Updated: Mar 7
It started out innocently enough with a beauty cream here and a serum there. I mean, I had to moisturize my face, right? Why not choose a product that claimed to have “anti-aging” ingredients in it? Before I knew it, my makeup counter was crowded with potions that claimed to “lift”, “tighten”, “plump” and “smooth away fine lines”.
At what price beauty
Fast forward a decade and I had come to the realization that no over-the-counter magic formula would actually rid me of eye bags nor loose skin. That’s when I turned to my dermatologist to ask about prescription strength products. Turns out there was an impressive array of options ranging from peptides to fillers to botox. Many women over 50 (and yes, even as young as 30s) will know a friend who has “had work done”, whether it’s microneedling, laser, or some other modality. Sometimes the results are so subtle they are barely noticeable and at other times it is obvious they didn’t turn out so well, but inevitably at a hefty price.
There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to improve our appearance. After all, cosmetics like eyeliner and lip color have been with human civilization as far back as the 12th century BCE in Egypt. The problem lies in our present day societal narrative that defines beauty narrowly within the context of youth and when marketing becomes an insidious drum beat that promotes self loathing.
. . . aging brought a whole new set of reasons to hate my hair, face and body all over again.
Images of impossibly thin, airbrushed models are inescapable on advertisements, from magazines and billboards to the internet. We are constantly bombarded with messages dictating unattainable beauty standards that lead us to want to buy more beauty fixes and diet products. I was well into my 40s when I had come to a fragile peace with my own body image issues. But aging brought a whole new set of reasons to hate my hair, face and body all over again.
You get to choose
Don’t get me wrong. I’m going to continue to dye my hair and do what I can to improve my appearance. And I absolutely applaud whatever choices we make as women from a place of empowerment and awareness. We get to choose what we want to do with ourselves and our bodies - it is our own business and no one else’s. Period.
And I would advocate that we proactively create our own narrative for what we find beautiful and what we aspire to as we age. I love Dame Judi Dench’s power and presence. I love Meryl Streep’s courage in allowing herself to appear frumpy, old and ugly. I love seeing the pleasure in my centenarian grandma’s eyes and the charm in her manner.
May we choose to beautify ourselves from the inside out. Let us choose whole foods with which to nourish our bodies, and may we drink plenty of water each day. May we be gentle in our self care practices like exercise, bedtime rituals and meditation. As we prepare ourselves to face each day, let it not be from needing to hide, nor from hate nor fear. There are enough of those in our world today without turning loathing inward. Let us choose instead to be free to show up as our best selves and from a place of self compassion, so that we can bring more love into the lives of those we touch.