I received a comment quite recently, which I will not quote verbatim. But what was essentially said was that this person is in her late 20s and “terrified about fine lines” and how she’d age.
The comment was asking if the product I had reviewed would help reduce or erase these fine lines. I did say in my reply that we shouldn’t be terrified about aging, because it’s a natural process. But I couldn’t help thinking about the statement about how she was terrified about having fine lines.
This issue about aging and the attendant fear of growing old, was further highlighted by a recent inquiry in person by someone who asked if I could recommend a product or brand to help with “anti-aging” because of lines etc.
I must confess when faced with situations like this, I am at a a loss for words. You see, there is nothing as certain in life than death and taxes – morbid yes. But true.
And the fact is this – we all age and will age, whether we like it or not. But do we have to play into the grabby hands of the beauty industry and believe that it’s a bad thing?
Aging is natural – The media and society tells us it’s not
Here’s my view on this.
It is natural to age. It is natural for your skin to lose its elasticity and collagen and to collapse in on itself or sag. It is natural that our skin will develop lines and wrinkles and become drier as our skin thins and loses moisture more easily.
What is not natural is how the media portrays aging women (in particular) as something to be afraid of, concerned about, or to be shameful about. Men don’t get this treatment, if you notice.
When a man’s hair goes grey, he’s “distinguished”. When a woman’s hair goes grey, she runs to cover it up or be accused of “letting herself go”.
When a man develops lines and wrinkles and a thickset waist, he is smiled upon indulgently like a child, and deemed to be “the hot older man”. When a woman develops the same, she’s accused of “not looking after herself”.
The disparity in the way that the media and the society around us treats older women is what, I feel, creates this irrational fear of growing old. Women aren’t allowed to grow old. We must look young and perky forever or become invisible.
How many women out there say they want to look “forever 21” or crave skincare products, injectibles or surgical procedures to “maintain their youth”? Visit any aesthetic clinic or plastic surgeon, and you’d notice that the majority of the patients or customers are women, searching for this fountain of youth.
Older women are deemed to be unattractive
The sad truth is that older women are deemed to be unattractive. It could be a natural process to age, but no one wants to actually see it happening.
The media does not portray older women in a positive light. What we do see are before/after photos from clinics and doctors, showing us how effective their expensive procedures are, to turn back the ravages of time.
Why? Because lines are perceived to be unattractive. Sagging skin is perceived to be unattractive. Looking your age is perceived to be unattractive.
We aren’t even encouraged to say how old we are. Apparently, it’s disrespectful to ask a lady her age. Is it because we might inadvertently disclose how old and over-the-hill we are? Men don’t have this restriction placed on them. In fact, the older they are, the more respect is accorded to them.
I felt this constraint once. It was awkward to share how old I was, because beauty blogging was the domain of young 20-somethings and there was a perception (even today) that beauty bloggers must be young and beautiful. I started blogging in my 30’s and I’m now well into my 40’s. I no longer feel embarrassed to say so.
Is it because I now don’t give a damn? Or if I care less about what people think? I don’t know, but I just think society must change their perception towards older women, who still have much to contribute, lines, saggy skin and all.
However, the beauty industry is an ugly one that preys on the insecurities of women, like a botoxed vampire. They compound this with the subliminal message that there are ways to stop or slow down the aging process.
Why is this so? Because we are told that women aren’t attractive when they get older.
I talked about this once, when I pondered on the subject of whether the concept of “good skin” is really “young looking skin”.
RELATED READING: Is the idea of good skin really young looking skin? READ HERE
It might be because of this notion that I’m rebelling in my own way LOL! I have said that I will not dye my grey hair. They are coming through, just slowly, due to genetics.
I do this not because of vanity or a desire to push against the system, but because I don’t see why I should be spending more money than necessary, covering up grey hair that will eventually take over my head, whether I like it or not :P
I’m not afraid of my open pores, old acne scars, lines, pigmentation etc. It’s there, I’ll live with it. I don’t even want to undergo laser treatments, because well, it’s expensive! LOL! :D I have better things to spend my money on.
RELATED READING: Nope, I’m not going to get laser treatments for my pigmentation even though it’s very obvious READ WHY
Lines and wrinkles aren’t all bad
But here’s the deal. Let’s look at the lines and wrinkles on our skin in a positive light.
Often, lines are formed not only due to the loss of elasticity and collagen, but also in how we move our faces. The naso-labial line (or laugh line) that runs from your nose, along your mouth, is always one that people fret over. As well as lines around the eyes (crow’s feet) or forehead.
You know the best way to avoid getting these lines? It’s simple.
Why do you think many models don’t smile? Smiling moves the muscles and the skin, which then results in these folds that settle into lines.
Are they a bad thing? If you’re vain, yes. But in the main, try the answer “No” for a bit. Think of these lines as experience lines. If you had no cause to smile or laugh, you won’t get these lines. If you have not lived (whether through happy or sad times), you’d have no lines.
Aging is a privilege
The other thing we should really consider also is this – aging and growing older is a privilege.
Mortality rates are lower now, and people are living longer thanks to modern medicine and a modern, cleaner lifestyle. I think we should consider it a privilege that we are able to grow older and live longer. We are seeing the effects today on our skin, because we have this privilege of aging.
A few centuries ago, you’d probably die in your bloom of youth. No lines and wrinkles there, but dead.
OK so aging isn’t bad. But can I slow it down?
I hate to look at it from the viewpoint of “slowing down the aging process”. Instead, I prefer to look at it from the viewpoint of “strengthening your skin”.
As we age, our skin moisture barrier gets thinner, resulting in water loss (dry skin) and the consequent and resultant formation of fine lines. This can also result in skin that becomes more sensitive, and prone to inflammation.
When we strengthen this barrier, skin naturally becomes more healthy, looks more healthy and therefore younger.
In many ways, I feel that my experiments in the past decade has helped my skin to be stronger than it was before, when I was younger, and it might even look better than it used to. For this reason, in the past 4-5 years, my focus has been quite narrow, concentrating only on certain ingredients or products, regardless of brand, hype and trends.
Sunscreen serves a health function in that it protects skin from harmful UV rays, and helps prevent us from contracting skin cancer due to UV exposure.
The benefit on the side is that it slows down the breakdown of collagen and the development of irregular melanin production, caused by UV rays. It therefore slows down the appearance of aging skin, and it also helps strengthen the skin barrier and prevent it from breaking down as quickly.
However, it’s a benefit that comes with protecting the skin first. This is why I am so hellbent on making people wear sunscreen. Do yourself a favour, and wear it, because it is for your skin health, not just vanity.
I use Vitamin C serums because I have found that they strengthen my skin so my skin feels more resilient. This means that it is more resistant to breakouts and to environmental pollution. My key concern is skin health because who doesn’t want healthy skin right?
The benefit is that Vitamin C is an ingredient that is known to help rebuild collagen, which means skin that is more plumped, and fine lines look less noticeable. It also helps skin look brighter, slows down melanin production and makes skin look more even-toned. These are vanity benefits that come from first considering the health of your skin.
As your skin ages, it will get thinner and water loss is more evident. This is why our skin will usually feel drier. My concern here is primarily the protection and strengthening of my skin moisture barrier.
Using products that hydrate the skin well, in conjunction with other products that help seal in this hydration and strengthen the skin barrier helps skin feel less uncomfortable, and less prone to irritation.
The other benefit of course is that if you focus on products that contain hyaluronic acid, it will help draw moisture to your skin, and retain it. Skin looks more plumped as a result, and skin that is more plumped, looks healthier and younger. Not rocket science there :)
RELATED READING: Try the moisture sandwich technique to help skin retain more hydration READ HERE
Retinol and AHA acids
To be honest, I’m a little hesitant to recommend this outright to anyone, for the simple reason, I am not a dermatologist. While both these ingredients are well known to boost skin cell turnover, boost collagen production and thereby making skin look more plumped with less noticeable lines, they can be quite harsh.
I often have people urge me to try prescription retinol that we can easily get from the pharmacy, because it is very affordable. However, my concern is that a prescription product should be used properly only under doctor’s supervision. I’m not big therefore on using a prescription cream on my skin without a doctor telling me to.
This is by no means a slur on anyone who does. You probably know your skin better than I do which is fine. I just won’t do it.
Also my fear with recommending products with retinol and AHA is the potential overuse or abuse, that can lead to hypersensitive skin, or even damaging the skin barrier. My advice therefore when working with retinol and AHA acids is this – use in moderation, know your skin, and don’t go crazy :P When in doubt, stop, and return to the first 3 ingredients/suggestions above.
Embrace the aging process
Ultimately, we can never turn back time. We can never be that perky 20 year old again. Our skin will never bounce back the way a baby’s does.
As long as we fear seeing the lines appear, we will never be happy. We’d be spending our time, money and effort chasing the unicorn, searching for the elusive fountain of youth.
Live life for a change. Work towards having healthy skin, lifestyle and mindset. Youth is fleeting. Life needn’t be :)
What’s your approach to aging? Do you fear it? Are you afraid to look older?
I won’t judge if you do. It’s common, because that’s what we are shown is the norm. But it does not have to be, and sometimes, a little mindset change might be what we need :)