Having a Little Work Done… Or Not

How far will you go to look good?  Are you able to venture into the world bare-faced with only a little lip balm, your hair proudly untouched by dyes, straightening gels, or hairspray?  Or maybe you colour your hair? Wear make-up? Invest in expensive skin care products, serums, night creams, and maybe a monthly facial? Or maybe you’ve had a little work done, as they say? A shot or two of “dermal fillers” or Botox every few months? A little laser work, some “resurfacing?” If we lined up all the women over the age of fifty according to how much effort they make to look good, where would you fit on the “beauty intervention continuum?”

I started thinking about this a week or so ago after reading a post on Alyson Walsh’s blog That’s Not My Age. Back to Base: The Best Foundations for Older Skin  features a shot of older model Tanya Drouginska, followed by beauty journalist Vicci Bentley’s discussion of favourite foundations, concealers, and the brushes to apply them. Good information, I thought. And just as interesting were the reader comments. They ran the gamut from criticism of Ms. Drouginska for looking overly made-up, to praise for her beauty. From comments that older women should wear less foundation or none at all, to one offer to recommend a good botox “gal” to other interested readers. Huh. We over-50s sure run the gamut when it comes to opinions on “beauty intervention” don’t we?

Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, both lovely at almost 81.    source

Just to be perfectly clear, I think I’m somewhere in the middle of the continuum. I say “yes” to hair dye, not to mention highlights and low lights, and smoothing, de-frizzing product. Although I am trying to go a bit more natural these days, in that I’m swearing off the blow dryer (somewhat) and the straightening iron and letting my curls have a bit more freedom.

Helen Mirren feeling good about being 70.   source

I say “hell, yes” to make-up.  Although, I have abandoned foundation in favour of a light tinted moisturiser with SPF. In fact I just visited my buddy Katie at the Laura Mercier counter at Nordstrom the other day, for some ideas to freshen up my make-up for spring. I may share some of her ideas in a post at a later date. Once I’ve mastered the techniques, that is.

Charlotte Rampling comfortable in her own skin at 70. source

I also say, “oui, bien sûr” to investing in good skin care. Quality moisturisers  (although not necessarily the most expensive) for my dry and sensitive skin, good sunscreens, as well as an exfoliating and a hydrating masque that I can use at home. And I generally get a facial twice a year. So, maybe I’m a little more than in the middle of the beauty intervention continuum, a bit more on the pro-intervention side. I’ve been doing all of these “interventions” for years, and I’m pretty happy with the state of my skin as I approach my sixtieth birthday. But I do draw the line at anything more invasive than some great creams and a good massage from my esthetician.

Meryl Streep rocking the red carpet at 66   source

I don’t think that drawing the line where I choose to draw it means I’m any less vain than a woman my age who does step over that line. Into the world of dermal fillers, Botox, and surgery. Maybe it just means I’m less pressured to look young. With less riding on staving off the wrinkles and folds that come with age. Or maybe it just means I’m more fearful of the consequences of stepping over that line. Fearful of what would follow if I decided to “have a little work done.”

My personal fashion inspiration Ines de La Fressange, stunning at 58. source

When I was researching this post a few days ago, I approached Hubby where he was working in the garden. “I have a question for you, ” I said. “What would you say if I came to you and said that I was unhappy with the way I looked and I intended to have some minor plastic surgery done?” He looked surprised. Really surprised. “Strictly hypothetical,” I assured him. “Well,” he stalled. “I think I’d say, ‘Why would you?’ followed by ‘Why would you take the risk?'” Hmmm. I might have preferred his saying “Why would you, you fabulously beautiful creature?” … but this is my Hubby we’re talking about.

Later, we talked about what he meant by “risk.” Physical complications, risk of infection, of course. But also emotional and psychological complications. And it’s funny because his thoughts pretty much mirrored my own, what I had already decided. We talked about slippery slope. The idea that once started on the snipping and tweaking, would you not be hard-pressed to stop? We talked about the risk of procedures gone awry. I mean, we’ve all seen the post-surgical photos of people who don’t look at all like their former lovely (and a little bit lined) selves anymore.

Then my research lead me to the website Skin Tour written by cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Brandith Irwin which gives you the lowdown on all kinds of cosmetic products and procedures for all kinds of aging issues. I took the “Anti-Aging Tour”… where you click on a part of your face and see a chart with possible procedures, risks, and approximate costs. For those lines over the lips, the site suggests that “there is no one method that is effective” and recommends “a little filler, a little Botox, and some laser work” to “reduce and improve them.” Risks are low for many treatments, if the provider is “experienced.” But, for instance, with Botox treatments, a “poor injector” can result in skin “bumpiness,” “facial asymmetries or chewing problems.” Lasers, peels and other “resurfacing” treatments can result in “scarring and white areas that do not match your skin tone.” Not to mention the cost, and the fact that these procedures have to be done every few months. And even if you avoid the possible complications, and after the pain and swelling and bruising abates… might it be like that ad for Lays potato chips: “Bet you can’t eat just one?” What scientists call “hedonic hyperphagia,” except you become obsessed with looking young instead of eating snack foods, and you find you can’t stop? Slippery slope indeed.

So. I’m not tempted to go there… not tempted to have a little work done. Even though according to this article in the Washington Post it’s become as “routine as ‘eating kale and going to spin class'” Really? Okay. But I’m not in the public eye. I’m not even in front of a class anymore, now that I’m retired. I don’t have to apply for a job at age (almost) sixty. I’m not judged daily by the media according to how young, or old, I look. And I don’t know what it’s like to be in the position of someone who feels that pressure to look younger than they are. Okay, okay… I concede it could be argued that I do try to look younger than I am by colouring my hair. But when it comes to my face, as many older women are increasingly saying, I feel that I’ve earned my crow’s feet and laugh lines. I kind of like them. I think it makes me look more interesting. Like I know stuff. And have been places, and seen things. I aspire to be like the women in the photos above. Who look as if they’ve lived a life. And still look wonderful.

So, I guess we all have our own version of how much is too much intervention when it comes to looking good. Me. Well, I’ve spilled the beans about where I stand. I’m not comfortable with “having a little work done”… on the outside at least. I’m busy enough trying to refashion myself on the inside. Retirement will do that to you.
Maybe I’ll write about that. But later… though.
Right now I want to hear what you have to say about this issue. Where do you fit on the “beauty intervention continuum?” How do you feel about a little filler, a little Botox?


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39 thoughts on “Having a Little Work Done… Or Not”

  1. I'm probably on the lesser-intervention end of the continuum. I like minimal makeup that looks reasonably natural. I do color my hair (and have done so since my twenties), but that's less about not wanting to go gray than having a very drab natural base color. I do get IPL laser treatments once a year or so, mostly to fade some large pigmented lesions (what my grandmother called "liver spots") on my face. So far I've not been tempted by anything that requires needles or scalpels. Skin care, SPF…yes to both daily. Facials…maybe once every couple of years if we're vacationing somewhere with a spa. I also use prescription Retin A, which probably helps.

    1. I'm with you, Sue. Hair and make-up, along with good skin care is simply looking after yourself, as far as I'm concerned. Not changing yourself, which is what I think many "procedures" do. I do admit to not being a minimalist when it comes to eye make-up. I love to play with eye shadows and liners, ever since I was in my twenties. Although I've backed off as I've grown older… more neutral colours, less liner. More age appropriate, I think. Although I know that many women hate the phrase "age appropriate."

  2. Hi Sue, like une femme above, I'm a minimalist where make up is concerned – Nars tinted moisturizer, bit of blush, lipstick, mascara if I can be bothered. I never know what to do with eye make up – perhaps a visit to Nordstroms is in order? I spend more money and time on skin care – not over-the-top, though, you understand. I like Avene, rosewater, Indeed Labs. I get a facial about once a year.

    HowEVER – my eyes are also drooping big time and I confess to wondering about doing something. But at the end of the day, I think I'd be too scared that something would go wrong!

    1. I'd be worried about that too, Patricia. Or that all of a sudden I wouldn't look like myself anymore. I keep thinking of Kenny Rogers, or Renee Zellweger, whose plastic surgery makes them look like a different person.

  3. I had my upper eyelids done at age 60 for cosmetic reasons. It was a fairly simple procedure with minimal bruising and a quick recovery. No regrets there. Now I find myself in an age range where friends are getting the same surgery for obstructed vision rather than cosmetic reasons. — And it is covered by insurance!

  4. Yes to hair colour, makeup, nice clothes, keeping an awareness of and interest in fashion though not following every trend. But I draw the line at surgical interventions, too scared something would go wrong and you'd be forever left with a terrible reminder of your vanity. Also feel it's a slippery slope like home improvements one bit shows up the rest and you have to keep going so not for me. I do find it amazing that in a short time these interventions have become so easily accessible and affordable though not necessarily properly regulated. Alarming the number of young girls having botox as a preventative measure. There are going to be a lot more scary looking old people in the future. There is just one little frown line that I see deepening and…Iris

    1. I like the home improvement analogy, Iris. One room leads to another because all of a sudden the un-done room looks old and tired. I think it's bad enough that women my age are starting to worry about looking old… can't imagine feeling like that in my twenties, or thirties, or even my forties. I do know a cure for the frown line though… take off your glasses. haha. Like the cure for a rattle in your car is to turn up the radio:)

  5. Pretty much exactly where you are, although over the last year I'm increasingly out and about with only blush, mascara, and lipstick, eschewing the tinted moisturiser — a huge departure for me. As well, as you know, I've let my grey grow in over the past six months, although I'm still having high and lowlights added. Wash and wear hair (no blow-dryer, some scrunching,, definitely product!) Thinking I might do a professional teeth-whitening again. Spa facial and pedi a few times a year. And running and yoga, both of which I think play a big part in the condition of my skin.
    I try not to be judgmental about those who make other choices — hard not to be, though, when one has daughters and granddaughters and thinks of modeling resistance to social pressures about cultural standards of beauty. . . #sorrynotreallysorry, #ageingfeminist

    1. Can I soften my comment just a bit by saying that I do realise I've been very fortunate in not having had to work in a field which perhaps puts more emphasis on a youthful appearance. . .

    2. Me too Frances… exercise, and being outdoors as much as possible (with sunscreen of course) as well as healthy eating….it all helps. And if it doesn't make us look better we sure feel better. I sometimes wonder if lifestyle has anything to do with aging for people who work in the media or film, working all hours of the day and night, weird schedules, all those parties must catch up to people. Smoking is a killer on the complexion too. Plus being surrounded by younger and younger colleagues might be hard.
      Of course standing in front of teenagers or young adults all day every day should make one feel old. Although I must say it didn't make me feel any older… or act it:)

  6. This is a very interesting subject Sue . I'm about the same as you – dye my hair , good creams but not expensive , tinted moisturiser , definition round the eyes & a natural lipstick . I haven't used soap on my face for at least thirty years , have not eaten meat since I was six years old – love veggies , love water ,never smoked , never liked sunbathing & most days I take a high dose vitamin C tablet in a drink ( supposed to be good for your skin ? Daren't stop now ! ) .I don't enjoy beauty treatments so no professional facials , manis or pedis etc . Perfume annoys me too , yes I know I'm odd . Most of my circle would never contemplate anything invasive , with the exception of a couple of friends who now look ' different ' but they are the ones who were never really comfortable in their own skin . However ,this is a small city in the countryside & there's no pressure to stay young . Most days I'm happy enough with how I look . I used to be told I resembled a dark haired Meryl Streep ??? But she is defying gravity around the chin & I'm not . I'm just glad to be here & , like Stu , hubbie is aghast at the thought of me going down that road
    Wendy in York

    1. I particularly don't like the thought of looking "different." Not like myself. Like you I'll continue to muddle along with my non-invasive tactics. I can't even imagine admitting to Stu that I spent $1000.00 on Botox. I was too afraid to take heavy drugs in the seventies when they were everywhere in my high school. Same with taking a risk with plastic surgery. Plus…it's too easy, isn't it? Now if I lose two pounds and tighten up my abs because I've worked hard on my fitness…that I can be proud of. But taking credit for how good you look when you've had some "work done"..that must be a hollow victory. Or that's what I'm going to keep telling myself.

  7. I, too, color and highlight my hair. I'm just not quite ready to go grey, although it would be so much easier! My make-up is minimal. Sadly, I know young women in their forties who are already doing the Botox thing. Not me, even as I creep closer to 60! I so enjoyed the Mary Tyler Moore clip! That was a great show and cast.

  8. No to Botox. No to surgery. No to heavy makeup.

    Yes to coloring the gray. Yes to light touch makeup. Yes to pretty heels — when I can.

    Yes to increasingly paying attention to healthy eating, sleep, and exercise.

    Yes to great sex!

    Yes to caffeine, though not to excess, and ditto on the red wine.

    There's my Rx for aging (beautifully) and gracefully.

    1. D.A. certainly sums it all up elegantly, doesn't she? Except I've sworn off heels. Unless they're very low. Sore feet makes me verry cranky.

  9. I have a few years on many of you…and I say yes to almost everything! I had my eyelids done a year ago and WOW. It was transformative. And, while they were doing it, they resurfaced the skin under my eyes and again, WOW. I couldn't be happier. But that is the only real surgery I've had, the rest is more cosmetic. I think that it is so individual and it's whatever makes you feel great. I know SO many women who have cosmetic fillers and none are scary looking and all are very aware of the limits!

    1. You're right, Libby. It's really up to us all to decide what "interventions" we're comfortable with…. how much, how often, and when. And how much we can afford as well.

  10. I truly enjoyed reading this post, Susan, as it has been something I've thought about more often as I grow older. I am certainly fine with coloring my hair, and using styling products. I have always been more into a more natural and minimal makeup choice, with the exception of a bright red lip. Thankfully when I was a teenager I heeded Glamour's words on not tanning and have worn sunscreen, or foundation with sunscreen pretty much my whole adult life. Now that I will be 47 this year I am so grateful for it! Exfoliation, hydrating masks and facials have served me well. I do not believe I will ever consider cosmetic surgery. I have seen too many scary results in pop culture. I prefer to have the face I was born with – one that is still recognizable in the mirror every day and to my children. I choose to think my face has a story to tell and I don't want to forget or erase it. Also, I enjoyed seeing the lovely ladies you featured who are truly aging gracefully.

    1. Thanks. I wondered if in expressing my own place on the "continuum" I would be offending those who think differently than I do. But I am convinced that getting "work done" would be too…shall we say…easy… to be good for me. I like to strive for my good results. That may sound self satisfied or judgemental..but isn't meant to be.

  11. Hi Susan! It is great post with a lot of right and wise questions!
    I am happy that there is no pressure at all "to get a little work done" for me. I couldn't say it would be so if I were in showbussines or corporate world. I think it would be the same but who knows? If you could get no job? People could be cruel
    Yes to skin care ,tinted spf 50 cream (from last summer,before it was just cream and a hint of loose powder),blusher and lipstick,hair dye (with my kind of hair ),mani (DIY) and pedi and all the natural things mentioned before
    I don't want to lose myself- I still want to be me ( not a "better me"),well groomed me,well dressed me,happy me…… I don't judge the opposite opinion. But,in this case it is very hard not to cross the line

    1. Thanks, Dottoressa. Like you I don't want to "lose myself." What a great way to express that sentiment. I see your wise and thoughtful comments on Mater's blog. So glad you dropped by here.

  12. I thank my mother for starting me on a daily skin care routine when I was about 12 or 13 and I've always continued variations of this. Apart from some sun damage done in my foolish teenage years trying to tan fair freckled skin, it's in reasonable shape for my age. I tint eyelashes and brows and I like to play with make up, but a little goes a long way on the fair skin, besides I'm too lazy to wear it every day.
    Speaking for myself only, any cosmetic intervention involving needles or scalpels, no, no and no. Partly it's fear. Any procedure can go wrong, even in the most competent hands. Partly it's uneasiness about a sort of Dorian Gray syndrome where someone gets stuck at an earlier age, out of kilter with their peers.
    I enjoy seeing people like Judi Dench, Maggie Smith etc. who can convey emotions with their faces, unlike others who may have more perfect features but are so wooden they are reduced to using only words. Beauty is complex, not static, it can be in a twinkle in the eye, a sweetness in the smile.
    I wonder about stunningly beautiful people though, whether their identity is so bound up with their beauty, perhaps it's harder for them to face the changes time brings.

    1. I worked in cosmetics at a department store in my twenties…between dropping out of university and returning to finish my degree. And ever since I have practiced good skin care. That hiatus has served me well. Love the "Dorian Grey" analogy!

  13. It's interesting that the two of us who have done some "tweaking" are slightly older than everyone else. Hmm, wonder what that means…I might add that even Gloria Steinem acknowledged getting her eyes done some years ago. Of course, it was done to improve her vision!

  14. I have Botox for the lines between my eyebrows so I don't look angry all the time. I also had filler in my cheeks, which also helps with the jowls. Thinking about filler around the lips, but hesitant. Oh, and I also have IPL once or twice a year so I can go without makeup and look pretty good.

    1. The lips are the area that started me musing about fillers and such. Since the mouth is such a mobile area of the face, it must be pretty complex to change what you want to change without changing things unintentionally. Guess that's why the website I found talked about "experienced injectors" being important.

  15. I'm totally in tune with you on this topic Sue. For me surgery is for medical emergencies or things that will vastly improve your quality of life etc. Also I feel so many beautiful actesses who've obviously had "work done", no longer look like themselves. Yet, in my opinion they would have remained attractive as they aged naturally.
    I'm all for eating healthily, drinking lots of water, getting lots of fresh air and like you say, enjoying a glass ..or two of wine.
    I also feel that I "need" Moroccan oil for my hair and serums etc for my skin to keep them looking the best they can. Rarely use foundation but always tinted moisturiser and sun protection …including a hat in the sun.
    Yes, I wish I didn't have crows feet and criss cross lines under my eyes and my jaw line was firmer, but hopefully I ll always be able to accept this is how things are and keep a smile on my face 🙂 I've yet to see anyone whose face doesn't light up with a smile whatever their age 🙂
    I've really enjoyed reading this Sue …another good choice of topic!

    1. Thanks, Rosie. I too hope that I will be able to accept who I am as I get older. Trading wisdom, and a more self-deprecating sense of humour for smooth fat cheeks. I remember in my teens and twenties I raged against my fat face. I was excited that in my forties, with the onset of gravity, I started acquiring cheekbones.

  16. Meant to add that I don't wish to sound smug or judgemental.. I have no problems with other people doing whatever they feel they need to do with regard to their looks. That's their choice. Being totally transparent though, if my daughter decided to I would probably try to discourage her ….

    1. I know what you mean. I didn't want my post to sound smug…good word. Everyone needs to make their own choice about how much aging they're comfortable with. I would discourage my niece's too. We love how someone looks because we love them. Period.

  17. Being 65 I say yes to color and high lights and sometimes low lights and I don't go out of the house to town without my makeup. I do go walking but yep I have to put some curls in my hair first. LOL! Thanks for sharing.

  18. I'm evidently way over on the non-intervention side these days. Hair is gray, often I wear no makeup, because I'm going directly from yoga or a brisk walk or a stressful visit to my mother in the assisted living facility. But, here's the thing, I'd do Botox and lasers except my husband doesn't like the idea, given safety concerns. So, clearly this is a very personal thing!

    1. Now that surprises me, Lisa. I thought you would be anti-botox. I tend to think of botox and lasers as being beyond make-up and creams… but maybe they can also be seen as a way to comfortably go without make-up? My husband was totally mystified that I would even discuss the idea. It's all SUCH a very personal choice.

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