The parallel lines between my eyebrows appear to have deepened into a permanent number eleven, giving me a perpetual look of worry, concern or anger that I do not necessarily feel inside. I scrutinize these changes in the mirror with surprise and dismay. In addition to The Eleven, could it be that my cheeks seem to be sliding down? And then, there is the neck.
Over the years I have gone from a thin, dark-haired, wild-haired and somewhat funky woman to becoming the oldest woman in my office. Despite what I consider my contemporary look, the reality is that I am gray, tired, faded, no longer have a discernable waist, and am now surrounded by younger people with bright, clear eyes, fresh skin and highlighted hair, sporting cleavage and tattoos. It is at the same time both amusing and sobering.
Wiping the steam from the bathroom mirror, I back up from the image and then get closer again – not quite in focus because of the middle-aged eyesight thing. The Significant Other says that the blurry vision one acquires in midlife is a natural built-in emergency feature – your close range view blurs as you get older so that when you look at your partner’s face it is just out of focus enough so you don’t see all age lines. Nature’s solution (unless the partner happens to have good vision and is shallow, in which case they run off with someone younger and line-free…isn’t that the way)? What a crappy joke that as your perceptions deepen and your awareness expands, the outside starts to crumble. That is the trade-off, or so we convince ourselves; because really, there is no option.
Not having ever been too seriously into make-up or beauty routines and generally having had an attitude about this kind of thing, it is with slight disappointment that I admit to now reaching for a hint of color, the moisturizers and “repair serums”. Always in search of the easy and affordable fix, a perusal of what’s out there reveals that the recent catchword on a lot of these products seems to be “Radical”, “Age Reversing” and “Age Defying”. The radical part of this really caught my eye (guess it’s a Boomer thing). The defying thing was also really so much me….and the reversal part – implying that you can “go back”…..well, I have caved to it.
This stuff is not cheap. And once you put on your glasses and read the fine print, they all tell you they can “reduce the appearance of fine lines”. I am not sure if this means that it will reduce the instances of new lines that were planning on defying you and making an appearance, or of it just is giving you the impression that your fine lines are disappearing, when in reality it’s just an illusion. (I could get deep right now and say “age is just an illusion”, but we are dwelling on the superficial here anyway, so I won’t). In either case, shunning anything surgical or invasive out of sheer fear of a worse outcome, not to mention cost, I have embarked upon a quest for the magic cream that will eliminate The Eleven and possibly put my cheeks back where they used to be. Preferably this magic potion would also be something organic, although I realize that is really asking way more of what is already asking a lot.
The quest and experiment began with some pricey overnight retin-type stuff that turned my skin dry and red but did not reduce any appearances…..plus it irritated my eyes. Over the summer I explored using a famous brand-name product promoted by a famous, lovable and believable Boomer-age actress that contained an SPF 15 sunblock. The sunblock worked great but three-quarters into the jar the observation was that nothing radical had occurred and the appearance remained the same.
As luck would have it, one of my friends happens to work in the natural products section of a store and sometimes sends samples to try. This perk provided a very tiny vial of a European radical serum which promised to reduce the appearance of just about everything I had ever hoped to have vanish. It came in a fancy organic carrying case too. The label advised that the action of this serum would probably inflame your skin a little, but not to worry, as it is just the action of the organic magic blend doing its radically defiant thing. After using it for about a week or so, my kids did mention that Mom seemed to have “a glow” and looked less tired and a bit more youthful. It could have been the new dark circle concealer, but I think it might be because the magic serum is making my face swollen and the swelling subsequently filled in the “fine lines”. However, confusing the experiment, I simultaneously began using the sample of another brand, which also claimed to be organic and radically reverse any kind of “damage” that has occurred to your skin. The fancy European stuff in the tiny vial would cost $90 if I chose to buy it. The other radical organic stuff is about a third of that price and still more than I want to pay. It is not inflaming anything though, but the jury is still out on the results two months later.
Having had two very serious California beach sunburns and one very dangerous and stupid tanning booth overdose fiasco in my youth, I will freely admit there is some “damage”. The smile lines are getting deeper and there is that horrible word – crepe – starting around the eyes. And so, the Defiant Radical Reversal Regime has begun in full earnest. I have a Routine. It includes using a Radical face wash and methodically rubbing in the various Reversal creams in all the Defiant places…..especially into The Eleven. Although I have sped up the process, this is still time-consuming, and the only changes the The Significant Other has noted is that I am now taking up valuable bathroom time doing this. I scrutinize my face daily to see if the appearance of anything is being reduced. I still see fine lines. I still see crepe through all this crap on my face. The Eleven also remains, although I am not sure if the depth of The Eleven has lessened. Somehow I think, probably not.
I began purchasing seriously pricey serums of all kinds in my late 40’s. I was working then, and could afford a little pampering. I rationalized this by telling myself that I wasn’t getting expensive haircuts or going to spas or otherwise spending frivolous money on myself (unless you count in fabric….).
Now that I have been out of work for a year, I have started to economize. I realized that all those fancy creams and serums and bags-under-the-eyes reducers and lip and eye contour (specifically for the eye corners and lip corners) were just a caving in to an industry that had me convinced (not any more though) that fighting age was a battle I could win.
Now, I buy Aveeno face wash and body wash and daily moisturizer and am getting the same results – clean and moisturized. Night cream is a bit more problematic for me – I usually have to find that in health food stores or Whole Foods because most of them smell like cheap perfume. A good night cream moisturizes and kind of stretches your face – that is what they call “firming”. And a good day cream moisturizes and maybe has some spf. The other stuff – who knows?
I tested the value of The Other Stuff by stopping using it. I didn’t slide downhill, or even notice any more of what I had been defying. I looked the same. I use cheap stuff and I still look the same. I am defying the defying.
I feel your pain, been thru alot of chemo and now hormone therapy, which has a whole list of aging issues. I have tried some of the expensive things, but could never get into them because basically I’m just too cheap. I also have never been able to stand wearing face makeup, can’t stand the feel of it. I therefore keep my face really clean, with mild soap and water, and faithfully use moisturizers with 15 to 30 SPF. My favorite probably being neutrogena’s ageless essentials. Oil of Olay products can always be found in my closet as well.
I have used color for my hair, but when it started to break and fall out because I was having to color it so frequently because it was getting sooooo gray. Gray hair doesn’t color the same way as non-gray hair by the way. My answer to it was to say the heck with it, I was just going to keep slathering on moisterizers and let my hair go au naturale and “age gracefully” I try to keep my gray hair styled nicely so I don’t look like an old hag with stringy hair, (my hair is now thin and fine thanks to estrogen stopping drugs etc.) so short works best for me.
When I look in the mirror in the morning, sometimes I cringe, those lines under my eyes and dark circles scare me, but after my morning ritual, and some good undereye wrinkle eraser stuff (works for lip wrinkles too) and my trusty moisterizers, I look and feel human again, and I really do think the under eye stuff helps.
All in all, I can live with myself, I don’t always like how I look, but when I see those gals on TV with their botoxed lips and cheeks trying to smile and not quite succeeding, I will choose just the real me over that anyday. Now, if you want to talk tummy tuck, that might be a different story.