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Recently in the Wardrobe Oxygen Community on Facebook, a member said she was mistaken for being older than her age and wanted to know how to look more youthful without injectables or cosmetic modifications. As we all told this individual, the issue is with the other person, not with her. She's fabulous, and others, especially those younger than us, think anything over 35 is ancient. But if you want to look more youthful, here are some ways I think work:
How to Look More Youthful: My 6 Tips
These are things I believe will change how you look to others without changing who you are. Try one, try none, there's nothing wrong with how you look right now. As always, I offer guidance, not gospel. Also, these tips are focused on the United States culture; I know other countries and communities have different priorities and ideas.
1. Whiter Teeth
I think overly white teeth look weird as heck but as we age (and as we drink more coffee and red wine), our teeth will get duller and darker. Crest Whitestrips are surprisingly effective in not making you have Chicklet teeth, but brightening and whitening and making your teeth, your smile, and you look a bit more youthful. Just know they need to be used regularly to see results and have results remain.
I have the Snow at-home teeth whitening kit. I actually bought this kit back in 2019 and used it until I left part of the kit at an Airbnb. Then this summer, Snow offered to send me another one. This does work. It doesn't work as impressively as the company's before and afters, but it's more powerful but not more painful than Crest Whitestrips.
I brush my teeth when I get up, and as I putter around the house before the rest of the family wakes up, opening curtains and letting out the dog, I use my Snow device. I paint my teeth with the gel, insert the mouthguard device, plug it into my phone (it uses your phone's energy to light up the mouthguard), and put my phone in my robe pocket. I'll listen to an audiobook or music, meditate, whatever for 10 minutes, then rinse, wash the mouthguard, tuck it into its storage case and keep it and the gel pen in my robe pocket for the next morning.
I have gone to the dentist and gotten trays and bleach… and it works fastest but I found it to be the most uncomfortable. As we age, our teeth may get darker or yellower, and they also often get more sensitive. I find the Snow device to be a good balance of comfortable and effectiveness, but that is only my personal experience. If you are serious about teeth whitening, do ask your dentist who will know about the latest, greatest, and safest for your smile.
Those in the United States are far more concerned with the color of their teeth than most any other country, and our country's youth are really into white teeth (thank you influencers and their veneers). A young person may mistake your age purely based on your teeth, which is ridiculous. Healthy teeth come in all colors, shapes, and formats but if you feel you want to look more youthful, teeth whitening may be an option.
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2. Hydrated, Glowing Skin
Trends affect not only what we wear and how we style our hair, but also our skin. And in the past decade, there has been a real trend towards glowy, dewy, hydrated skin. Gone are the days of mattifiers and powdering your nose; now the look is practically mid-hot flash in the middle of August in Mississippi.
Keep your skin hydrated morning and night. Look into products like hyaluronic acid which help your skin retain more moisture. The Ordinary is a brand that is effective and budget-friendly. Apply it to damp skin (or dampen your skin with something like rosewater) and put a good moisturizer over it. Skincare with vitamin C can also give skin a glow without being irritating.
Consider a glow product, something that makes your skin look lit from within. If you wear a tinted moisturizer, I like this one from NARS that has subtle illumination without making you look like a sweaty disco ball. I also like this primer from Flyte.70 which isn't sparkly or shimmery but somehow makes my skin look more hydrated. I will wear it alone, mixed with tinted moisturizer, or as a primer under other makeup (and there's no color/white cast on darker skintones).
With or without makeup, I love this highlighter from Flyte.70; it comes in two colors and I think “Just Like Heaven” is good for very fair to medium skintones; “Glamourous Life” is better for medium to darker skintones. Use your finger and do a “C” from end of eyebrow to cheekbone, a touch at your inner eye, a touch in your cupid's bow above your lips, and pat to blend. You can add in other places but these are the easiest/basic places that will have you glow without being over the top or obvious. I made a video on Instagram showing how I use this highlighter.
I believe in the power of keeping skin hydrated from within. I add a tablespoon of flax oil to my morning oatmeal, I take a fatty acid supplement (also helps my knees feel more lubricated), I drink a lot of water, have a green juice daily with this powder, and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables with high water content. Consuming collagen can also make your skin look and feel more hydrated and plump. From personal experience, I have found that dairy and alcohol will negatively impact my skin, especially under my eyes. I've learned to not consume either the day before an event when I want to look as fresh as possible.
Exfoliating gets rid of dry, flaky skin and helps with collagen production. At least once a week use a chemical or physical exfoliant. If you're new to chemical exfoliants (AKA acids), don't go straight into retinol or tretinoin. I like Pixi Glow Tonic, which you can buy at Target. Apply to a reusable cotton round after cleansing at night and wipe your face just like you used to back in the day with Sea Breeze or witch hazel. This won't burn and will gently exfoliate; apply your moisturizer over it.
If you're ready for the next step, retinol is a popular choice, but I also like lactic acid, which can do an immediate transformation in one night. Again, check out The Ordinary which has effective lactic acid for a very nice price. I did a review of The Ordinary's lactic acid a couple of years ago. Apply moisturizer after. When starting with acids, try every other night and see how you react before trying it nightly. And always use SPF during the day as acids can make your skin sun-sensitive.
If you prefer a physical exfoliant, put down the apricot scrub and find something gentler that won't scratch your skin. My husband, daughter, and I are all obsessed with this scrub from Colleen Rothschild. We keep it in the shower and with very little pressure you massage it into your skin and it rinses clean. Even though this is gentle, I still only recommend a physical exfoliant once a week or so.
4. Fuller, Natural Brows
As we get older, our brows become more sparse. And of COURSE, we have thinning brows from time on this planet and already thin brows from tweezing them to pencil lines in previous decades and the trend is for thick, full brows.
To keep it easy, get a fine-tip pencil a bit lighter and ashier than your haircolor and sketch in the thin spots of your brows. I like this pencil from NYX; I use Taupe even though I have brown hair. I once had the opportunity to have my brows shaped by Erwin Gomez, brow expert; he told me that even if you color your hair, if you have grays your brows will look more natural if you use taupe instead of brown.
If you have unwieldy brows, brush them up with an old toothbrush sprayed with some hairspray or a brow gel. Take some cuticle scissors and cut any hair that is far longer than the rest. Then brush your brows up and out to get a not too perfect, natural effect. Then fill in any spots.
Some folks get their brows microbladed, which is a semi-permanent tattooing of tiny lines that replicate brow hairs and fades over time. I have considered this myself, but am scared for I have seen many folks who have gone to highly-rated microblading artists and still ended up looking weird AF. Brow trends change pretty quickly; know what you get you'll be rocking for up to two years. Do your homework before considering this; know that what worked for your sister/best friend/coworker may not work for you.
The sculpted, stenciled brows were popular, but the more natural look has taken over. Take advantage, and keep this simple. A bit of pencil to fill in, even if you wear no other makeup, will make you look more youthful.
5. Wear Color
The quickest way to look more youthful? Switch out that black or gray sweater for one in a color. I am not talking the “lady of a certain age” shades of dusty rose, muted plum, and sage green. A primary color, a watercolor bright, a jewel tone, an autumnal shade, a highlighter bright or an icy pastel that is clear and true.
If a color you love is on trend, buy a sweater, or t-shirt, or blouse in that color because that will read youthful to those in the know (and even those not in the know who are surrounded by those who are).
If you aren't one to rock a lot of color, ivory and winter white can also brighten up your look. If you choose this route, consider a piece with some texture so it looks luxe, not dingy. A sweater, a tweed jacket, a velvet top… texture will elevate and the soft color will be an instant highlighter.
If you think I am going to suggest coloring your hair to look more youthful you're wrong. Just like wrinkles, gray hair doesn't make you look old. It's the condition of your hair that makes the difference and if you're just throwing it up/back without much thought that can be making you look older than any lines on your face or silver streaks in your tresses.
A very set hairstyle can be aging (just look at this video on YouTube how they “modernized” the cast of The Golden Girls with current hairstyles). But so is unkempt hair. if you're not one who likes to spend a lot of time on your hair, consider a style that embraces your natural texture and only needs to be trimmed every couple of months.
This is a big reason why I embraced my wavy hair and realized my hair is actually curly. Doing this, my hair looks fuller, is lower maintenance, and feels more youthful. If you have straight to wavy hair, consider a bob or lob (a longer bob that's grazing or just below your shoulders). If you don't plan on having it cut regularly, ask your stylist to cut it where there's no specific part so it doesn't look uneven during grow-out and can be brushed to the side, pinned up, put in a ponytail and more with low effort.
If your hair is getting thin, just like men with their combovers you're not fooling anyone with your creative style to “hide” it. Consider a shorter cut, embracing natural texture to add natural volume, or heck, go with a wig which have really improved in the past years and have become downright cool. Hair closer in color to your scalp will hide thinness better; consider going a lighter color which can also brighten up your face and provide a “youthful glow.”
I still have much to learn in life, and I learn so much from all of you. What are your tips for appearing more youthful? Do share in the comments, your tip may be just what a fellow grown woman needs in her life!
I find that a good haircut helps – particularly when I stopped coloring my hair. Once I needed bifocals I switched to multifocal (Progressive) lenses – that made a BIG difference in how I felt that I looked – that is definitely worth the extra cost to me. My clothes are pretty basic but I try to keep them in good shape and replace them, and my shoes and bag, when they are worn. Also, investing in new bras regularly (and hand washing them) makes a difference in how my clothes fit. I probably look my age (mid 50’s) but when I feel put together, I have a better day! Thanks for all the tips and great ideas, Alison!
I appreciate this article and the range of views in the comments. I want to add my own view that aging is not a moral failing or a flaw to be fixed! Humans age, and my personal view is that women need to be careful about constantly chasing youth, and doing things in service of “looking young” if they are not pleasing primarily to themselves. I am not young anymore and I am not afraid to own that. We are valuable members of society, with a lot of experience to share. Let’s be proud and continue to show the world how awesome we are.
Hard agree on the brows. I started using Revitabrow bought from Nordstrom. I was dubious, but also knew I could return it. It works so well. The outer edges of my brows are back and I love how it looks. I have to trim once in a while.
I also dye them periodically. Angie from You Look Fab recommended RefectoCil so I use that now. Great, easy to apply product. I leave on for 5-6 minutes.
Great tip to dye brows! I know so many older ladies that would look much younger if they did this. I’ve been doing mine for 25 years. Add lashes to the mix and no makeup needed
I just want to make a gentle correction to an otherwise great post. Retinoids and retinols are not exfoliants. BHAs and AHAs are exfoliants. They work to help loosen dead skin cells and slough them off. Retinoids and their gentler cousins the retinals and retinols work to boost our skin’s collagen production. People sometimes mistake them for exfoliants because new users can experience peeling. There are some great videos by dermatologists on YouTube that explain the difference between the retinoid family and exfoliants.
I want to add that the fit of our clothing is very important in maintaining a youthful look. Too tight and too loose are both aging. Twenty years ago I saw a photo of myself wearing a midi skirt that I thought was slimming. The fabric was the right color for me and the skirt fit properly at my waist and hips. However, I was shocked to see in the photo how frumpy I looked! I am 5″4″ and at the time weighed 125 pounds. The skirt literally dragged down my look. I looked like I was wearing some much taller person’s hand-me-down. That skirt promptly went to Goodwill. After my photo epiphany, I shortened all of my other midi skirts or gave them away. A few years later I was turned onto What Not To Wear by my sister-in-law. I agree with Stacy and Clinton that a shorter woman such as myself will look best in skirts and dresses that hover around the knee.
I believe that everyone needs a good full length mirror and that we need to look at the reflection carefully. A blogger I regularly read says that even better than the full length mirror view are photos of our outfits. Somehow we will see things in a photograph that we do not see in the mirror. That was certainly the case with the midi skirt outfit I referenced above. My mirrored reflection looked good to me!
My husband & I are both 53. He was in the hospital for surgery recently. I had been up for 16 hours and a nurse came in his room and assumed I was his mother. You can bet that the next day I was doing my utmost to look as youthful as possible.
In a previous post you mentioned something about REI athleisure. Could you explain that or do a post on it?
That video of the golden girls with youthful hairdos also smooths out their skin — it’s making their faces look younger too. So don’t watch it as evidence of what certain hairstyles can do for your overall appearance. That’s misleading.
I appreciate Bette’s reminder that we live in a culture that devalues older people. (Unless they’re white boomer men in positions of power, I guess.) None of these tips help us push back against ageism and social structures that marginalize the elderly.
“How to look more youthful” — the real question, under the surface, is “how can I remain relevant as an older woman, and not be regarded as invisible and unnecessary?” Consumerism will not help us answer that question.
And on your skincare points, I agree and I think you have lovely skin. My only caveat is that if you have sensitive skin, research your Vitamin C options. Some have irritated my skin, and I’m currently using one from Vichy that I like and that isn’t expensive.
I also recently tried Jones Road makeup, which Bobbi Brown seems to have developed for more mature skin with lots of moisture in it. I like how it makes my skin look but it does leave a slightly tacky feeling behind. But powdering it seems to defeat the purpose! So the jury is still out on that one.
I had to laugh at the teeth whitening and your very accurate point that no one else is obsessed with white teeth like we are in the USA. A few years ago, I was in Italy when a man came up to me and started talking in a language I did not recognize. When I interrupted and told him I speak only English, he apologized and told me he thought for sure I was Croatian because of my features (I am of Slavic heritage). Then he added, “And you don’t have those glow in the dark teeth like Americans do!”
Karen O says
What great tips, not just from Allie but the commenters as well. One tip I got from a MUA about eyebrows, when you moisturize your face always use that moisturizer on your eyebrows as well. I’ve been doing this lately and while I won’t say I’m getting more hair growth, my brows seem a bit more “there.” I don’t know how else to put it but at the very least they feel nice and soft now instead of hard and crunchy.
I love these suggestions and comments. One question: where would you suggest one look to identify color trends for the coming season? I don’t shop in person enough to notice color trends in clothing. Thanks!
I look younger than I am because I:
1. Have great posture.
2. Wear modern, flat shoes and carry a modern handbag (often a cool backpack).
3. Wear simple clothing that flatters me.
4. Get new eyeglasses and sunglasses every few years, choosing ones that are interesting.
5. Keep up with technology.
6. Read the newspapers and have informed opinions on key world events.
I super-agree re: eye glasses and sunglasses — unfortunately, it gets even more expensive with a prescription and progressive lenses in the mix — but worthwhile. I would add a great hair cut or just in general, keeping maintaining your hair (yes, I know hair changes around menopause, adding challenges).
Do you have a green juice recipe that you recommend? Thanks for sharing.
Alison Gary says
I keep it super simple and add a scoop of this to cold water, use a milk frother to mix https://amzn.to/3zs7VxN
Ann Marie says
My tips are:
1. Get enough sleep and reduce stress (as much as you can) – go to bed early, take naps on the weekends, make sleep a priority. Lack of sleep and too much stress will age you by a good ten years or so.
2. Wear the correct color near your face – figure out what color season you are and wear the correct colors near your face. The wrong color will either overpower you or wash you out. Avoid too much black near your face (especially if you are not a winter season, which is the only season that can wear black near the face) as black accentuates wrinkles and under eye circles. Choose navy instead, as it is softer. If you have a black winter coat, for example, break up the black with a scarf and hat in colors that are right for you. Also, color brings people joy!
3. Wear the correct eyeglass frames – make sure your frames are not dated and that they are appropriate for your face shape/size. Try Warby Parker and ask an associate for help if you don’t know looks good.
4. Make sure you are wearing the best clothes for you today in your size – make sure your clothes aren’t dated, ill fitting, or worn. Buy a few new things each season that are in style and fit the body you have today.
5. Exercise – particularly lift weights and stretch – exercising will give you a glow, it will make you feel better, and it will give you better posture so you are not a stooped over and hobbling around.
6. Be interested in the world – nothing says old person like someone so set in their ways that they refuse to try or do anything new and who have no hobbies or interests. Take classes, try a new sport or hobby, go to concerts, read, visit museums, etc. If you are interested in the world, the world will be interested in you.
Kathryn Braun Fenner says
Agree completely with the seasonal color aspect. I had really dark hair and thought I was a winter, but now it’s gray. I used a color analysis app that analyzed a photograph of me, and discovered I am actually a soft summer. My hazel eyes are brighter in the muted colors of soft summer, and my skin looks much younger than it did against brighter hues. I can still wear plenty of colors, but if they are just a bit softened, I look way better!
Share the app if you would! I am fascinated by this idea. I have dark hair and wear black near my face all the time!
Kathryn Braun Fenner says
I think it’s called Colorwise.me. The app with the palettes on my iPhone is called My Colors
How much did it cost?
Kathryn Braun Fenner says
I don’t think much. $10?
Have a little fun with your hair. I swear I get more compliments now that my hair is fully gray with the blue and purple in the curls than I ever did when I kept it maintained as a redhead. I’m not always good at it, but I try to remember that age is a number. Attitude and a smile goes a long, long way.
A smile. Yes.
I disagree, though, with “age is just a number.” Unless we suddenly become immortal, that number tells us a lot. Our bodies don’t last forever; we should respect and acknowledge that. In fact, the whole “how to look younger” discussion would not be necessary if our society valued the elderly.
On the flip side of that though, if we *did* value our elderly it wouldn’t be to try & emulate youth. So even then, age still wouldn’t be just a number – moreso a marker of wisdom & experience.