There’s a brutal truth in life that there are some things you just can’t control (public transport, the weather, England choking during a World Cup match) and some things you can. Though ageing may seem like another inevitability, it is possible to take steps to stem the tide.
We all know where things are heading (south, mainly), but how quickly you get there is entirely up to you. And considering a facelift is not the most appealing option (have you seen Mickey Rourke lately?), a man needs a slightly more nuanced approach to getting one over on Father Time.
To that end, here are the six most obvious signs of ageing and how you can, if not stop them altogether, then at least start applying the brakes.
Caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays, these little clusters of melanin (the pigment in your skin) are a dead giveaway of age. Though they mostly appear later in life, it’s important to pre-empt them now.
“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.
Numerous products exist to help fade the spots, but they often take months of continued use to reap any benefits and the results are variable. It goes without saying that prevention is always better than cure, so slathering on an SPF daily is your best bet for keeping these blemishes at bay.
Since hands are a prime location for dark spots (and wearing gloves year-round isn’t exactly a practical solution), extend this sun protection scheme to your mitts. And if you’re a city slicker, you’ll need an extra shield. Research published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology showed a link between traffic-related pollution and dark spots.
As well as using sunscreen, Dr Mervyn Patterson from the Woodford Medical clinic recommends “a diet rich in omega oil and antioxidants to support the skin’s defence mechanisms”. He also warns against using overly abrasive face scrubs which, by removing a surface layer of skin, could reduce your skin’s natural defence against pollution and sun damage.
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 that resembles an elderly bloodhound, you need to start looking after your teeth beyond whitening.
“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.
Now’s the time to invest in an electric toothbrush, ideally one that features a ‘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 vacuum,” adds Dr Okoye.
According to a survey published by Mintel, British men fear going grey even more than they fear baldness or being overweight. 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.
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,” says Redken global colour creative director 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 embrace your silver fox status like Messrs Clooney and Goldblum. Besides, with the recent hair trend for guys wanting to have grey, 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 kicks in, the signs can be a lot more noticeable.
The biggest ravages of youth 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.
“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 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 looking young. According to dermatologist Dr Nick 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 having one for the road.
It may be associated with guys in the autumn of their years, but male pattern baldness affects up to 40 per cent of men under 30. Although men have resorted to a raft of topical treatments to stem a thinning thatch (including everything from scalp massages to having an actual cow lick your pate, as one doctor in Columbia suggested), very few are medically proven to work or are readily accessible.
There are some formulations that will give your bonce a fighting chance. Those that contain a drug called minoxidil, in particular, have been shown to slow the progression of hereditary hair loss and encourage growth in some men. The only downside is that treatment needs to be continued indefinitely, so 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.”
Unsightly Ear And Nose Hair
Science may have unlocked the secrets of the human genome, cloned sheep and shot Tim Peake into earth’s orbit, but it still hasn’t unravelled the mystery of why ear and nasal hair develops a will of its own once a man enters his third 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. While errant ear, nose and eyebrow sprouts are one of the most visible signs of the ageing process in men, they’re thankfully one of the easiest to deal with.
A detail trimmer is perfect for dealing with unwanted fluff, wherever it may appear. If, however, it looks like Leo Sayer is living in your nostrils, you might want to consider waxing, 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.