Apparently, weâ€™ve got a lot of work to do. Pick up any womenâ€™s magazine and youâ€™ll notice the terms â€œanti-agingâ€ and â€œage-defyingâ€ are used to market products to girls who’ve barely graduated from high school. In television ads, surgically altered actresses tout the wonders of lifting serums and other â€œmiracleâ€ creams.
We get the message: Aging is shameful and must be fought at any cost.Â She who looks youngest wins.
The anti-aging movement has spawned a new crop of books addressing the â€œsurgery vs. productâ€ faceoff.
â€œBoth the subliminal and obvious messages of the beauty trap are designed to make you dissatisfied with your looks — and to make you go to great lengths and expense to change them,â€ notes celebrity dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer in Younger: The Breakthrough Anti-Aging Method for Radiant Skin (Grand Central; $27).Â â€œThat being said, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your appearance.â€
Lancer advises women to focus first on skincare and nutrition, reserving dermal fillers or cosmetic surgery as a last resort.
Years ago, I swore Iâ€™d never waste a minute worrying about under-eye bags or any other flesh that was starting to head south.Â I promised to age gracefully; to make peace with the inevitable march of time and the pull of gravity.
I was kidding myself. Today, my medicine cabinet proves Iâ€™ve become another foot soldier in the war on wrinkles. Armed with an arsenal of products, Iâ€™m constantly battling the encroaching lines on my face.
Of course, expensive creams are easier to justify than cosmetic surgery. While fillers and facelifts have gone mainstream, thereâ€™s still a feminist stigma attached to â€œgetting work doneâ€ — especially if you end up looking like an homage to Joan Rivers.
â€œCosmetic surgery all over the world is becoming almost a religion, and many people worship at the doctorâ€™s office till they are stretched like a too-tight blouse and bear frozen smiles,â€ writes Mireille Guiliano in her new book, French Women Donâ€™t Get Facelifts (Grand Central; $25).
Guiliano reminds us that mature women are still considered sexy in France â€“ and that cosmetic surgery isnâ€™t as popular there as it is in America. French women might â€œpartake in a little Botox or another filler,â€ Giuliano reports. But for the most part, she says, they rely on good skincare and cleverly tied scarves to enhance their seasoned beauty.
A second look
Sadly, miracle creams really donâ€™t work miracles. This morning I caught a glimpse of my tired reflection in the bathroom mirror, and for a moment I considered booking my first Botox treatment. Then I felt guilty for being so hard on myself.
Yes, thereâ€™s more work to be done.
For starters, we all need to stop judging the cosmetic choices of other women. At the same time, I believe each of us should choose carefully, whether we opt for a facelift or fillers, or simply settle for an attitude adjustment.Â And short of moving to France, we must keep challenging our own cultureâ€™s ambivalent views on aging.
As Dr. Lancer notes in Younger, â€œTrue beauty is being the best you can be in all aspects of your life.â€ Beauty is as beauty does.
Â Original artwork by Cindy La Ferle; collage with borrowed detail from Botticelli’s Primavera.