Saturday, April 25, 2009

Unanswered Questions About Cosmetic "Enhancements"

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how much is too much when it comes to “cosmetic enhancements”—You know what I’m talking about—Botox, brow lifts, Rejuvaderm and the likes; but also the smaller things like hair coloring, brow waxing, teeth straightening, personal trainers and all the lotions and potions that promise ageless results in a bottle.

On one hand, there are the countless magazines; their pages filled with airbrushed to the max celebrities—More magazine especially comes to mind; Jane Fonda, Tea Leoni, Sharon Stone, Dara Torres and Brooks Shields were so flawless on their cover that you’d swear they used photos from Madame Trousseau’s Wax Museum.  Poor Sharon Stone was barely recognizable; and Brooke Shields "celebrating her body as it is" made me laugh out loud--  I guess she didn't mention the "as is" part to the airbrush guys.  (I won’t even start on 70-something Jane!) 

I realize these women make a living off their looks-- and that's fine-- but I have to think that between “the work” they’ve may or may not have had done, and the extreme airbrushing in their photos, we’re not seeing their true faces or being given “real” role models on women's magazine covers to compare our appearances to.

On the other hand, there are the mountains of advertisements targeting women over 40 with models barely 20 years old, all hocking age reversing creams guaranteeing to erase lines in weeks without surgery or injections-- as if the 20 year olds have any idea what the ads are talking about.

Then there is singing sensation, Susan Boyle from Scotland, and the countless questions about her appearance.  Should she get a makeover to minimize her bushy brows, fuzzy gray hair and matronly attire or should she stay au naturale?  Well, guess what--  Susan “went Hollywood” and got a major, head to toe makeover.  Does that mean, at 47, she’s finally bought into the mass marketing and magazines’ portrayal of the “perfect woman”?  Is that what it takes to "win" or get a record deal despite an exquisite voice?  Did she feel pressured to change when the world made snarky comments about her appearance?  I hope not.  And I hope she feels good about herself.

So, where does that leave the rest of us mere mortals with wrinkles and puffy eyes?  

For me, I’m just a 50-something gal trying to look my best and feel confident about my appearance.  But, with all the perfection splashed across magazines and in the media, it’s tough to live up to all the youthful, glowing, wrinkle-free expectations.  It leaves me wondering if I’ve crossed the line and bought into the marketing schtick.  Or, am I at an acceptable level of “enhancements” to make the best of what I have to work with for my age?

For the record, I’m a Botox (brow and crows feet), brow waxing, skin bleaching (brown age spots), teeth whitened and straightened (with braces at age 45) gal with a twice-weekly personal trainer.  I don’t color my hair (yet) and I view that as God’s way of making up for the ultra thin hair he graced me with, which is why I’ve also used hair extensions on special occasions.  I have drawers full of lotions promising miracles--Oh, and I spray tan—a lot, especially in the summer.

I've also had a successful career, and yes, I have a life-- so there’s no spending every minute of every day looking at myself in the mirror.  I know there are much bigger fish to fry in our universe than a few wrinkles, but, obviously, my appearance is a factor in how I view myself.  Right or wrong, it’s just the way it is.  And I don’t think I’m entirely alone on the subject.

I may sound “high maintenance” and shallow, but then again, I live in youth obsessed Los Angeles and compared to many an LA babe, I’m an old hag with barely a make-up brush in sight.  Is that an excuse or a cop-out?  You tell me-- please!

Have I been manipulated into thinking I need all this stuff or am I really doing it for myself—to feel good.  After all, none of this is lowering my cholesterol, reducing my blood pressure or eliminating my arthritis.  Does that means it’s pure vanity or does self-esteem count as a stress reducer?

And more importantly, I wonder how long I’m supposed to keep it up?  At what age do I knock it off-- Skip the Botox, cancel the personal trainer, go with the uni-brow, and lose the retainer on my teeth at night?  Is my "enhancements" clock ticking?  Is there a magic age, a magic moment, a blaring alarm that will sound when enough is enough?  And when it does, what expires?  Moisturizers?  Hair coloring?  Brow waxing?  Some of it?  All of it?  What?  Will the day come when all these “enhancements” I’ve grown to include in my daily grooming regime cease to be relevant or necessary?  

When, or should I say "if", I decide to stop, THEN what happens?  Do I ween myself off one-by-one?   Stop everything cold turkey?  What?  It's a big step!  Life without Botox will look very different-- Literally!

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, no matter how hard I’ve looked, but I'll continue to search.  If you have a clue, please, by all means, bring it on!

What do you think?

Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna


  1. I think you should do what makes you feel good. Ignore the guilty feelings---those are irrelevant.

    After being so ill in the fall, I really got a slap in the "life is too short" part of my brain.

    If it makes you feel good, and it isn't hurting anyone else, why not? When it no longer feels good or you start looking like Mickey Rourke with boobs, then stop. ;-)

  2. I think the danger is we dont know when to stop. I have told my daughter to tell me when to step away from the makeup. I have used botox and it gave me a large headache. I only had it in my forehead not the crowsfeet - is it effective there? I dont want a too surprised look.

    I have loads of makeup given I was a makeup artist and use it all the time. I dye my hair (lots of greys showing through) and walk a lot.

    I lived in LA once due to my makep work - I was younger and had a great time. I couldnt do it now - the pressure to be beautiful must be horrendous.

    As much as I would like to tighten up the neck area I couldnt handle elective surgery. To me those with plastic surgery just look like they have had it. My dentist is addicted to it and only in her early 30s. However, each to their own.
    Being comfortable in you own skin is a the thing.

  3. I color my hair, because I was blond as a kid and I like it that way, however, silver is creeping in and I like that as well. If I had $5000 to spare I'd get a boob job. Not huge ones, not fakey-fake ones, just a pick-me up and maybe a teeny inflation. My hips are bigger than my boobs and I'd love them to match. It would be far easier to get boobs than lose hips. I know, I've tried. Nothing wrong with wanting to look a particular way. Even that woman in LA who has had so much plastic surgery she is supposed to look like a cat? It's her money, her life. I'm not uncomfortable in my skin as it is today, not self concious at all, it's just kind of fun to play a bit with what I have.
    Oh- I do my eyebrows too. Honestly, I'd look like Andy Rooney if I didn't.

  4. Great post! I stopped coloring my hair a year and a half ago! Not so easy - it took a year to fully grow all the color out. I'm definitely salt and pepper and happy about it. It's been fascinating watching my three other sisters in their later 40s now dealing with aging, each in a different way.

  5. I, too, have very fine hair (baby hair is more like it). Is that why I have so few grays?? I do color, but only for pizazz. My hair is dark and dull, so I like highlights. I haven't done botox because, honestly, I like character lines. What I don't like is the sagging of the jaw line and the neck. What's that Lifestyle lift all about?? Anyone know?

  6. Interesting post. I find it sad that women aren't comfortable with signs of aging. Why look like Barbie's skin?

    It did give me a good laugh where you said that Susan Boyle had "gone Hollywood". She went to a decent hairdresser, put on some makeup and bought some better clothes. She still looks like Susan... minus the frump.


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