April 18, 2024 – The explosive rise in skin care “influencers” hawking product after product on social media has led many young people to seek anti-aging products and procedures even as experts say there is no actual evidence that Gen Z is aging faster than normal. 

Worries about things like frown lines and wrinkles often serve as proof online. But skin care experts said that this claim is false. Rather, it largely boils down to perception. 

Gen-Zers – young people between the ages of 12 and 27 – are arguably the generation that uses social media the most. With skin care influencers seemingly both bare-faced and picture-perfect, it can cause an unhealthy focus on one’s own skin and an unrealistic idea of what skin should look like. 

“The two things that make you age faster are, number one, sun and, number two, smoking. If anything, Gen Z is very, very good about skin care; they’re much better than other generations,” said Bita Farrell, MD, a board-certified anesthesiologist and founder of Natural Aesthetics Center, a medical spa in Westlake Village, CA. 

Still, this warped perception of skin aging among Gen Z is leading some people to get certain anti-aging treatments, such as baby Botox and retinoids. 

Baby Botox is a popular “prejuvination” procedure that uses a lower amount of the FDA-approved dosage for standard Botox, according to DiAnne Davis, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and American Academy of Dermatology fellow. Baby Botox uses a neuromodulator treatment – an injectable that temporarily impairs the muscle that causes wrinkles – as a preventive aging tactic that can reduce the appearance of “crow’s feet,” frown lines, and wrinkles.

Retinoids – chemical compounds that stem from vitamin A and come in liquid, cream, and gel forms – can be a promising treatment for acne and overall skin health.

If you are considering baby Botox or retinoids, there a few critical things to consider. To ensure you are not wasting your time and money, the earliest time to get Botox is when dynamic wrinkles (fine lines when making certain facial expressions) start to appear, according to Helen He, MD, a dermatologist with Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. Botox freezes your muscles, and if injected too much or too frequently, the lack of muscle use can cause your muscle tissue to waste away. 

“It can cause other surrounding muscles in the face to compensate for the loss of muscles and the loss of action of the muscles that are being frozen by the Botox,” He said. “That can actually cause fine lines and signs of aging in those surrounding muscles as well.”

Despite their benefits, retinoids could lead to more sun-sensitive skin when used for anti-aging purposes, according to He. Retinoids could also cause blotches and irritation to your skin that could lead to eczema. Both UV-sensitive skin and eczema have been linked to premature aging of the skin. This can particularly be an issue for younger folks, whose skin is often already sensitive, He said. If you are thinking about taking a retinoid, speak with a skin care expert about whether these products are right for you. 

Something else to keep in mind: E-cigarettes and vaping can damage your skin and cause premature aging when you inhale toxic chemicals and free radicals are produced. Free radicals are oxygen molecules that become over-worked and imbalanced, which can lead to fine lines and wrinkles in the skin. 

“There’s been an untick in vaping amongst Gen-Zers, and those who vape are going to age faster than their non-vaping counterparts,” said Farrell. 

Lastly, despite all the skin care products marketed to Gen-Zers on social media platforms, your skin routine does not have to be expensive or complex, said Davis. In fact, a more modest approach is the way to go. 

“A comprehensive skin care regimen can include four to five steps and still provide maximum benefit,” she said. Using a sunscreen, retinol, and vitamin C product are three steps to include. “If one were to add in a cleanser and moisturizer, their routine would be complete.”


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