By Sacha Obaid
It can often seem as if society holds double standards when it comes to attractiveness as people age. Generally speaking, men are more likely to be considered attractive by society as they get older. Many people say that gray hair makes men look distinguished, while it makes women appear “old.”
Is this unfair? Definitely! But while society may perceive the way men and women age in a superficial way, there are actually some genuine physical and emotional differences in how the sexes experience aging.
How Aging Affects the Face
One key element of a person’s appearance—especially in the facial area—is the collagen content of skin. Collagen is what gives skin its elasticity, helping to prevent wrinkles and other signs of aging. In general, men have more collagen in their skin than women do, and they lose collagen at a constant rate as they age. Women not only have less collagen overall, but they also lose it at a faster rate for several years after menopause. Men’s skin also tends to be thicker as a result of higher testosterone levels, which protects it from visible signs of aging.
While these differences are consistent and measurable, they don’t necessarily contribute to noticeable differences in appearance between men and women as they age. One reason for this is that women are much more likely to protect their skin with sunscreen, and spend fewer hours in the sun than men.
Both sexes are affected by facial aging, but for different reasons. This may be why men are increasingly likely to undergo certain kinds of cosmetic surgery. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons®, more men are undergoing eyelid lifts and facelifts, as well as non-invasive procedures such as chemical peels.
The Chest and Abdominal Areas
There are some very big differences in how men’s and women’s bodies age in the chest and abdominal areas. The most obvious difference is that pregnancy and nursing can lead to significant changes in the way a woman’s body looks. Pregnancy causes abdominal skin to stretch as the baby develops, and that skin does not always return to its pre-pregnancy state after the baby’s birth. Nursing can lead to similar changes in the shape and appearance of the breasts.
This is one major reason why men and women often feel differently about their bodies after they become parents and why women are more likely to undergo plastic surgery. Women whose bodies change drastically after pregnancy may choose, for example, to undergo mommy makeovers to tighten their tummies and reshape their breasts.
Surprisingly, women aren’t the only ones who experience changes in their breast tissue during their lives. Boys and men can experience a hormone imbalance that gives rise to gynecomastia, which causes breast enlargement. While this can often be treated with medication, the only permanent solution for some people is liposuction or surgical removal of the enlarged breast tissue.
Men are also more likely than women to deposit fat in the belly area as they get older. While this is largely due to differences in hormone levels, genetics also plays a role in determining where the body stores fat.
Hips, Thighs, and Buttocks
While for men the belly is the area where fat is mostly likely to be stored, for women it’s the hips, thighs, and buttocks. However, this changes somewhat after menopause, when most women also begin to store fat in the belly area.
Another major difference that’s most noticeable in this part of the body is the presence of cellulite, which is caused by a normal feature of the skin’s anatomy that is present in both men and women. However, while 90% of women have cellulite, only 10% of men do. This is because women have thinner skin in the thigh and buttock regions and are more likely to deposit fat in these areas. These two factors combined mean that cellulite is much more common in women.
Personal and Emotional Changes
Just as there are differences between the ways men and women age physically, there are emotional and social differences too. One notable difference is how men and women feel about their appearances as they get older.
Despite this, women actually fare better than men when it comes to the emotional acceptance of aging. Aside from the concerns over appearance, women are more likely than men to accept and cope with the changes that age brings to the body and are more likely to feel content or fulfilled as they grow older. A study found that women are more likely than men to use emotional coping skills to deal with adverse situations, which may be one reason why women are less likely than men to suffer from depression in old age.
Similarities Between Men and Women as They Age
While there are definite differences between how women and men physically age, the sexes share plenty of similarities too. For example, both men and women tend to gain weight as they get older, and—male-pattern baldness aside—both lose hair as they age. As well as this, both men and women also lose muscle mass as the years pass, although men in general have more muscle mass to begin with.
Another similarity is that both men and women can benefit from a big self-esteem boost by taking advantage of cosmetic surgery procedures that minimize the outward signs of aging. For example, both of the sexes can benefit from procedures such as facelifts and eyelifts to rejuvenate their faces.
Look Good, Feel Good
So how does aging work, and is it different for men and women? While there are some important differences in the way women and men age and experience aging, it’s still a fact of life that everyone has to face sooner or later. No matter how you look, feeling good about yourself as you age definitely makes this aspect of life more positive and more fulfilling.