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Is Gen Z aging faster?

Twenty-somethings are flocking to Sephora after learning TikTok users think they look decrepit.

Last month, TikToker Jordan Howlett went viral for his mature looks, stating that many people think his mother is his younger sister. Even Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson believed they were the same age. Many viewers commented on his videos that Howlett looked to be in his mid-thirties. However, he is only 26 years old. 

 This sparked viral controversy with many hashtags and debates on social media, including #GenZAgingLikeMilk. This brings into question whether Generation Z truly is aging faster. 

Is Gen Z getting more cosmetic procedures than millennials?

When the conversation was sparked surrounding the apparent premature aging of Gen Z, many said that cosmetic procedures were the cause. Many say that Gen Z is consuming plastic surgery and other procedures more than any other generation. However, this is not true. 

A 2023 survey for Weave found that 27% of millennials and 26% of Gen Z would prioritize cosmetic procedures from medical spas over eating out from restaurants, getting their hair done at salons and using at-home beauty treatments. Based on the survey, 50% of millennials and 47% of Gen Z believe cosmetic treatments are essential to their mental health. 

According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, or AAFPRS, despite phrases like "Snapchat Dysmorphia," Gen Z is not making major spikes in facial plastic surgery procedure numbers. 

However, in 2021, 75% of facial plastic surgeons saw an increase in patients under 30 seeking cosmetic surgery and injectables. Another 78% believe there will be an increase in age prevention and early maintenance in the 20s to 30s age range, guaranteeing bigger procedures and surgeries down the line. The current dominant age range for cosmetic procedures is 35 to 55, but more young people seek these services daily.

In 2023, 83% of cosmetic procedures performed were minimally invasive, and the increase in noninvasive procedure options intoxicates younger audiences, as expressed by Dr. Sherard A. Tatum III, the president of AAFPRS. 

"This generation is growing up with a greater awareness of what is possible when it comes to aesthetic treatments thanks to the normalization online," said Dr. Tatum. "Rapid advances in non-invasive treatments and technologies allow younger patients entry into aesthetics with very little pain and downtime, making it more attractive to a larger patient pool."

Many young social media users are transparent about the cosmetic procedures they have. Many influencers are taking their viewers along for the ride of their pre-op and post-op experiences. 

In an interview with The Washington Post, Theda Kontis, a facial plastic surgeon in Baltimore, talks about the difference in response younger and older patients give her when asked if she can post their before and after pictures online. 

"Older patients are sort of wishy-washy about it. Younger people are like, 'Sure, when is it going to be posted?' And if I don't post it, they post it. — They want people to say, 'Wow, you got your lips done,'" Dr. Kontis said.

Do millennials actually look younger than Gen Z? 

In an article for Vogue, writer Daisy Jones recounts her encounter with a supermarket manager who ID'd her and didn't believe that she was 30. 

Jones listed all of the popular sayings of why millennials are "aging slower"; social media makes them aware of their appearance, "tweakments" like Botox and fillers and the perception that millennials' depression gives them a vampiric-like aversion to the sun that keeps them from aging.

Jones believed it was due to the lack of an understanding of what 30 looks like. She cited that her clothing style of cozy hoodies, low-slung jeans and stick 'n' poke tattoos give her the illusion of adolescence. 

Others are looking at millennials' lifestyle choices, such as nutritious diets, cooking and self-care. Millennials have sparked a revival in the fitness industry, prioritizing fitness and wellness. On top of their influence in skincare and mental health awareness, they are also prioritizing a work-life balance and enriching social life. 

How does social media affect "How old do I look" trends? 

What does a 30-year-old look like? What should teenagers look like? In the early 2010s, people turned to Tumblr and saw images of young influencers in cardigans, colorful jeans, wedged boots and flower crowns. In the early 2000s, it would have been fuzzy boots, juicy couture purses, baby phat tracksuits and highlighted hair. 

However, in 2024, what does age look like? The rapidly changing fashion trends make it impossible for there to be a generation-defining style or even brand. Many see younger generations accessing cosmetics they didn't have at that age.

Social media has distorted the way Gen Z is viewed, with influencers with access to cosmetic procedures becoming the face of Gen Z. Gen Z's anxiety with aging is a by-product of this phenomenon, including the effects trends like TikTok's viral aging filter have had on this generational worry. 

Gen Z's anxiety about aging has yet to be backed by any real proof of accelerated aging. No supervillain has created a laser ray that causes Gen Z to age like Renesmee Cullen from "Twilight." While the younger generation's aversion to aging may be a concern for quarter-life crises, there is no science backing the aging theory.  


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