Skip to content

Health Mistakes That "Make You Look Older"

Avoid these common aging mistakes.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

No one wants to look older than we should. But some of us are doing things that age us prematurely every day, even some things that are considered necessary or harmless. These are some of the most common mistakes that make you look older, including some revelations from new studies. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Smoking Marijuana

A small plant of cannabis in the hands of an old woman.

Think smoking pot is totally harmless? It might not be so kind to your internal clock. A new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence followed a set of people from age 13 to age 30, tracking their health and self-reported marijuana use. The scientists found that people who regularly smoked marijuana had higher epigenetic aging—aging on a cellular level—even after accounting for other demographic factors. 


Contracting COVID

Sick woman on couch

Of course, many of us contracted COVID-19 before knowing how to prevent it, or even after taking all precautions. But if you still consider COVID as harmless as the flu, think again before throwing away your face masks and skipping that booster shot: A new study from Imperial College London has found that being hospitalized with a case of COVID may age the brain as much as 20 years—the equivalent of 10 IQ points—and people who were mildly afflicted may also be affected. If you tend to act your age, that's bad news for your looks.


Not Getting Adequate Sleep

womany sleepy leaning on coffee table

Scientists at UCLA found that just one night of bad sleep actually makes older adults' cells age faster. During sleep, the body repairs DNA. According to a study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, women who reported getting frequent, good quality sleep experienced "significantly lower intrinsic skin aging" than women who got poor sleep. 


Eating Added Sugar

Coffee and Sugar Main Picture

"Findings from research studies suggest that a diet containing lots of sugar or other refined carbohydrates can accelerate aging," says the American Academy of Dermatology. Sugar creates advanced glycation endproducts (or AGEs), which bind to proteins in our skin (collagen and elastin) that keep it looking young, damaging them and blocking the body's efforts at repair.


Staring At Screens

Mature man working on laptop while sitting at his working place in office.

You could be prematurely aging yourself right now. Scientists say that getting too much exposure to blue light, the kind emitted from phones and computer screens, may accelerate aging. A 2019 study published in Aging and Mechanisms of Disease found that blue light can damage cells in the brain and eyes. To avoid this, the researchers recommend wearing blue light glasses, and limiting screen time. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
Filed Under