"If a girl says she's 20, and looks 16, she's
— Chris Rock
, "No Sex (in the Champagne Room)" note
Some characters are Older Than They Look
(much older, even
). Some, meanwhile, are younger. Maybe they're robots
, some other kind of artificial construct
, or just unhealthy. Maybe there's a superficial reason, such as a curse
. Or they're just overdeveloped. One way or another, this character may look like an adult(/teenager/older child), and even act and talk like one
, but chronologically speaking, they aren't.
Other times there may be a young adult with the appearance of a middle aged or even older man. Gray hair, a prematurely receding hairline, generally cause someone to look older. Certain types of facial hair also can make a younger man seem older.
Subtropes include Older Alter Ego
, a magical ability for younger kids to temporarily turn into adults and back, and Plot-Relevant Age-Up
, the same permanently.
Similar, but not to be confused with Artistic Age
, where this is due to art rather than in-story causes. If, in live-action, their age is surprising to the viewer but not anyone in story, it's a bad side-effect of Dawson Casting
Many people will contest that this is a Truth in Television
Supertrope to Born as an Adult
. Compare Compulsory School Age
, Mistaken Age
, Age-Inappropriate Dress
. Contrast Animation Anatomy Aging
. Compare and contrast Really Seventeen Years Old
(where someone is younger than they claim
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Anime and Manga
- Magneto is old enough to have lived through the holocaust, but has been de-aged and re-aged back into his 20s/30s. You'd never expect he and Xavier are the same age.
- Played for Laughs with Reptil in Avengers Academy, who temporarily ended up trapped in the body of his 30-year old self from the future. Komodo from the Avengers Initiative flirted with him on the assumption that he was an adult, and was absolutely horrified to discover she had been macking on a teenage boy. She immediately stormed out after claiming that he couldn't prove anything in court.
- Bart Allen (aka Impulse, then Kid Flash, then The Flash) in The DCU aged unusually quickly for the first few years of his life due to an exceptionally fast metabolism. The reverse is true for his Evil Twin Inertia, who took over 50 years to develop to the physical age of 15.
- As indeed is Superboy (as in the Superman clone introduced in Return of Superman), who's presumably even now well under ten comic years old, but looks at least fifteen. He was supposed to look even older, as his growth was being accelerated to the point where he could replace the original Superman, but he was broken out before he was ready.
- Victor Mancha of Runaways. He's a cyborg implanted with false memories. He was built as a teenager, so he's approximately 15 years younger than he looks. Molly even comments that she forgot that he's younger than her.
- Representative Joshua Freeh, of Transmetropolitan, is the product of a "Bastard Farm" given a wetware upgrade so he has full higher brain functions, created so the Big Bad would have a running mate with a clean-slate past.
Spider Jerusalem: Josh Freeh was the perfect running mate. He had no skeletons in his closet. Hell, he's only two years old!
- Both Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel, thanks to Older Alter Ego. Lampshaded in Formerly Known as the Justice League. At one point Captain Marvel had to break up with the teenaged superhero Stargirl because even though they were the same age, it just looked really creepy.
- It used to be even more extreme; Billy and Mary had the exact same superhero forms when they were pre-teens. Though Comic-Book Time makes this a very slow process, they're narrowing the age gap with their alter-egos. Given Black Adam's example, eventually they'll be Older Than They Look, as their Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel forms don't age at all.
- Like Billy and Mary, there's Colin Wilkes from Streets of Gotham. With the Venom in his sytem activated, he's as brawny as Bane and looks completely like an adult thug. He's a hero and around the same age as Damian Wayne, who he (sort-of) befriends.
- Snowbird of Alpha Flight was a fully grown woman at the age of six.
- Prime of Ultraforce is really a thirteen-year-old boy who takes on an adult appearance when powered up. Makes for some raised eyebrows when he proudly announces that the thirteen-year-old girl he has a crush on is his girlfriend.
- Magik of New Mutants fame spent half her life in a realm of Limbo outside the normal timestream. As a result, she was a teenager despite technically being born 6 years prior to her abduction, much to the X-Men's shock, since seconds passed on Earth for them.
- Jenny Quantum of The Authority looks about 14 or 15. Actually, she was born at the turn of the century - she was just really sick of being treated like the little kid she was, and had the reality-warping power to change that.
- The children of Mother of Champions, of the DC Comics Chinese superhero team The Great Ten, age 10 years every day. Between this, the fact they all have Super Strength, and the fact Mother can produce a new batch every three days, they are considered cannon fodder of the finest kind.
- Eisenstein, a minor-ish character in Preacher, has "looked over a hundred" since he was 12.
- Marvel Comics hero Rage was about 14 when he started his superhero career, but looked like he was at least 30 due to his gargantuan size and muscles. Prior to getting his powers he looked like a regular kid. In any case, this gives him the distinction of being the youngest Avenger ever - so young that when the team discovered his true age they sent him to the New Warriors and told him to come back when he was 18.
- When Helen goes on her first date with Atomic Robo in The Deadly Art of Science, she does not react well to the discovery that Robo is only seven years old.
Robo: Intellectually I'm twenty to twenty-five. It's not that bad.
Robo: Well, sometimes it helps to step away from a problem.
Helen: And sometimes you realize your boyfriend is eight years old.
Robo: Seven. But, hey! Now "robot" isn't the weirdest part of our relationship.
- Master Splinter, the aged mentor of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is younger than you'd think. Rats generally live less than three years (five is exceptional, and seven is the record). When the series begins (about fifteen years after his mutation) he'd still be less than twenty years old.
- Taken even farther in the IDW comics, where the story begins only 18 months after their mutation, making them all less than 5-7 years old at the most. Justified in that Splinter, and the Turtles to a lesser extent, have some memories of a past life.
- Skaar, The Hulk's son. Looks like an adult in Hulk form, a teenager when in 'human' form, but in actual fact is only a couple of years old, thanks in part to his mother being an alien with an accelerated aging rate. His twin, Hiro-Kala, looks like a young teen.
- The Stepford Cuckoos are clones of Emma Frost who had been aged up from birth to their teens in order to infiltrate the X-Men. They're only a few years old chronologically.
- Legacy of ch'Rihan: Morgan t'Thavrau is 49, which is barely middle-aged for the Vulcan-descended Romulans, but she looks a lot older from having spent 21 years working in field and vineyard.
- Professor Crescendo from The Dear Sweetie Belle Continuity is in his mid-thirties but has a gray mane due to a misfired spell and glasses from corrective surgery that keep Sweetie from realizing at first that he is her father.
- We have this in Kill la Kill AU, with Shinseiji, who was "born" a toddler, however, she is, as her name suggests, a newborn. Justified in that she is an Artificial Human created by Nui to be her little sister from her parents' DNA.
- Shinobi Of The High Seas: Byron suspects that based on her immature attitude that Jewelry Bonney is really a young girl using her devil fruit powers to look older.
- The concept to Jack starring Robin Williams was about a boy that ages four times faster than normal, with him having the body of a 40 year old with the mental age of 10.
- A deleted scene in Napoleon Dynamite has the mustachioed transfer student Pedro exploit this to buy a lottery ticket. Peluca, the short film on which Napoleon Dynamite is based, has this scene as part of its central plot. The lottery scratcher gives the characters just enough money to buy a wig for another character who had shaved his head.
- The Island has clones that appear to be various ages, from thirties up to their sixties. It turns out that oldest ones are no more than four years old.
- One horror example exists in Warlock, in which the title character curses the female protagonist to age 10 or 20 years for each night that passes. She remarks to Redfern, "This is worse than death", to which he replies, "That's what he had in mind."
- Seeing Double had clones of S Club and various other celebrities that were artificially aged so they could take their places, but kept in a childlike state.
- In Star Wars:
- The clones are altered to grow twice as fast in order to be battle-ready sooner. The Star Wars Expanded Universe features a Jedi being confused because she senses a child in the Force, but sees a grown man.
- In Episode III, the soon-to-be-Emperor Palpatine ages to about 110 in a matter of seconds (he was really 63). The Expanded Universe came up with the idea that it was his normal appearance (after years of Dark Side corruption), but he was disguised in some way, and the stress of his battle with Windu broke that beyond repair.
- Padme in The Phantom Menace is a fourteen year old queen wears a lot of ceremonial makeup and elaborate costumes, apparently to disguise the fact that she's so young. Even still, she's actually the elected leader, so the people must be well aware of her age.
- There was a point in the Clone Wars where some Separatists were cloning Nikto, presumably to supplement the droids. The facility was discovered and went under seige, and the cloners decided to respond by bumping up the growth rate to get as many new adults as possible. This didn't work out too well in the end.
- The titular character of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, who starts life looking as an old man and dies as a baby, so as a child looks like a small eighty-year-old. He even says to another character early in the movie, "Seven. But I look a lot olda."
- J F Sebastian in Blade Runner is in his twenties, but he looks around fifty due to an aging disease (most likely Werner's syndrome). The Replicants are created as young adults and have a four year lifespan.
- Tom Hanks's character in Big is a child in the body of an adult, thanks to a magic wishing machine.
- In Catch Me If You Can, 16-year-old Frank Abagnale is played by 28-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio. This is justified by the fact that the real-life Abagnale also looked much older than he was, and in fact, his deceptive looks were a key part of how he was able to pull off his scams. After Agent Hanratty encounters him for the first time, he profiles Frank as someone being in his mid-to-late twenties.
- Martin Brundle in The Fly II grows to physical adulthood by age 5 due to the fly DNA he inherited from his late father Seth Brundle. Then his condition takes a turn for the much, much worse.
- Maruti in The Return of Hanuman grows to be a primary school student by the age of 3... months.
- Animal House: "I'm only thirteen!"
- Hilariously, this was semi-unintentional on the part of the creators. They originally wanted her to be 16, but thought the censors would not allow (off-screen) sex between a minor and a college student. They decided to make her 13, expecting just such an objection so that they could propose a revised age of 16 as a reasonable compromise. To their surprise, the censors didn't complain at all.
- Ree's mother in Winter's Bone. She's probably in her late 30's but looks more like 60.
- Trainspotting: Mark Renton meets Diane in a club, then goes to her house where they have sex. Immediately after the act she kicks him out of her room and he sleeps on a sofa. In the morning it's revealed that she's underage. She even threatens to report him for sex with a minor if he doesn't see her again.
- Principal Milliken from Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman looks fifty but is thirty-one due to the stress of dealing with Alvin for so long.
- Peter Selleck (Rob Riggle) from The Goods, who is stated to be 10, despite looking like he's in his forties.
- X-Men: First Class: Erik Lehnsherr is around the same age as Charles Xavier (late twenties/early thirties), but the former appears considerably older because Michael Fassbender looks older than his actual age (he has a lot of lines on his face) while the baby-faced James McAvoy looks younger despite there being a only two-year age gap between the two actors. This can be Handwaved as Erik ageing prematurely because of the trauma he experienced during World War II.
- Jackson Browne's song "Cocaine" has a line that goes "Son, it says here you're 27, but that's impossible. You look like you could be 45," due to the protagonist's cocaine use.
- Implied in Tanya Tucker's "I Believe The South Is Gonna Rise Again" with the line about her sharecropper father who "died a tired old man at 44."
- Older Than Feudalism: The Greco-Roman goddess Athena/Minerva was born fully grown (most images depict her as being about in her mid-twenties at the time of her birth). It's very telling that this is one of the less incredible aspects of her birth story. She's doesn't age, so it quickly turned into a case of Older Than They Look.
- When Artemis was born, her mother Leto gave her some nectar and ambrosia (the food of the gods), which caused her to grow up within a day. As such she was able to serve as midwife for the birth of her twin brother, Apollo.
- The Táin Bó Cúailnge of Irish Mythology suggests that Cu Chulainn matured quite a bit earlier than most people do - he apparently wooed Emer and took up training with Scáthach at age six.
- Adventures in Odyssey had an episode where two boys get stuck inside a computer and meet a boy named Gregory who despite looking like an old man of 70 was in fact 12 due to having his life sucked away by playing computer games. The adventure (along with Gregory) was just a virtual reality simulation.
- MAG ISA: Kyle looks old for a 23 year old. Must be all those damn steroids...
- Todd from Todd Allison & the Petunia Violet. In the first chapter Petunia tries to guess his age and ends up seven years off.
- Molly the Peanut Butter Monster in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! has yet to celebrate her first birthday. Her recently generated sister Galatea is even younger.
- One could make a case for Gordito from The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, who looks older than his actual age of 12 due to his extreme Badass Mustache.
- Page 78 TwoKinds shows this trope with a whole race. Flora, one of the main characters, who looks and acts as if she is in her early twenties, is only 11 years old. However, her kind only DO live into their early twenties. Late twenties at best.
- Dr. Schtein from String Theory is apparently only 34 despite the lines on his face and his completely white hair.
- In Nectar of the Gods, Bacchus' father, Apollo, is MUCH younger than he looks, he has the goatee, the benjamin franklin hairdo, the old man glasses, the wrinkles and near white hair to make it almost obvious he's in his mid 70s.... he's actually 46.
- Kit from Feywinds has this. she's a fox turned girl and fox age doesn't equal human age so she looks early 20's but is actually not anywhere near that. she acts accordingly though with a childish but quirky personality and can be very naive. She looks like an adult, age wise is a child but has the mentality of a girl in her mid to late teens, albeit a clueless one. Though the author of the comic has said she likes us to not think about how old the character actually is.
- Cole Richards from Pv P looks like he's in his mid-40s, but he states in an early strip that he's about to turn 30. Moreover, he was college roommates with Brent, Robbie and Jase, who look about right for being in their late 20s.
- The Cyantian Chronicles: All of Exotica Genoworks' creations suffer from this since they are designed to mature to something like 12 to 15 in only 4 or 5 years.
- Spinnerette, there was a lot of surprise when "Evil Spinnerette" turned out to be just 16 years old, she looks like she should be in her late twenties at least. This acts as a point of contrast with "good" Spinny, a grad student who gets mistaken for a teenager.
- In Charactermaske, Favian is really 14 years old but looks anywhere from 65-80.
- The Whateley Universe does this:
- One of the school psychiatrists at the Whateley Academy is in his mid-thirties (or so, based on author descriptions) but looks like Dr. Bellows from "I Dream of Jeannie", so he appears to be 55 or 60. One protagonist has even researched the psychiatrist, and has lampshaded this.
- Fifteen-year-old Chou Lee (Bladedancer) apparently looks like Zhang Ziyi.
- Belpheobe is a clone of Jobe's ideal girlfriend with the memories of Belphegor. Pheobe is then legally entered as Jobe and Belphegors' daughter, with Jobe the mother (as he is turning into his ideal drow girlfriend. Pheobe is therefore "0 going on 16"
- Robert "Bobby" Jacks, Adam Dodd, and Nicole Husher from Survival of the Fittest are all teenagers, yet they look like young adults. Bobby is a large, muscular, professional boxer who has spent almost his entire life devoted to the sport, causing him to look much older; Dodd had always looked a bit older than he actually was, but the horrors of the first game added a great deal to that; Nicole, meanwhile, developed very quickly due to an early onset of puberty, causing her to appear to be a few years older than she actually is, with predictable results when she reached middle school-age.
- In Super Stories, Veldron's robot duplicates are always built to look older and less attractive than him. This is because, when given the opportunity to make a false image, most people would assume the opposite.
- In Darwin's Soldiers, most Pelvanida experiments are much younger than they look. This is justified because they were grown with accelerated growth chambers.
- Neku looks and acts like a 17 year old but is 6.
- Snow looks and acts like a twenty year old but is the same age as Neku.
- Chase looks and acts like a twelve year old. He is two years old.
- John "Johnny" Smith is an extreme case. He looks and acts like a thirty four year old. He is seven.
- Sabre 9 looks and acts like a thirty one year old. He is eight.
- Ice looks and acts like like a thirty two year old. He is the same age as Sabre 9.
- Walter "Wally" O'Pierce looks and acts like a thirty four year old. He is ten.
- Now much Older Than They Look, The Nostalgia Critic looked about fifteen years older than he actually was when he first started his reviews, thanks to shitty lighting and baggy clothes.
- From the same website, The Rap Critic was born in 1992 and is the youngest of the That Guy with the Glasses crew, but could easily pass for his mid-20s or early 30s.
- The creepypasta Jeff The Killer? He's only thirteen!
- Eve of Dragomirs Diary was born a baby, but within months grew to the size of a teenager. This may have something to do with the story being set in a video game - or it could be something far more sinister.
- Chakona Space: Shadowcrest is only 12 or 13 when she is critically wounded. After being "processed", she is once again intact but she looks like she's 20.
- Leanna and most other artificially-grown slaves wind up suffering this trope for a while.
- This is unclear in the case of Test Subject 001892300012 or "Lucy", as she claims to be three, although, that could have something more or less to do with the fact that, being an escaped test subject, three might highest number she might be able to count to or, alternatively, if she is an artificial lifeform, then she might actually be three, as in having existed for about three years.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Mayor Mare, the supposedly elderly grey-maned mayor of Ponyville, is revealed to have naturally pink hair that she dyes grey. It's implied she does that to give herself an air of professionalism, and that her age is far more ambiguous than one might think.
- Lloyd in the later episodes of Ninjago looks to be in his late teens or early twenties. He's actually about seven to ten, thanks to a magical powder called Tomorrow's Tea giving him a Plot-Relevant Age-Up.
- Ms. Censordoll from Moral Orel looks like she could easily be in her seventies or eighties, but when someone calls her a senior citizen she shows her ID and it turns out she just turned forty. It's heavily implied and confirmed by Word of God that this and her obsession with eggs comes from her mother having her ovaries removed at a young age.
- Hans Moleman on The Simpsons: even though he looks like an old man, he confessed during the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on the Season 4 episode "Duffless" that he's really 31 years old (and looks like an old man due to his alcoholism). This has become a one-off joke, because in later episodes, Hans Moleman is usually seen at the Springfield Retirement Home.
- In one of the new episodes though there's an even older Moleman who he's the son of. They even participate in a father-son wheelebarrow race at the home. It may be possible he's just visiting him all the time. Maybe?
- Also Homer Simpson is younger than he looks, according to the Season 4 episode "Lisa the Beauty Queen". While at a carnival, Homer tries his luck at the "Guess Your Age and Weight" booth. The mind reader guesses that Homer is 53 years old and 420 pounds. Homer then laughs at him and reveals that he's 36 years old (though later episodes have him as 38 or 39, depending) and 239 pounds, which disturbs the mind reader.
- Before Flanderization, Mr. Burns was only 81, but looked older because he went bald during his college years, according to the Season 2 episode "Simpson and Delilah". The later episodes have Mr. Burns as somewhere in the 100s ("Homer the Smithers" confirmed that he was 104; "Goo Goo Gai Pan" had him as 109, with a driver's license that expired in 1909). That said, in "The Regina Monologues" and "Them, Robot" imply that Mr. Burns' age has four digits in it (in the former episode, his PIN number for his bank card is his age [PIN numbers are four digits long, for those who live in countries that don't have bank cards or AT Ms or have them in a different format than in America], and in "Them, Robot," Homer asks Mr. Burns how old he really is, and Mr. Burns says, "Well, it has four digits...").
- Thailog, of Gargoyles fame, being a clone who's been artificially aged, reached the end of Gargoyle adolescence after a mere nineteen weeks. Especially impressive, when you consider that Gargoyles live longer and age slower than humans as it is.
- In an episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show, "Fake Dad", a six-foot-tall, overweight convicted criminal with hairy arms and 5 O'Clock shadow, who calls himself Kowalski, is 10 years old.
- Maybe they measure age in dog years.
- Joseph Gribble in King of the Hill. He hit extreme growth-spurt puberty before turning 13, before Bobby gets a chance and he's older (despite being late-bloomer). He was given an adult menu at a restaurant and assumed of wanting a beer like the parents.
- Cotton Hill in his younger years after he married Tillie and around Hank's birth and childhood, even though he's around his mid 20's-early to mid 30's he still looks like an old man around 60 just with brown hair.
- In Galaxy Rangers, Shane Gooseman looks about 25, but the second-to-last episode reveals he is nineteen, meaning he was 17-18 as of the pilot episode. As he is also stated to be the "youngest" of the Super Soldier project that created him, the other Supretroopers can't be any older than thirty.
- Superboy in Young Justice, having the appearance and mentality of a sixteen year old, but is actually sixteen weeks old having been born in a test tube.
- Lampshaded after the Time Skip in the second season. When Wendy asks Conner how old he is, he truthfully responds by telling her he's six. After seeing her shocked reaction, he quickly corrects himself and tries to claim that he's actually twenty-two.
- Also Captain Marvel who is actually a ten year old kid (fifteen in season two) with his powers helping him to appear like an adult.
- Smurfette in The Smurfs, despite being an adult Smurf, is really only about a few years old, being a magically-created Smurf.
- Chlorhydris the witch in an episode of The Smurfs reveals in one episode that she was stood up at the altar by a young wizard twenty years back when they were attending a school for sorcerers. In the flashbacks of her years at the school she appears to have been in her twenties, which would imply she is at present in her early forties at least, but she appears to be more in her late fifties.
- DJ, Alejandro, Sierra, Leshawna and Trent from Total Drama Island look like adults in their late twenties-mid thirties, despite their real age being 16-18.
- In Revenge of the Island, Brick and Jo look older than their actual age of 16.
- The principal in Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet The Wolfman. Dave mistakes her for being over-fifty, when she's really only thirty. She still has her blonde hair though. Her (apparent) early aging is due to how stressful her job is; she's getting an early retirement.
- In the original 1985 ThunderCats, Lion-O appears 20, despite really only being about 10-11 originally. Thanks to a faulty cryosleep chamber, his aging wasn't as delayed as the other two young ThunderCats, WilyKit and WilyKat.
- In Pepper Ann, P.A. befriends Effie Shrug, a new student who is exceedingly intelligent and taller than she is. The two get along well, although the viewers learn that Effie can be quite threatening to get what she wants. She's something of a Social Darwinist. Pepper Ann invites her over to her house, Moose sees Effie and is immediately horrified. Effie reveals that she was previously an elementary school student. She'll be nine next month.
- Cassie from Bounty Hamster looks and sounds like she's in her late teens, but she's actually 13.
- Robot Girl Jenny of My Life as a Teenage Robot once had to spend an episode being demoted from high school to kindergarden because she's technically "only five years old," having been built five years ago, despite being designed as a teenager.
- Pinky and the Brain may look like adult mice, but their actual ages suggest otherwise. Take, for instance, this exchange from the Christmas episode:
The Brain: Now our only problem is that we need one billion Noodle Noggin dolls. To make all of them ourselves would take 137 years.
Pinky: Oh, well, we'd be pretty old by then, wouldn't we?
The Brain: Yes, I believe we'd be 139.
- Real-life mice generally are adults by 2 years old, though.
- Octus from Sym-Bionic Titan. Although he's able to take both the guise of a teenager and a middle-aged man, he was heavily implied to have been completed shortly before he, Lance and Ilana fled Galaluna..
- The Powerpuff Girls. They were born/created the age they are throughout the whole series and start kindergarten shortly after their "birth." As they're the same age throughout the whole show, they're probably less than one year old. The Rowdyruff Boys were also created (twice!) at the age they are, which makes them even younger although appearing to be kindergarten-aged boys as well.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Princess Azula and Ty Lee are both 14. While Ty Lee has an age appropriate personality she looks at least two years older, being rather physically mature. Azula looks young, especially when she's not wearing makeup, but her attitude and behavior makes her seem far older.
- There's a reason the Scooby-Doo gang is called "Meddling kids" so often. In the original franchise Velma was fifteen, Daphne sixteen, and the boys seventeen. Many viewers are surprised, thinking they're college aged. Many, if not most, future installments age them up.
Place information about specific people in the category below this one.
- In general, children who go into puberty at an early age can look older than they are, especially if those signs of puberty are visible, such as height and voice deepening (in both sexes), muscle development (in male children) and breast growth (in female children)
- Hard living in general can make you look older. Homeless people often look middle-aged in their late twenties, due to poor health practices and chronic stress. Back when it was common practice for women to have 10 or more kids while living on a fairly poor diet, they aged pretty fast too. And people who do very hard labour that's risky to your health, such as coal mining, often end up Younger Than They Look as well.
- Anyone born with progeria, a disease that causes rapid aging; sadly, sufferers never become As Old As They Look, rarely living past their teens. The disease was the basis for Jack, as seen above.
- Some drugs in Real Life can do this, too. Heroin addicts in their early 20's can easily appear 35-40 years old.
- True for most drugs. Substance abuse is notorious for rapidly accelerating the accumulation of cellular damage and decay we normally identify as "aging".
- This is the basis of the "Faces of Meth" campaign, which uses before and after photos to highlight just how much damage the drug can do. For an example, former America's Next Top Model contestant Jael Strauss is 28 in that second photo (and those two were only taken six years apart.)
- This is generally true for most people in extremely stressful jobs. Most American Presidents seem to age around a decade for each term—so if you get that second term, you can look forward to having aged twenty years in just eight. Just look at pictures of George W. Bush before and after his term. Look at pictures of Barack Obama before his term and during his term.
- Similarly, having children tends to age most men and (especially) women considerably. Many young-looking women who have children look quite a bit older when their child reaches his/her first birthday.
- Anorexia can cause this: the starvation causes muscle to waste away and skin to become looser, creating wrinkles. The lack of nutrients also thin the hair, making it look older. Marya Hornbacher talks about this in her memoir Wasted: in her late teens/early twenties, a barman guessed her age at thirty-six because the wrinkles made her look much older than she really was.
- Heavy smoking can also cause skin and hair to age by both drying them out and by restricting the amount of oxygen they get by constricting blood vessels with nicotine and by blocking oxygen transport with carbon monoxide. This makes hair brittle and likely to gray sooner, and it makes skin lose its elasticity, causing it to wrinkle early. (Plus its effects on how "young" you are on the inside!)
- It also makes your voice sound raspier and, thus, "older." Many 20-something year old women who are heavy smokers sound more like they're in their middle ages.
- The stress from playing a role in Military Command (i.e. sending hundreds of soldiers to their deaths) will age you majorly.
- It ages those involved psychologically - so their facial expression changes in regards to this, they adopt nasty little habits which are a trademark of old men, and so on. But military men are bodily very fit, in many cases stronger and quicker than men of the same age or younger.
- Most college (and in some cases, high school) athletes tend to look at least 2-3 years older than they are. This is mainly because they are rather built, especially if they are a football player, and are often taller than the average male height (the average male height is 5'10'). For example, an 18-year-old freshman basketball player may look like he's around 20-21 years old.
- LeBron James is probably the best example, having looked to be in his 30s since his late teens when he started in the NBA. how many people look like this◊ at 19?
- In New Zealand, anyone who looks under 25 is asked for photo identification when purchasing alcohol or tobacco (restricted to ages 18 and over) to avert this trope and prevent retailers from getting themselves into trouble with the law.
- Same thing happens in the UK.
- Also quite common in the US.
- Men (and boys) can look considerably older depending on their hair. A naturally balding man tends to look older than they might actually be. Facial hair and facial hair style also can make a man or teenage boy look more aged. Combining the two can leave observers very unclear as to how old the man really is.
- Some believe that married men typically look older than they are. It may be due to their tendency to dress and act more conservatively than swinging singles. Others believe that it may be due to the settling down (and flabbiness) that comes with domestic life. Now being family men, they should no longer have an incentive to obsess over their looks that much, since they shouldn't be thinking about attracting other women anyway. Also, having a wife and family is a full time job and they no longer have the downtime they had as singles. However, others believe that after a certain age, single men tend to look older than they are due to the fact that they don't have as much of a social network as married men do. Some hypothesize that unlike married men, who have a wife and family to keep them in check, older single men tend to hold on to habits of their youth longer than they should, such as partying, eating what they want, womanizing, refusing to slow down, and various forms of freewheeling that may be considered less healthy at their age.
- Heavy alcohol use can rapidly age someone, particularly as their body begins to shut down. It's not uncommon for those who have died from chronic alcohol abuse to look twice their age.
- Real Housewife Kim Zolciak looks like a 40 year old who's aged well. She's was actually born in 1978 making her 34 (at the time of this writing) This is made even worse that her oldest child was born in 1997 making her 16.
- Fellow troper and musician Dartxker Bitsby (real name Jovontae Pride) is only 14, yet could pass for 19.
- Mila Kunis got her first major role playing Jackie on That '70s Show when she was just 14, even though everyone auditioning was required to be 18 or older. When Mila was asked if she was 18, she said that she would be, but didn't specify when. Eventually she was found out, but was still considered the best fit for the part.
- There's a 1979 WPIX (CW affiliate in New York City) clip on YouTube of their newscast where one of the anchors is a man named Bill Jorgensen. Watch the clip and try to guess how old he is. He's 52 in the clip, which would make him around 81-82 right now (Jorgensen's still alive as far as I know)
- Hollywood lore has it that three-time Oscar winner Walter Brennan's career took off after he lost his teeth in a fight and found that without them he could play old men from around the 1930s onwards - when he was only in his '30s!
- Florence Owens Thompson, the woman in this famous photograph◊ by Dorothea Lange was thirty-two when it was taken. It showed the devastating effects of The Great Depression more than words possibly could.
- The famous picture of the Afghan girl◊ from National Geographic has many people wondering if she's really a "girl". She was 12 years old when the picture was taken, but because of the stress of being a refugee, she looks to be in her mid-20s. And when the photographer (Steve McCurry) met her again, this is how she looked at 35 years of age.
- In 1970, the much-older-looking Mary Ann Vecchio was, in fact, a 14-year-old runaway. Jon Filo's photograph of her crying over Jeffry Miller, who'd been killed in the Kent State shootings, won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1971.
- David Gregory of MSNBC appears as of writing (2012) to be in his early 50s, mostly because of his silvery hair and slightly aged face. He was born in 1970.
- Nobody could tell how old Michael Jackson was in his later years, mainly because of his vitiligo that made his skin white (he looks much whiter in the photos because of the camera lightning). When he was young, however (Thriller and before), he looked a bit old for his age, particularly when he was a kid, looking to be around 11 or 12 when he was just 8 or 9. Oh, and look at this photo.◊ Take a good look at it. He was not yet twenty.
- Michael Gross (Steven Keaton from Family Ties) shares the same birthdate with Meredith Baxter (Elyse), but while Baxter looked her age when she was cast for the series, Gross looked about 5-10 years older largely thanks to his thinning, prematurely gray hair.
- At the age of 15, Traci Lords claimed to be 20, used a fake ID, and started appearing in porn magazines and films. Authorities only caught on three years later. Some rumors claim that she tipped off the authorities herself to force the issue so she could get out of the business without having her work follow her. Since she only did one film after she was 18, everything else is illegal in the US.
- Hitler was said to have aged rapidly in appearance during the final years of World War II, after having held uncannily the same appearance from the mid-1920s to 1943.
- This is Antonin Artaud, surrealist, not yet fifty years old◊.
- Metal singer Ivan Moody, vocalist for Five Finger Death Punch. Take a good long look at this photo.◊ And this one.◊ He's only 31. He looks at least 15 years older than that. This is especially strange because he was 27 when his band's first album released, and looked that age.
- Ritchie Valens practically defines this trope. He died when he was just 17 years old. Seriously, look at this dude.◊ Who the heck looks like that at 17?!! Twice that age, maybe.
- R. Lee Ermey looked to be a mid-50s gunnery sergeant in Full Metal Jacket. He was only 42 when the film was shot. His look has changed incredibly little since then.
- Tommy Lee Jones. He falls squarely into the trope due to his signature craggy facial skin which appears to make him look older than he is. To put this in perspective, the ages of the four leads in Space Cowboys: Clint Eastwood (70 during the film's shooting), James Garner (72), Donald Sutherland (65), and Tommy Lee Jones (54). Jones is 11 years younger than Sutherland and nearly 20 to the others, yet he is portrayed as being around the same age as his co-stars in a film where a running gag is that many of their peers from their training days decades ago are all dead from old age (and Jones was fifty-four!).
- John Carpenter was only 51 when this picture was taken◊. He looks some 20 years older than that.
- Both Sherman Hemsley and John Amos got away with playing the husbands to women twenty years older than them and the father to sons played by actors only ten years their junior in the Norman Lear produced sitcoms The Jeffersons and Good Times. Hemsley was 36 when he started playing the role and John Amos 35, yet both were playing someone roughly 50. It helped that in both cases they were prematurely bald.
- Sir Patrick Stewart started going bald when he was nineteen and was Younger Than He Looked for much of his life.* Nowadays he's Older Than He Looks.
- Zara is a 13 year old girl from England, yet she looks she's pushing 60. That's because she has a rare condition know as Congenital Generalized Lipodistrophy, which causes the supporting fatty tissue under the skin to crumble while the skin continues to grow, making her appear older.
- Ryan Clark, the lead singer for the heavy metal band Demon Hunter. The music video for his band's 'Infected' was shot in 2002, when he was just 23. But due to the large beard he had and his lack of hair (and he's a little fat), he looked to be around 10 years older or so. He's now at the age of 32 and looks that age, though.
- Whitman Mayo was only 40 when he portrayed Grady Wilson on Sanford and Son.
- Steve Martin's hair began to grey at an early age. Because of this, even in his twenties, he looked like he was much older.
- George Clooney had a full head of grey hair before he hit the half-century age in 2011.
- Maria Teresa "Mariettina" Goretti had the bad luck of being a Huge Schoolgirl without the "school" part, looking at least 14/15 years old when she was just 12. Due to this, she caught the eye of the local Jerk Ass Delinquent Alessandro Serenelli (19-20 at that time), who first started making lewd jokes around her, then became a Crazy Jealous Guy... and stabbed poor Maria to death when she refused him for the last time.
- Leon Botha, who had the aforementioned genetic disease Progeria, lived to be 26, but looked like he was over 100 years old. Sadly, he was the oldest person on record to have had the disease.
- Some of the people on Intervention who are hard into drugs may be in their early 20s, but look like they're an average 30 something.
- Stephanie Cole has specialized in playing women much older than she is. She was the elderly Mrs. Featherstone in Open All Hours in her 40s, and the retiree Diana Trent from Waiting for God when she was in her 50s (opposite Graham Crowden, who was born 20 years earlier).
- John Thaw would have been between 33 and 37 when he played Jack Regan in The Sweeney, but looks well into his forties- partly reinforced by the way he acts as well. Thaw himself apparently said "I was born looking 50".
- Saoirse Ronan is 18, but looks like she's in her twenties. This is especially strange since only three years ago, she played a fourteen year old in The Lovely Bones, and looked that age.
- Dioxin poisoning causes serious acne problems, which causes rapid aging. Victor Yushchenko, then in his late 40s, underwent this during a bitter campaign for presidency of the Ukraine, as seen here◊
- Seth Rogen, especially in his earlier films, looked like he could easily be in his mid-thirties, though he was born in 1982 and would have been in his twenties. Rogen is pretty well aware of his "old" looks. He occasionally jokes about it in interviews. This actually caused problems when casting Superbad, since originally Rogen was going to play one of the main characters, a high school senior. Because of looking way older than he was (25 at the time), the role went to Jonah Hill. Hill actually is only a year younger than Rogen, but is a case of Older Than They Look.
- Bill Hader in some of his films (namely Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall) looks considerably older than he really is.
- Jason Segel. All of Apatow's "stock actors" (except for Jonah Hill, who actually looks younger than he is) look older than they really are.
- While Carrie Fisher looks about her age now, she looked and sounded like she was in her late-30's in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, even though she was only in her mid-20's when those films were shot.
- When jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker died at age 34 due to heavy substance abuse, the coroner mistakenly estimated his age at between 50-60 years old.
- This photo◊ of George Orwell had been taken when he was 30 years old. He could have been anywhere from 45 to 60 by looks only. 7 years later◊ he still looked like a grandpa. 12 years later◊ and suffering from tuberculosis, he was still unchanged, so it could not be blamed on poor living conditions only.
- Frank Oz, famous for voicing Yoda from Star Wars, Grover from Sesame Street, and Miss Piggy from The Muppets among others, is in his 60s, but looks like he's in his 70s.
- He's always looked about 10 years older than his real age. Here he is at 24◊ (Oz is on the far left), and he was around 33 when this◊ was taken.
- Many of the WWE wrestlers. For example, Wade Barrett is only 31. He looks more like he's in his early-40's. Stephanie McMahon, after her voice went through a radical change in 2002-2003 (most likely due to all the screaming she was doing before then), definitely sounded much older than she really was.
- Shane Harper from Good Luck Charlie looks like he's around 20-22 years old. He's 18. Made even worse by the fact that he was 16 in the early episodes of the show, and still looked the same. How many people really look like this at 16?
- To put it in layman's terms: In season 1 of the show, he was 16, playing a 17-year-old character who looked like he was 20.
- George Michael seemed to have aged rapidly since he hit his 40s.
- Don Rickles unfortunately looks like he's in his 80s, but he always looked unmistakably old for his age until at most 20 years ago. Which is kind of funny, since he still possesses the voice of a 20-something guy from Boston.
- Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear has consistently looked at least ten years older than his real age for some time now. It's a little hard to believe he's only nine years older than Richard Hammond.
- Robin Williams looks his age, if not a little younger, but he seemed to have aged badly as a young man. He was in his late 20s when he was on Mork and Mindy, but looked like he was in his 40s. Williams was into drugs and heavy drinking during his early career, which could have contributed to this.
- Max von Sydow has looked about 75 since the day he was born. When he did The Exorcist, he was 44, looked absolutely ancient. Now he is 82, and looks rather spritely.
- To be fair, Dick Smith did a very good age makeup on von Sydow for The Exorcist; you just don't notice it because of the flashier work on Linda Blair. Look at the center-right image here and you'll have a better idea of what he actually looked like then.
- He was in his TWENTIES when he played Antonius Block in The Seventh Seal. See it and you won't believe it.
- Ernie Pyle, American journalist and World War II soldier was 44 when he died. When he died he looked like he was in his 60s or 70s.
- Austin St. John (a.k.a. The Red Ranger) was only 18 years old when he first started playing Jason Lee Scott. He looked more like he was about 20-22. It didn't help that his character was supposed to be 15. He actually seemed age appropriate a good amount of the time, but his build made him seem older. Still, it's a little hard to believe he was the youngest of the original six, as Jason David Frank, who was 19 at the time, looked fairly age appropriate.
- Jason Narvy (Skull) was only 19 when filming began. He looked to be around 23 or so, as did Paul Schrier (Bulk), who was 23 for real.
- Dutch footballer Arjen Robben looks at least a decade older◊ than his real age (28).
- Wilford Brimley for years was a shining example of this trope. To wit: He was only 50 years old when he was cast in Cocoon, but was able to portray a convincing elderly man with just his hair whitened. And this◊ is how he looked when he was in The Waltons. He was in his early 40s at the time.
- It's amazing how many people are shocked to discover that swimsuit model Kate Upton hit it big when she wasn't even 21 (though she is now - she was born in 1992).
- Miley Cyrus was once mistaken for a 40-year-old woman by a bystander who offered her face cream, despite being 18 years old at the time.
- Unusually, Hayden Panettiere (born in 1989) qualifies for both this and Older Than They Look, as a number of people thought she was older than her actual age while she was on Heroes.
- Michael Douglas, in his mid-50s, looked about ten years older, because he seemed to be trying desperately to hide how old he was(the new, young wife might have had something to do with that), now, in his late-60s, he seems to have made peace with his age, and actually looks younger because of it.
- Billy Bob Thornton has always looked at least a few years older than he really is, even more so since the late-90s, when he lost a lot of weight, causing him to look like he weighs about fifty pounds.
- Topol was only in his mid-thirties when he Played Tevye in the film version of Fiddler on the Roof. But he was able to convincingly play a 45 year old Russian farmer who'd had a rough life. See pic here.
- NBA player Greg Oden is 24 but according to pictures, he looks to be in his 30s.
- Fergie actually used to look younger than she really was (she was in her early 30s when her debut album was being promoted, but looked like she was around 24-25). But in recent years, she seemed to have aged rapidly, and she is now in her mid-30s but looks like she's in her 40s. (This can be chalked up to a drug addiction past and once she got sober, she started looking younger. Her aging now can be chalked up to plastic surgery and pregnancy.)
- Fergie as an example goes back to her Kids Incorporated days; particularly the last two seasons she was a cast member. She looks roughly early high-school age when she was actually 13-14 those seasons.
- Alice Cooper now looks really good for being in his 60s, but he used to look far older than he really was. This is him in his high school yearbook,◊ looking to be around his mid-20s. By the time he actually did hit his 20s, he looked to be somewhere in his 30s. He continued to look older than he really was until he hit his 40s, when he aged considerably well and slowly converted to being Older Than He Looks.
- Florence Welch is 26 as of 2012 and looks like this.
- Christian Weston Chandler, creator of Sonichu, looks about fifty when he's only thirty.
- Vladimir Illych Lenin got his trademark figure which he held for life when he was just 25◊ and his photos from the late 40s to early 50s actually show him less aged. This is why a Russian journalist and historian said: "It would be hard for modern people to imagine Lenin in his younger years".
- Taylor Momsen, due to her Goth appearance looked like she was at least 20. At 19 she looks closer to that. Though pre-Goth she looked her age like on the first season of Gossip Girl.
- Alisha Dean was a 13-year old girl who became famous for abusing statutory rape laws. She had a Facebook page where she claimed to be 19 and divorced, and completely looked the part. She had a habit of seducing older men through her Facebook page, arranging meetings with them to have sex, and then turning them in. She sent THREE men to jail in this manner, reportedly just for fun. Her father did nothing to stop her, instead agreeing that "these laws are there to prevent this from happening". Never mind that the girl even had a fake ID with her fake age, meaning that anyone who actually tried to verify her age could still be duped.
- Randy Blythe from Lamb Of God is only in his early 40s but looks like he could be 5-10 years older.
- Similarly, Lamb of God bassist John Campbell◊ is also in his early forties, but due to his hair going white very early, he looks considerably older than that - mid-fifties, at least.
- June Shannon of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo fame, she is 32 but she looks 10-20 years older than that.
- Courtney Stodden looks like she's in her mid-twenties at the youngest. She participated in the Miss Teen Washington pageant in 2010...at age 16. Squick comes into play when you take into account that she married Doug Hutchison in 2011. They may look like an age-appropriate couple, but she was 16 when they married...and he was 51.
- Malcolm Mcdowell for most of his career post 1980. In A Clockwork Orange, he was 28 when he did the role but he did look reasonably young at the time. By the late 1980s, his hair went white overnight and he lost his young Alex looks. And he started getting a considerable number of "elderly man" roles despite the fact that he only just turned 70 in 2012. Mr. Mcdowell has confessed that he has no one to fault but himself.
- This◊ is a photo of Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward. He was born in July 1982. He's only thirty.
- Scarlett Johansson managed to convincingly play a character in her early-to-mid-twenties in Lost in Translation despite being 17. She looks her age now, though.
- Another Judd Apatow related example. Steve Bannos, the actor who played Mr. Kowchevski on Freaks and Geeks was 39 years old at the time, even though he looked like he was at least 45.
- Sophie Turner is still high school aged but appears to look like she's just hit her 20's. Many people still can't believe she's the same age as her character on Game of Thrones.
- Actually she's two years older than her character with Sansa being 14 at the start of season 3 with Turner being almost 17 at the time of the seasons premiere
- Lindsay Lohan ... oh my. Only seven years have actually passed between this photo◊ and this one, yet it looks more like sevenTEEN years had passed.
- Savannah Hudson, who appeared on season 8 of America's Got Talent, looks to be in her late teens despite being only thirteen years old. She looks to be a similar age in her group's music video, despite being eleven years old at the time.
- J. Elvis Weinstein, one of the original cast members of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (he was Dr. Erhardt and Tom Servo's first puppeteer), was only seventeen when the show first started on KTMA, and he was only fifteen when he first got into comedy. According to certain interviews with him, many people didn't suspect that he was really so young and were surprised when he revealed his age to them. He does look more like his actual age now, however.
- Larry David has looked like an old man since the 90s, due to having balding white hair and glasses when he was in his 40s. He was only 52 when he started doing Curb Your Enthusiasm, but looked about 70. His friend Richard Lewis is older than him by a few days, as is Bob Einstein (who plays Marty Funkhauser) (four years older than him), yet both look younger. His age is played for laughs in the show: he's retired because of wealth not age, he has a wife who looks much younger than him, he always dresses like he did in his 20s (wearing sneakers), and his father is still alive.
- Lorde, depending on her make-up and how she's dressed, often looks about 30 (she was born in 1996). There was a picture going around that was of her and the 34-year-old Beyoncé where they looked the same age. Furthermore, a face swap made Beyoncé with Lorde's face made her look like she was really old.
- Hulk Hogan started going bald at a pretty young age and was completely bald by his mid-30s so he's looked pretty old for a while. He looks his age now, though.
- Ric Flair is 65 and looks about 10 years older. He aged rapidly in the 2000s to the point that he looks like a completely different person than he did in the 90s. Compare this image to this one.◊
- Sue Lyon, best known for her role as the titular Lolita in Stanley Kubrick's film adaption, was only 14 at the time of shooting, but looked like she was in her late teens because she was unusually curvaceous for her age. She was actually cast because of her older appearance, perhaps to lessen the squeamish reaction audiences would have to a middle aged man lusting after his stepdaughter. But this also lessened the whole point of the novel and movie (that Humbert Humbert is a pervert covering his own tracks). Lolita's age is never given in the film and several reviewers at the time thought Dolores was "a full 17", not barely 14 (and she was even younger in the book).
- John Linnell of They Might Be Giants has looked to be in his forties ever since the band began in 1982 (he was 23).
- Ann Miller started dancing professionally in nightclubs when she was 13, passing as 18. Here◊ she is in a poster for the Marx Brothers film Room Service, made when she was 14.
- Louis Marshall "Grandpa" Jones looked his age by the time he was cast in Hee Haw, but he took that stage name and performed in the guise of an elderly person when he was only in his twenties.
- Michael Stevens of Vsauce is 28 as of 2014, but due to his Badass Beard, thinning hair and high intelligence, you'd think he wascloser to 38.
- Daffney Unger, without her trademark Goth makeup looks about 50 despite only being 39 as of 2014. Her first stint in TNA had her impersonating Sarah Palin, and she did a damn fine job of it.
- Camren Bicondova, aka Catwoman on Gotham, is only fifteen, but looks older. Of course, the illusion is dispelled once she opens her mouth.