Category: Articles


Cosmetics Drugs Gone Too Far: Is Anything Still Real?

July 16th, 2010 — 1:29pm

There is something about the new cosmetic “option” for thicker eyelashes that bothers me, though I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps it’s the resistance I still feel after leaving behind those false lashes I wore while modeling with Wilhelmina in the 70s. Or maybe wearing my current hat as a psychologist, it doesn’t fit with my belief that women can find true beauty within. Yet, my patients in their twenties and thirties insist, “Hey, it’s great. Why not have beautiful lashes without having to apply mascara?” Older women claim, “My lashes have thinned and it helps me get back to what I used to have naturally.” Undeniably, the reviews on these products — including Latisse, Lilash, Revitalash and Marini Lash to name a few — are largely positive. Except for a few complaints about mild irritation, allergic reactions and occasional permanent eye color change, most report they are satisfied by the thicker and darker lashes they see as long as they keep using the product.

Some women don’t realize that Latisse (the first of lash thickeners to be FDA approved) was a drug originally intended for glaucoma. An unexpected side effect was that it was found to increase the growth of eyelashes. It was then approved to treat hypotrichosis (a technical term for medical hair loss) and over time has been prescribed to treat what marketers call “inadequate eyelashes.” Much the way Retin-A cream and Botox (produced by the same company that created Latisse) once served to treat medical symptoms, Latisse now routinely serves cosmetic purposes. Miracle drug? Or another slippery slope for women to slide down?

I have no trouble with the idea that there are products and procedures that enhance a woman’s natural beauty. In fact, I accept the fact that women are probably hardwired to pay attention to how we look and that we need to take care of our appearance in ways that feel appropriate for our age. Take Victoria’s Secret, for example, and the many bras they now offer for women of all sizes, shapes and ages. Are there any reasons why a woman who doesn’t mind a little push or tug, shouldn’t enjoy sexy underwear options that were unavailable to previous generations? Spanx doesn’t bother me either. Women say the squeezing and constriction are worth the shaping it provides. In fact, compared to the ungainly padded bras and girdles of yesteryear, these seem more appealing to today’s women who are interested in making efforts toward looking great at any age.

Where I have trouble, is when women ask my thoughts about unalterable cosmetic procedures: breast implants, liposuction, brow and facelifts. I am concerned when patients talk about the constant surgical work they have done to upkeep their various body parts — for example, adding “hand rejuvenation” to their list so that their aging hands match up with their youthful faces. I ask them to think carefully and thoughtfully about their expectations — the whys, the costs and general long-term consequences. And it’s perhaps here where my issue with “longer lashes movement” comes into play. In my mind, using a prescription medicine to enhance a woman’s appearance lies somewhere closer to plastic surgery than Spanx or padded bras. And yet, its casual use is taking off at a rapid rate with women of all ages.

So, maybe the better question is, where do products like Latisse lead us? Have we created a disease we now call “inadequate eyelashes” that requires a new product, that mascara cannot take care of? Have we just found another way for women to feel they fall short as they yearn for some permanent and radical solution to reach ideal beauty? And what about the potential physical and psychological consequence of repeated usage of lash thickener? When we try any new beauty fad, are we relying on the due diligence of the cosmetic industry or the FDA? We need only recall that steroids (also once used for medical purposes) were found to enhance athletic ability and then ultimately were discovered to be dangerous, both for the long-term health of the athlete and of the sports world in general. It led to a deep mistrust in who was using and who had true talent, resulting in drug testing in all of sports.

Then there’s the use of stimulants, originally prescribed for children suffering Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, now being used as the new “brain power” drug. Ritalin and Adderall, two popular ADHD medications, have been reported to enhance a student’s ability to concentrate regardless of any diagnosis. A recent 60 Minutes report by Katie Couric described the routine use of these drugs by students on college campuses. A school counselor on the program said she believed that close to 80 percent of the seniors in fraternities and sororities were popping these pills to raise test scores and achieve higher grades.

And let us not forget the Viagra and Cialis craze. Look where that’s led our husbands, lovers, fathers and brothers. Once used for symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction resulting from prostate cancer or an enlarged prostate, they are now packed as part of the overnight bag to ensure a fun evening. Men — especially midlifers — tell me that the promotion of these products in the media has provoked unexpected feelings of inadequacy.

Lastly, we need only look at the exponential rise in the use of cosmetic procedures to witness one of the most slippery of slopes men and women are finding themselves on. Plastic surgery, Botox, injectables, fillers, laser treatments — the list is long — are regularly used to alter looks, defy aging, enhance and improve. And not just by the rich and famous (although, according to the New York Times, it’s the famous who are now just beginning to see the negative consequences of surgical procedures as they find that their plastic bodies and frozen faces are a turn-off to casting agents). Enhancements made surgically are permanent and permanently problematic.

So back to those eyelashes. I suppose I do realize what bothers me. First, it’s the long-term safety factor. We, our daughters, and all those young women who are being offered these new products, are like variables in an experiment that has not yet shown proven success over time. As a psychologist, the biggest issue for me is that yet another feature, characteristic or human natural quality will come under question: what is real and what isn’t? Our mothers’ generation used to ask, “does she or doesn’t she?” Our generation of girls now asks “has she or hasn’t she?” Even boys-who-would-be-ballplayers now ask, “does he or doesn’t he?” What questions will our sons and daughters ask in the future? Will they wonder if anything about a man or a woman is real? Will we trust women to be who they appear to be? Can men really have the bodies they do without drugs? Last for four hours on their own? Does that Harvard degree mean the same thing if it was achieved while taking the SATs on Adderall?

Wouldn’t it be reassuring if women could at least love their lashes as they are? What do you think?

14 comments » | Articles, Face It

Song: “You’ll Be Coming Down” by Bruce Springsteen

April 10th, 2010 — 11:02am

A fellow I know pointed out a line in a Bruce Springsteen song that he thought captured the issues we discuss in Face It. “You’ll be fine long as your pretty face holds out. Then it’s gonna get pretty cold out.” It was interesting that it was a guy who pointed the lyric out to me. It made me think how often this message is embedded in popular culture –in songs, fiction, media. I’ve copied the lyrics  below and wondered if anyone had noticed those particular lines before. The man who sent it to me reminded me that this is not just an issue for women, but for men as well, especially men in the entertainment business. and that although Springsteen seemed to be writing about a woman in this song, he could have been thinking about himself. “They’ll use you up and spit you out,” another line in “You’ll Be Coming Down” could reflect the sentiment of aging musicians, male or female. Dealing with “coming down,” and an aging appearance strikes us all; celebs, musicians and everyday people.

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Failure or freedom to choose? Tell us what you think?

February 28th, 2010 — 2:47pm

Seventy two year old actress, Jane Fonda, wrote on her blog after her last round of plastic surgery, “I got tired of not looking like how I feel”. She went on to admit, “I wish I’d been brave enough not to do anything.” Just a couple of years ago, Fonda had sworn off doing more plastic surgery after having several rounds earlier in her life. But clearly her resolve wore down and, as she calls it, she reentered the race toward appearing younger than she is, full speed ahead. She called it “Jowels Away!” Continue reading »

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Thicker Eyelashes. What’s Next?

February 10th, 2010 — 3:52am

Something bothers me about the new craze for ‘thicker’ eyelashes and I’m not sure why. Women are now using a drug allergen, originally intended for glaucoma, to increase the thickness of eyelashes, much the way botox is now used to relax wrinkles when it’s original use was for treatment of various medical disorders. ……. Continue reading »

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A Great Role Model

February 10th, 2010 — 3:46am

I visited my 93 year old mother-in-law today with my husband today. She lives in an assisted living facility with my 97 year old father in law. We try to see them on weekends whenever possible. It was not any special occasion, but my mother-in-law looked dressed for one. She wore a beautiful cream colored sweater and an elegant pair of pants. Her bright white, curly hair was held back by a head band so that it was easy to see her white pearl earrings. She looked beautiful. I asked her what she thought of when she looked in the mirror when she woke up in the morning and she said ” I can’t see myself that well, but what I see looks happy.” I thought that was a great answer. She sees happiness. –Dr. Vivian

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Non-Invasive Dermatology: Good alternatives to plastic surgery or slippery slope?

February 6th, 2010 — 7:09pm

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. They provide immediate results and are not permanent. They are less expensive and less dramatic than plastic surgery. So, who are these procedures for? ……

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From Valedictorians to Prom Queens:Does the Playing Field Level with Age?

February 6th, 2010 — 7:05pm

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……

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4 comments » | Articles, Face It

Ten Psychological Tips that Will Change How You Look and Feel About Beauty

February 6th, 2010 — 12:49am

Face it: there is no magic solution to aging with grace and dignity. Having just written a book offering guidance to millions of women who feel trapped by conflicting feelings, we think we are on to something. We have found satisfying, long term solutions that help us deal with a culture that virtually programs women to have a crisis over their aging appearance. We were once professional models, so we were made acutely aware how quickly a premium on physical beauty can fade with age. It took hard work and time, but we learned the secret of how to enjoy our changing appearance…..

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It’s a Catch 22 for Women

January 9th, 2010 — 12:31am

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…….

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2 comments » | Articles, Face It

Watching Women in the Public Eye Get Older

January 7th, 2010 — 2:36pm

Whether you were for or against Hillary Clinton when she ran for the Democratic nomination, we think this anecdote below 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?”

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