Question of the Week

Today I woke up feeling rushed to get going, so I had very little time to get ready for work. I almost always put on a little bit of makeup when I go out but I guess I got distracted today and ran out without any. I only realized it when I looked in the mirror at my office. At first I thought, “uh-oh,” I won’t be comfortable with the way I look, since I’m so used to my face with a little blush, eyeliner and mascara on. But, when I looked more closely,  I realized I didn’t really look that different. It used to be that I thought makeup was essential, like brushing my teeth and combing my hair. But maybe as I’ve gotten older, it doesn’t do that much for me. Maybe less is more? That would be nice. Or maybe the makeup I use isn’t that suitable for a woman in her fifties?I wonder what other women think about that. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that there were some benefits to getting older? It’s not like I don’t care how I look, I just feel I look good enough unadorned, just as I am.

Dr. Vivian

It's a Catch 22 for Women

Our baby boomer generation has received such mixed messages about the importance of beauty.

Growing up, we all expect to get married. Generations ago, your family’s wealth determined whether or not you were marriageable—think Jane Austen novels. But in our childhood, the currency was looks. The prettiest girls got the best guys. Once you’d found your mate and had your children, though, your looks were more or less irrelevant. True, women might mourn the loss of their youthful beauty and the power it gave them. They might faithfully and optimistically use makeup and moisturizers—and some of the more daring might even have colored their hair—but there wasn’t much in their arsenal. What’s more, aging—and looking as if you had aged—was a fact of life. There certainly wasn’t any shame connected with it.

Then the women’s movement ushered in a wealth of new options. We were told that our worth derived not from being Mrs. Someone, but from using our intellect and our drive to make something of ourselves. Beauty wouldn’t determine our prospects. In fact, we were told to downplay our looks. To “dress for success” was to wear a man-tailored suit

Yet today, things have shifted once more. Successful women are expected to have the knowledge and wisdom that comes largely from experience, which requires aging…but you’re not supposed to look old. A magazines that celebrates and supports successful women over 40 features in its pages only women who look younger than they are.  So we’re back to square one: Losing your beauty diminishes your power. Experience is good, but showing the signs of experience is bad. And, the implicit message is, you have to use all the tools available (including surgery) to erase those signs.

What’s a woman to do? How did we get on this ride, and how do we get off? Let us know your thoughts..

Watching Women in the Public Eye Get Older

No matter whether you’re for or against Hillary Clinton, we think this anecdote should make you angry.

After Matt Drudge put an unflattering picture of Clinton on his web site, Rush Limbaugh commented about it on air. “So the question is this,” the radio personality said. “Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their [sic] eyes on a daily basis?”

The only other candidate whose age seems to evoke any notice is, of course, JohnMcCain, who if he won would be 72 when entering the White House. In a six-page cover story about his candidacy in Time Magazine, only a couple of sentences are devoted to dicussing his age—and, as an inseparable issue, his health—and the paragraph ends by quoting McClain making light of those “liabilities.” Others, of course, consider McCain’s age to be a more serious concern, one that perhaps should exclude him from running altogether. Running the same week as the Time story is Anna Quindlen’s essay in Newsweek called “How Old is Too Old?” She takes serious issue with McCain’s presumption that being the oldest person ever to begin a Presidency is immaterial. True, she begins the essay on on a light note, unscientifically theorizing that the presidency ages a person in dog years, “[based] on before-and-after photographs of the occupants of the Oval Office.”

But we don’t hear Quindlen or anyone else suggesting that the citizens of the U.S. would find it distasteful (as Rumbaugh implies) watching a man get older. While their constitutents may have objected to the policies of Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meier, do you think their looks were cause for comment? Is Limbaugh’s point of view one you think that others share? Is this an American thing? And why? We’d like to hear your thoughts.

At Mid Life – Women Who Never Saw Themselves as Beautiful vs Those That Did

Do women who haven’t thought of themselves as attractive when they were younger feel differently as they age than women who have? From our interviews with women, we conclude, yes, they do. And the answer seems to lie in the fact that the playing field gets leveled as women get older. Women who never thought of themselves as particularly attractive realize that those women, whose beauty they once envied, are all aging. The “in” crowd at school, models in magazines and actors on cosmetic ads, they all have to deal with their changing looks. Genetics and beauty are not dealt out evenly at birth, but EVERYONE ages. Women who grew up counting on their looks for their sense of well being seem more desperate to stop the changes that come with age. They find themselves trying harder to hold on to their youthful looks and, as a result, their changing looks make them feel less attractive. Some of these former beauties have taken their looks for granted and it’s only when they face losing their youthful looks that they begin to take care of them. By the time women in their 50s show up at their high school reunions, it’s the women who feel confident in their lives, not just their looks, that appear attractive. The playing field has changed.

Dr. Diller and Dr. Sukenick believe women can feel increasingly beautiful if they redefine beauty as they age. Women who hold on rigidly to their sense of youthful beauty lose their appeal as they try too hard to hold on to it. Women can gain a sense of attractiveness as they age, even if they never thought of themselves as beautiful, by gaining confidence that their beauty comes from how they take care of themselves, who they are and who they’ve become. What do you think?

Dr. Vivian and Dr. Jill

Non-invasive dermatology: A good alternative to plastic surgery or a slippery slope?

First, what is non-invasive dermatology? We’re talking about non surgical procedures most often administered by dermatologists or plastic surgeons. They include botox, laser resurfacing, derma abrasion, collagen and filler injections, to name a few. (See article in More Magazine for summary). They provide immediate results and are not permanent. They are less expensive and less dramatic than plastic surgery.

So, who are these procedures for? There are many women who aren’t looking for dramatic changes in their appearance. They are looking for ways to improve their looks, appear healthier and rested without radically changing how they look. They don’t want to look twenty years younger. They want to look the best they can at their own age. They want to take control over the uneasy, out of control feelings that come with the increasing changes they see on their faces. They’re not trying to compete with younger women. They’re proud to have reached the age they are and feel as good as they do and now they want to look as young as they feel. Just as these women have come to take for granted that coloring their hair makes them feel good, these women want solutions for their aging skin that also make them feel good.

So, where is the slippery slope? First of all, remember that aging is continuous and inevitable. No procedure stops the clock. Once you start these processes they require constant up keep. Up keep costs money and takes time. Botox, for example, lasts about three months, and fillers, about a year. And we’ve yet to meet a woman who hasn’t wanted to continue once she likes what she sees. Not only does she want more of the same, but one procedure often leads to another. The way a newly painted room makes the furniture in it look older, so does a wrinkle free forehead make crow’s feet seem more pronounced. And when wrinkles return bringing a woman’s face/neck/body back to its original state, she notices them more than ever.

So, can you take advantage of these procedures and avoid the slippery slope? Look at it this way, would you go up a high mountain and ski down without knowing the terrain, without knowing if there is an end in sight or if you can make it down safely? Do we have evidence yet that repeated dermatological procedures are healthy for your skin? What about women who start these in their thirties, or twenties? Imagine over 200 injections of botox or 400 fillers in a life time? We’ve heard of teens encouraged by dermatologists to avoid wrinkles by never getting them in the first place. Do we know if the elasticity and health of your skin can tolerate long term non surgical dermatological procedures?

We believe women need to know more and think carefully before they engage in any “age defying” procedures, dermatological or surgical. These may bring you great pleasure, just as the ski slope might for a skier who knows how to make good choices. When it comes to your face, your body and your aging process, be smart, be thoughtful and you’ll be more beautiful. Tell us what you think.

 Dr. Vivian and Dr. Jill

What About Plastic Surgery?

“Does she or doesn’t she?” the old Clairol ads asked. “Only her hairdresser knows for sure.”

Today, of course, the hairdresser isn’t the only one who might spill the beans on what you’re doing. The group might also include your esthetician, your cosmetologist, your medispa owner, your cosmetic dentist, your dermatologist, and your plastic surgeon.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the number of surgical cosmetic procedures in this country nearly doubled from l997 to 2006, and last year, 600,000 American women ages 40-54 had cosmetic surgery. The number has been growing annually.

In the same time span, the number of non-invasive procedures increased a whopping 747%. More than 4,000,000 women had such procedures in 2006, a l0% increase over the previous year.

We’re not burning our bras in defiance these days.. But we’re dashing into the mall for a latte and a laser treatment, asking for a bit of filler almost as casually as for a pair of flipflops. Did we liberate ourselves a generation ago only to find ourselves restricted by a new set of expectations—looking eternally young?

Does this increasing emphasis on trying to look young mean that we’re reverting to the old ways of thinking about growing old – that a woman’s only valued if she looks good? When we try to turn back the clock on our own bodies, are we turning back the clock of society?

More Magazine, geared towards women over forty, recently published an article—”Power Surge”—in which a woman celebrated her feeling of confidence at midlife. She never mentioned how she felt about her looks. The implication was that she had evolved beyond that concern.

But we wonder if that’s really possible. What’s more, should it be?

How much does beauty matter to you? How much do you think it SHOULD matter.

Tell us your thoughts.

Dr. Jill and Dr. Vivian

10 Beauty Thoughts to Hold onto as Aging Takes Hold of your Beauty

  1. Beauty is not just a physical experience, but a psychological one as well. Although we can’t stop the physical changes of aging, we can effect change psychologically.
  2. While aging is unconquerable, inevitable and irreversible, self-image is not. Self-image can be fluid and timeless
  3. Aging is not a battle with time, but with one’s image of oneself.
  4. Chronological age does not have to define you. You can define yourself at your chronological age.
  5. Put your beauty in your identity, not your identity in your beauty.
  6. Take an honest look at who you are, not what you look like.
  7. Rob beauty of its power over you. Take back that power and you will feel more beautiful.
  8. Learn about the psychological forces of beauty you can’t see and those you can’t hide from.
  9. Fear of aging interferes with aging attractively. Fear is unattractive. Aging confidently is not.
  10. Beauty matters to all women, but to women who age beautifully, beauty matters not too much nor too little.