Like England choking during a Euros match, ageing is one of those things that you pray won’t happen but come to recognise as an inevitability. That doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to stem the tide, though.
Oh sure, we all know where things are heading (south, mainly) but how quickly you get there is entirely up to you. And considering a facelift’s not the most appealing option (have you seen Mickey Rourke lately?), a man needs a slightly more nuanced approach to getting one over on Old Father Time.
So here are the six most obvious signs of ageing and how you can, if not stop them completely, then at least start applying the brakes.
1. Age Spots
Caused by the sun’s UV rays, these little clusters of melanin (the pigment in your skin) are a dead giveaway of your age. But if you think you don’t need to worry about them until later in life, think again.
“Sometimes these dark patches can take up to 25 years to develop, so the dark spots that you start to see in your forties might actually have been caused much earlier in your life,” says Georgie Cleeve, founder of skincare brand OSKIA, whose Renaissance Brightlight Serum was designed to tackle the problem of uneven pigmentation.
Numerous products exist to help fade the spots (OSKIA’s being an example), but they often take months of continued use to reap benefits and results are variable, which is why prevention is always better than cure – slathering on SPF daily is your best bet of keeping liver spots at bay.
Since hands are a prime location for dark spots (and wearing gloves year-round isn’t exactly a practical solution), think about incorporating a hand cream like Ultrasun’s Anti-Pigmentation Hand Cream SPF30 into your daily grooming routine.
And if you’re a city slicker, you’ll need extra protection too. Research published recently in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology has demonstrated a link between traffic-related pollution and dark spots. “The research suggests that chronic inflammation caused by traffic air pollution contributes to unwanted pigmentation,” says dermatologist Dr Mervyn Patterson from the Woodford Medical.
As well as using a sunscreen, he recommends a diet rich in omega oil and antioxidants to support the skin’s own defence mechanisms. Interestingly, he also suggests laying off abrasive face scrubs which, by removing a surface layer of skin, could actually reduce your skin’s natural defence against pollution and sun damage.
2. Saggy Jowls
The most common cause of jowls is the combined effect of gravity and a marked deterioration in collagen – the skin’s natural scaffolding – as we get older. But if you want to avoid a face only a bloodhound could love, you need to start looking after your teeth too.
“Once you start losing your teeth, the surrounding bone shrinks and with no substructure to hold things in place skin will start to sag and look wrinkly,” warns Dr Uchenna Okoye, clinical director of the London Smiling Dental Group.
So now’s the time to invest in an electric toothbrush like Braun’s Oral–B 7000, which features a special ‘massage’ setting to ensure good gum health – something critical to tooth retention. “Using a manual brush is a bit like sweeping the carpet with a pan and brush instead of a Hoover,” she says.
3. Greying Hair
According to a survey published by Mintel, British men fear going grey even more than they fear baldness or being overweight. But while dyeing hair might seem like the obvious remedy, for men it’s fraught with difficulty. Plus, an all-over dye-job rarely looks convincing – just look at Paul McCartney and Silvio Berlusconi.
The solution is a slightly more nuanced approach. “If you’re disguising grey hairs with dye, don’t apply it to the whole head as this can be more ageing than leaving it natural,” warns hairdresser Josh Wood. Instead, he recommends using a fine comb to subtly blend colour into areas of the hair that have lost their colour. “This produces a more natural look.”
Alternatively, you could just embrace your silver fox status like Clooney, Schofield and, tellingly, Wood himself. Besides, with the recent trend for guys actually wanting to have grey hair, who’s to say you’re not 23 years young anyway?
Owing to its thickness and increased collagen content, men’s skin tends to age more slowly than women’s. But once a man hits his forties, and the ageing process really kicks in, the signs can be a lot more noticeable.
Your biggest enemies when it comes to skin ageing are the sun, smoking and stress, but sugar can also make your skin lose its elasticity and plumpness. According to nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar, cutting back on the sweet stuff is key to minimising fine lines and wrinkles.
Why? Because of its adverse effect on collagen. “It’s all down to a process called glycation,” says Glenville. “Glycation is the bonding between sugar and protein in the body and it makes proteins like collagen and elastin become less effective. This can result in a loss of elasticity of the skin, encouraging the formation of wrinkles.”
But it’s not just the doughnuts you should ration if you want to stay young-looking. According to dermatologist Dr Nicholas Lowe, cutting back on the booze will help too. “If you drink more than moderate amounts of alcohol on a very regular basis, the constant dilating of the facial blood vessels that alcohol induces puts a lot of pressure on the collagen and elastin in the dermis,” he warns. So think twice about that one for the road.
5. Thinning Hair
It may be associated with guys in the autumn of their years, but some form of hair loss affects up to 40 per cent of men under 30, and although men have resorted to a raft of topical treatments to stem a thinning thatch (including everything from scalp massages to having a cow lick your pate), very few are medically proven to work and/or readily accessible.
There are some, though – like Regaine’s Scalp Foam – which will give your bonce a fighting chance. It contains a drug called minoxidil, which has been shown to slow the progression of hereditary hair loss (and encourage hair growth) in some men. It’s the only medically proven treatment available from UK pharmacists so far, but considering treatment needs to be continued indefinitely, you’ll need patience and a deep pocket.
An easier – and cheaper – solution might be to stop trying to cover up your hair loss. “The best cut for thinning hair is the classic short back and sides with a bit of texture added to the top,” says Daniel Davies, general manager of Pall Mall Barbers in London.
“By clippering the thicker areas, balance is added and the focus is taken off the thinning top. The overall result is a lot less ageing.”
Regaine Foam For Men 3 Month Supply, available at Lloyds Pharmacy, priced £45.99.
6. Unsightly Ear/Nose Hair
Science may have unlocked the secrets of the human genome and shot Tim Peake into earth’s orbit, but it still hasn’t unravelled the mystery of why ear and nasal hair develop a will of their own once a man enters his fourth decade.
The best theory the guys in white coats can come up with is that it’s caused by hormonal changes that affect hair growth rate. Yet while errant ear, nose and eyebrow hairs are one of the most obvious signs of the ageing process in men, they’re thankfully one of the easiest to deal with too.
Wahl’s Triple Head Personal Trimmer is perfect for dealing with unwanted fluff, wherever it may sprout. If, however, it looks like Fellani’s living in your nostrils you might want to consider Nad’s Nose Wax, which removes hairs from the root. Yes, it’s painful, but the results last longer than with trimming and there’s less chance of itchy regrowth, too. Besides, you know what they say: no pain, no gain.