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.