Here’s something I often find disconcerting. When a man grows older, with his grey hair showing, and lines etched deep in his face, the general consensus is that he looks “distinguished”. A woman who has the same grey hair and lines etched in her face is dismissed as “old” or having “let herself go”. Why is this so?
This, I feel, is purely down to societal pressure for women to look forever young. Beauty isn’t in the eye of the beholder. It is in youth, like it or not, and women just aren’t allowed to grow old, or look old. When women grow older, their presence diminishes in the public eye. This happens to the best of us – just think about red carpet coverage and you’ll have to agree.
Because of this, women have been searching for the fountain of youth for decades. It is this vanity and pursuit of youth that keeps aestheticians in business, and plastic surgeons in their large mansions and fancy cars. It is this vanity and pursuit of youth, that makes us fall for every cream out there that promises to “reduce fine lines and wrinkles” despite the fact that it often doesn’t.
Frankly, as much as it troubles me, it also pisses me off that skin health is so tied with this preconceived notion of youth.
The fact of the matter is that we all age, and with age, our bodies change. It does not have to be a bad thing.
The idea of beauty or good skin being that of having fresh, clear, glowing skin of porcelain clarity, unlined and practically poreless, is basically that of a young woman. But we will age, and if we’re lucky, we will grow older. It isn’t a disaster, it’s a privilege.
With age comes the loss of elasticity and collagen. Lines will naturally occur. Our skin losses its clarity and tautness and will sag, and loses its density. The lines on our skin are etched there through our life experiences. The naso-labial lines are there because you smile and you laugh. The lines around your mouth are there, because you pout or worry. The lines around your eyes appear when your smile reaches your eyes, or perhaps due to sorrow or joy. The lines on your forehead are put there by worry at a rough point in your life, that you eventually surmount.
Every line tells a story, and I don’t see it as a bad thing at all.
As much as we want to kid ourselves into believing that a cream or a food supplement will restore this elasticity and collagen to our skin, or for aesthetics treatments to iron out our skin and erase our lines, the reality is that doesn’t always work that way.
Why are we so afraid of growing older? Of looking older? Is it because society and ad campaigns frown on it?
I often look at beauty campaigns, even today, and find the pursuit of perceived “good skin” to not be that. It is really, the pursuit of youth. The reality is, time never goes back. You will never have that bloom of youth in your skin as you age. You will never look 25 again, and truthfully, I don’t want to.
What I think we should be focusing on, is not so much how our skin looks in relation to others. We should be focusing on its health in relation to ourselves. When I was in my 20’s, I was acne-prone and had a lot of scarring. Perhaps I had better skin then, to be honest, I can’t quite remember but I don’t think I did. Now that I’m in my 40’s, I no longer have breakouts and my skin texture is actually better than it used to be. But I now face a new challenge – age-related pigmentation and loss of skin elasticity and dry skin.
Does it bother me? No it does not. Is it better? In some ways, yes it is. In other ways, it isn’t.
Just recently, I attended an event, where they used a gadget to measure skin elasticity and moisture levels. The result showed that my skin elasticity was low, and my skin was dry. No shit, Sherlock! I could tell you that myself without using a gadget 😛
In the first place, the gadgets aren’t calibrated to measure the skin of someone in their 40’s. The same gadget is used for everyone. As compared to someone in their 20’s, my results look abysmal (and really, it’s tailored that way, so I feel bad and buy up what’s on offer 😛 ) but what if I’m doing fine for my age? What if my skin condition is actually good for someone in my age group? What if it’s better today than it was 10 years ago?
Why are we allowing our perceptions of “good skin” to be dictated by the perception of youth? This is what troubles me.
Basically, what I’m saying is that we should be benchmarking ourselves against two things – our peers and ourselves. Not against people 20 years younger. We are now living at a time when, thanks to social media, the everyday woman is more visible than ever before. And we are all getting older eventually and we should not shy away just because we are.
The lines will appear. The skin will sag. The pores will be more visible. The bloom of youth will disappear. For us older women, good skin should be about maintaining the health of our skin. Keep it clean. Keep it clear of spots. Up your hydration levels, maintain or repair your moisture barrier. Use a Vitamin C serum or a Retinol based product.
But above all, be realistic.
Your measure of “good skin” should be that of good skin, within your age group, and in comparison to your skin condition before this. If your skin feels dry, use products that help boost hydration in your skin. Use products that help repair your moisture barrier so moisture loss is reduced. But be realistic that you will likely not achieve that dewy look so sought after. If you are conscious about fine or deep lines, use a product that helps lighten it, but be realistic. Those lines are only being puffed up, they aren’t going away. It’s all cosmetic.
If you have fewer lines than most, or if your skin is clearer than most, or if your skin looks healthier than most of your age group, that is “good skin”. It is unrealistic to look at Korean stars or celebrities, or young beauty role models, and think that that is your measure of beauty and good skin.
For this, I blame beauty brands as well. As much as there is this movement to be inclusive and more positive about age and aging, the reality is that most campaigns only feature young women, or they airbrush the hell out of older women in photos. When an older woman shares online about her beauty routine or products she uses, she is often dismissed because “Your skin is sagging, you are no authority on skincare” or “Your lines are showing, who are you to talk about good skin?” or “Your skin looks dull and dry, how can you talk about skincare when you can’t even show anything for it?”
Yet, what is the measure? Are you benchmarking her against a 20-something? Are you using your perceptions of “good skin” to dismiss her sharing as not useful? Perhaps you may not think so when you get to her age.
So, here’s what I have to say. Allow yourself to age. Don’t fight it – the more you do, the quicker you age. Laugh a little. Appreciate yourself and be realistic about having “good skin”.
Remember, growing old is a privilege that some women don’t have.
Do you feel frustrated by the present imagery of “good skin” that we are bombarded with?
I must say having to speak to beauty advisors or sales people really get my goat. I’m 44 years old. Dry, sagging skin is to be expected. Don’t benchmark me against a 20 year old please! And no, I’m not going to get work done, thanks 😛