How Your Emotions Can Secretly Age You

Our emotions and expressions are inextricably linked. See if your go-to expressions could be aging you beyond your years.

Posted on | By Doris Day, MD, MA

"You look well rested, have you been on vacation? What a beautiful smile! You look happy, excited, tired, sad…."

When we're told we look good, it's almost always in relation to an emotion, and there are good reasons as to why that's the case. In general, most happy people look and feel younger than those who are chronically stressed, angry or sad. Of course, no one lives in only one emotional space and fortunately many of us are able to balance a range of emotions. However, your "go-to" emotion, as often seen in your "go-to" facial expression can be aging you beyond your years. Understanding what that is can impact not only how you look, but also how you feel.

Studies show that emotions and facial expressions are intimately related and what many of my patients tell me is just "being expressive" could be aging them more than they know. The good news is there is a lot you can do about it, and the best news is that the rejuvenating effects can be nearly instant.

Start with a simple lesson in facial anatomy: Many of the muscles of the face are connected to the skin in order to help make expressions to eat, talk, open and close your eyes, and to express your emotions. Making an expression can sometimes create an emotion as real as if you had the emotion before making the expression. This means that if you do something as simple as change your expression you might be able to affect your emotion. Try it now: Smile. Don't you feel just a little bit happier? Now frown. Don't you feel a little mad or less happy?

People fight against the idea that looking better makes you feel better, as if it's all vanity to want to look your best. Our skin and our appearance serve important emotional purposes for us. Most of the times it's appropriate but sometimes you can get carried away with your expressions to the point where those emotions can secretly be aging your skin and you may being to develop unnecessary lines and wrinkles to show for it.

If you hold in feelings instead of expressing them, you may be prone to grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw. This may lead to growth of those jaw muscles (some of the same muscles you use for chewing) and that can make your face more square and bottom-heavy, which may make you look older. We naturally lose volume in the midface so the combination of that loss plus the heavier lower face is very aging.

Or, do you frown or furrow your brows when you're "thinking" or as your first facial expression when someone talks to you? This can end up making a permanent crease between your eyes, starting as young as when you're in your late 20s and usually getting deeper over time. This is my favorite area for corrective treatment with an injectable treatment because it can soften those lines and gently remind you to relax every time you try to make that expression but feel the resistance against it. Studies show that treatment in this area makes people identify less with negative emotions, potentially making them happier overall. Some studies have suggested that injecting Botox in that same area may work as a treatment for depression.

One more thought: Are you a "drama queen?" Do you rub your eyes in disbelief, squint when things are not clear, cry over even the slightest of sad movies? You may be more likely to have under-eye circles and crow's feet or smile lines. Just being aware of your "emotional type" can help you soften the exaggeration of expression that's aging you without affecting your personality or joy, quite the contrary, it could enhance your happiness and keep you looking your youngest, most beautiful best.

The most important place to start is by recognizing your emotional trend and consciously working to smile more, frown less. This is a simple step to start with, but more powerful than any cosmetic treatment you can do. The most beautiful thing you can wear is a smile!

Article written by Doris Day, MD, MA
Author: Forget the Facelift