One of our greatest collective aspirations is achieving the appearance of eternal youth. Our depleted wallets, brimming bathroom cabinets and Botoxed foreheads are just a few testaments to that — the global anti-aging market is predicted to exceed more than $271 billion within the next five years.
Hidden beneath this tremendous enterprise, though, are a collection of people who would give just about anything to look a couple years older. This almost certainly sounds like a foolish endeavor to the legions of people who spend their weekends being injected with toxins until their wrinkles disappear, but as journalist Robbie Harms describes in a 2018 personal essay for the New York Times, looking significantly younger than you actually are can result in bullying, disrespect in the workplace and even an inability to secure relationships:
“Kevin Phinney, 26, meanwhile, bore the baby-faced burden in another arena: dating apps. A girl he matched with asked if the pictures on his profile were taken recently, because, as she delicately put it, ‘You look like a child.’ Mr. Phinney changed up his pictures soon after.”
This, of course, is the plight of those who have a baby face.
Now, some would suggest that looking younger than you actually are is a blessing, since the inevitable aging process is bound to have less of an impact on you later in life. “While a baby face today may frustrate some guys, keep in mind that you’ll be very thankful for it down the line,” esthetician Gregory Dylan reiterates. “As the years go by, a young and fresh appearance is a big plus, and you’ll never get tired of hearing, ‘Wow! You look great for your age!’ So embrace your baby face, and keep it looking that way with regular skincare products and daily SPF.”
This is probably true, and Harms speaks with several people who have indeed learned to appreciate their baby face over the years. But for Harms, in the here and now, waiting for that reward is a ruthless undertaking:
“What are we supposed to do when a co-worker mistakes us for an intern or shames us for wearing a tie into the office to appear older? When a client asks where our boss is? When our IDs are scrutinized and ages debated?
“What are we supposed to do until it pays off in 20 years?”
This is a difficult question to answer, since the world is much more focused on looking younger than older. In the conclusion of his essay, Harms presents one simple piece of advice for those who also have a baby face: “Don’t shave your beard.”
Dylan also suggests growing out your beard, as do a whole thread full of people on Reddit. He emphasizes the importance of keeping it neat and well-groomed, though, otherwise you might end up looking even younger.
Beyond that — and especially if growing a beard is out of the question — what else can someone with a baby face do to make themselves appear a little more mature? Getting a new haircut could help. “I would avoid a boyish side part and surfer-or-skater-style hair,” says hairdresser Linda Mariano. “Maybe try a bit more of the fade-style cuts with a longer top to create a narrow look on the sides and more length to the face. Maybe also darken your hair color and brows a bit.” If you prefer longer hair, however, she suggests going for more of a grunge look, pushing your hair back with a paste.
On Quora, meanwhile, one baby face sufferer suggests losing a couple pounds, which can reduce the youthful impact of having chubby cheeks and help you cultivate a chiseled, more mature-looking jawline. They add that maintaining good posture is important for the same reason, since standing tall can give the illusion of being more mature, and if you have adult acne, addressing that with the help of a dermatologist can make you look older, too. One other thing you can do is ensure that your clothes fit properly, since garments that are too big can make you look a lot smaller and just generally less mature.
Since standing out in the sun until you develop wrinkles is not a good idea, that’s about the extent of what you can do: Get a haircut, invest in a gym membership and snag some new clothes. At least you can probably afford it — after all, you’re not blowing all your cash on anti-aging products are you?