My mother paused at the display case, squinting through her glasses to read the details about the miracle wrinkle-reducing product her favorite upscale makeup line was currently promoting.
“Mom,” I tugged at her sleeve, “You don’t need that. C’mon.”
But it was too late. A department store saleslady had spotted us and had already floated over. Inserting herself between myself and my mom, she remarked, “You know, this is an incredible product. It would really help you with those,” she said pointing to some fine lines around my mother’s eyes, “and these,” she continued, gesturing to the crinkles on either side of my mom’s mouth.
I claimed my mother, telling the saleswoman "thanks, but no thanks" over my shoulder.
“You were a little rude,” my mother chastised me.
I apologized but was silently baffled at how a stranger could talk my mom into believing her face merited an intervention, but I was the rude one.
That was over 10 years ago, when I was a teen and didn’t have any skin concerns to speak of. But even now, as I near 30, I have no plans to make anti-aging and wrinkle-reversing products a part of my beauty routine.
To be clear, I love makeup, lotions, body creams, perfume, and bath products. I keep buying eye shadows in every color of the rainbow. I hoard primers that promise to even out my pores and keep my makeup looking fresh. I might have bought this $30 Chloe perfumed deodorant spray just because it sounded like such a wonderful luxury for the oft-neglected armpits. So it’s not that I don’t have my vanities.
My resistance to dabbling into the world of anti-aging products isn’t because I consider it frivolous to want to look and feel our individual bests. It’s about being honest with myself and my triggers, after struggling with a decade-long battle with anorexia and now trying my damnedest to stay recovered, both for myself and for my baby girl.
There were too many years when I pinched, prodded, and scrutinized myself--my skin included. My body dysmorphia was so severe at one point that I had days where I wouldn’t leave my house, convinced I was doing the world a favor by not inflicting my hideous face and offensive body on my friends, classmates, neighbors, and fellow bus passengers.
I was scared to die, but I was also too scared to eat. I started to look and feel older than my years. I was gaunt with a jaundiced face, thinning hair, and weakened sinewy limbs.
After much counseling, combined with the unwavering support of family and friends, here I am on the other side. And I am angry.
I’m angry that I believed all the Photoshopped lies that I could and should look like the perpetually youthful Neutrogena girl or the prepubescent runway model. I’m angry that I spent a lot of time, money, and energy on the supplements, creams, lotions, and potions that promised to make me into an ageless beauty. I’m angry that what I thought was extraordinary self-discipline was actually just me self-destructing.
And I’m angry that I received so many pats on the head for it. Gold star for hitting the gym every day for two hours! Gold star for ordering the salad! Gold star for looking always looking put together--even when I was privately falling apart.
In addition to my mother, I’ve also watched my grandmother berate herself for aging since I was child, grabbing her midsection furiously, rumpling her graying hair, and pointing out her fine lines.
And then I saw myself, barely 20, frowning at my reflection, convinced I too was already in the midst of a slow decline into old.
Why Is The Concept Of Aging So Offensive?
As I near 30, finally at a healthy weight, with an encouraging spouse and the most gorgeous baby girl, I realize how much we want to believe that we have any control over the passing of time. And if a product promises to the reverse the very signs that signal nothing lasts forever, something in our collective psyche says, "Yes, please. Give me something that reassures me I’m still present, noticed, vibrant, and on my way up instead of out."
I wish my grandmother could see what I do--the lines on her face a testimony to her years as the mother of seven, the grandmother to 21, and the great-grandmother to one. For six years she served as the primary caretaker for my grandfather as he slipped away into Alzheimer’s-induced dementia. After he died, she opened her home to her son and his children as he went through a complicated divorce.
I don’t begrudge anyone for prioritizing anti-aging products, and I understand being self-conscious about the wrinkles, crinkles, and grays. Personally, however, I want to celebrate looking and feeling my best without feeling like I’m fighting some uphill, and ultimately losing, battle.
After so many years of denying myself the pleasures of good food, social opportunities, and health, I look forward to the opportunity to age. I want every single laugh line possible etched in my face. And I want my daughter to see that getting older is a gift, one that I now treasure more than ever because she is part of it.
- What's your take on anti-aging products?
- If you struggle with body dysmorphia, how has it affected your approach to beauty and aging?