vaping, excessive exfoliation, and frequent Botox injections can all encourage premature aging.


That said, there's even a "why don't millennials age" TikTok page with over 119 million posts, where both generations put in their two cents and entertain possible theories. One TikTok video, posted by Gen Z influencer @jordan_the_stallion8, has amassed over 8 million views and proposes stress as a leading cause of Gen Z's early aging. "Zendaya is older than me," the 26-year-old admits in his video, despite looking like he could be her father. Similarly, Gen Z celebs Millie Bobby Brown (20) and Emma Chamberlain (22) have been accused of looking older than millennial stars like Selena Gomez (31) and even Avril Lavigne (39). The following Gen Z trends may be to blame.

Vaping deprives your skin cells and causes sagging

It should come as no surprise to learn that vaping isn't just bad for your lungs but harsh on your skin as well. Gen Z popularized vaping, and these e-cigarettes are often viewed as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, but vaping nicotine is still not as harmless as some may believe. "Nicotine acts as a vasoconstrictor, meaning it causes the narrowing of small blood vessels, which reduces oxygen supply and the flow of nutrients to the skin," cosmetic doctor Mervyn Patterson tells Glamour. "Deprive key skin cells of oxygen and nutrition and the skin starts to sag and wrinkle prematurely. Pigmentation in the form of blotchy, uneven discoloration and sun spots is also accelerated in smokers."


Sun spots are a symptom of sun damage or photoaging, one of the main causes of premature aging. Sun damage also causes other signs of early aging, including wrinkles and sagging skin. According to the FDA and the CDC, more than 2.1 million youth in America use e-cigarettes as of 2023, which helps explain the prevalence of premature aging among the younger generations. However, the good news is that your skin can bounce back if you quit. Ending your e-cig dependency can prevent further skin damage and premature aging.

Botox tweakments like baby Botox are popular with Gen Zers

You've heard of Botox — now get ready for Gen Z's beloved "tweakment" trends, such as baby Botox. Gen Z is much more familiar with getting Botox in their early 20s than millennials due to the increased accessibility and affordability of these skin-smoothing injections. The younger generation's approach to Botox also differs from millennials in that they not only begin their Botox journey much earlier, but they also focus on preventative Botox or "prejuvenation. "[It's] a cross between prevention and rejuvenation," dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman tells Vogue. "The idea is to start early to preemptively before visible lines form." The logic here is that starting Botox treatment early reduces the necessity and extent of corrective treatment in the future.


What's more, your facial muscles gradually weaken as you age, so getting too many anti-aging tweakments in areas such as your forehead speeds up this process, further weakening the muscles, dermatologist Dr. Patricia Wexler says to Vogue. "If one stops using their forehead muscles, they may start squinting using their nose and have wrinkles along the side of their nose," Dr. Wexler adds.

Gen Z can't resist hyaluronic acid fillers

Similar to Botox, dermatologists have also seen an uptick in filler injection requests, such as lip, cheek, and under-eye filler. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), 75% of facial plastic surgeons reported a high demand for tweakment procedures from clients under 30, including hyaluronic acid fillers. While these preventative treatments are designed to prevent signs of aging, they've also contributed to a strange phenomenon where younger folks who receive preventative filler treatments end up looking the same as older generations who receive corrective treatment.


"Certainly fillers and Botox can make everyone look the same age — for example, Kris Jenner and Kim Kardashian look like twins in their latest Instagram photos," professor Meredith Jones tells Dazed. "A lot of cosmetic work makes the old look younger and, by default, the young look older, because they look the same. So rather than thinking 'oh, everyone looks 25 now' we tend to think 'oh, everyone looks somewhere between 45 and 75'." And to Vogue, dermatologist David Colbert adds that too much Botox and filler can ultimately change the appearance of your face, making you look older than you are.

Excessive retinol use will damage your skin

Another skincare trend that Gen Zers swear by is retinol. While typically used for its anti-aging benefits, retinol also helps reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and acne scars by encouraging cell turnover. However, it's easy to go overboard with this active ingredient if used in high percentages. "If you're overusing your retinol, or if you're using a retinol that's too strong for you, it can lead to peeling, irritation, and excessive dryness, which may have led to retinol's association with skin thinning," dermatologist Dr. Devika Icecreamwala tells InStyle. "This will make your skin look older and accentuate wrinkles."


Although retinol alone may not contribute to early aging, the overuse of retinol products can cause increased sensitivity, which leaves your skin more vulnerable to sunburn. If you incorporate retinol into your skincare routine, do it safely by only using a pea-sized amount at first and spacing out the applications if you experience irritation. Those with sensitive skin should opt for the retinol sandwich method, which involves layering moisturizer before and after retinol. Don't forget to apply SPF and antioxidant serums like vitamin C to prevent sun damage throughout your treatment.

Certain Gen Z fashion trends will make you look older

As fun as it is to join in on all the fun makeup and fashion trends you see online, certain styles and beauty looks will inevitably age you. For instance, if you dress like a coastal grandmother, you shouldn't be surprised if you, well, look like a coastal grandmother. While millennials spent most of their young years rocking emo band shirts or girly Y2K styles (does anyone remember pink mini skirts and bandeau tops?), Gen Zers are more inclined to don mob wife attire and old money polo sweaters. This trend toward more mature fashion styles is enough to explain why they can appear older than their millennial counterparts.


That said, Gen Z isn't the only generation to dress older than their years. Past generations also favored styles that made them appear older and more mature, including the sophisticated and structured fashion trends of the '80s. "The dramatic nature of ['80s] hairstyles often conveyed a sense of confidence and authority, which could be associated with older individuals," hairdresser Gwenda Harmon tells Dazed. "Certain hairstyles of the 1980s actually made some youth appear older due to their bold and sophisticated nature."

That said, you shouldn't necessarily avoid following all Gen Z fashion trends due to the fear of appearing older — you can pick and choose what feels best (and is safest) for you. After all, age is just a number, and if you love how you look, embrace it!