Science Says Smiling Makes You Look Older

Elise Solé
Science says to stop smiling if you want to look your age. (Photo: Trunk Archive)

Science has unlocked the easiest and cheapest antiaging secret: Stop smiling.

According to a May 2017 study published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, people who smile are perceived as two years older than their actual age. On the contrary, those who look surprised appear younger.

“There’s no doubt that when people smile, they look happy and joyful, both of which are associated with youth,” study co-author Melvyn Goodale, director of the Brain and Mind Institute at Western University in Ontario, Canada, tells Yahoo Beauty. “But that assumption has colored the previous research on smiling.”

In the study, Goodale and his team showed participants images of three facial expressions: smiling, neutral, and surprised, and then asked them to gauge the age of each face. “The striking thing was that when we asked participants afterward about their perceptions, they erroneously recalled that they had identified smiling faces as the youngest ones,” Goodale said in a press release. “They were completely blind to the fact they had ‘aged’ the happy-looking faces. Their perceptions and their beliefs were polar opposites.”

Kim Kardashian rarely smiles in photos to avoid wrinkles. (Photo: Getty Images)

Why does looking happy speed up time, at least in people’s minds? Blame “crow’s feet,” those wrinkles that appear in the thin skin surrounding the eye, typically when people smile, due to fewer oil glands in that area, facial expressions, and the natural aging process.

On the flip side, surprised facial expressions smooth out any fine lines. “When people look surprised, their brows may furrow, but that’s not what people are noticing,” Goodale tells Yahoo Beauty. “They’re staring into your eyes and the surrounding wrinkles. And the harder you smile, the more lines you’ll have around the eyes.”

Kim Kardashian already knows this. In 2014, she shared a rare photo of herself smiling and captioned it on Instagram, “See I do smile… even laugh on occasion. Not too often though because it causes wrinkles.”


And Tess Christian, a 50-year-old-woman with impossibly smooth skin, took some fairly extreme measures to fight fine lines: In 2015, she told the Daily Mail that her decision to not smile since the age of 10 stopped her from forming a single wrinkle.

But Diane von Furstenberg has a different — and healthier — perspective, writing in her 2014 memoir The Woman I Wanted To Be: “In my older face, I see my life. Every wrinkle, every smile line, every age spot. … My face reflects the wind and sun and rain and dust from the trips I’ve taken. My face carries all my memories. Why should I erase them?”

We couldn’t agree more. The good news? Another study found that people who smile are viewed as funnier, more spontaneous, and more authentic than their more stone-faced counterparts.

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