The Beauty of Aging.

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This week I went to the dermatologist for my annual skin cancer check (you all should as well) and when the doctor walked in she asked how I was feeling about my skin these days. “Older” I said, with a nervous laugh.

“Well, you are an excellent candidate for filler!  Slim women lose fat in their face first and it really would help contribute to a more youthful look.”

Well, shit.

I’ll admit that the wind was knocked out of my sails a little. I guess at 35, and with a history of rampant sun-bathing (again, skin cancer checks, people), I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear that little tidbit of advice.  When I look in the mirror in the morning I see the lines around my mouth getting deeper and the angry crease that has appeared between my eyebrows,  little scars courtesy of Father Time and my penchant for animated facial expressions. But should I be feeling “old”? Especially at 35? (I can hear my mom chiming in now- “Just wait until your 60, sweetie!”)

At one point last year I was so annoyed by that little furrow between my brows that I went to the plastic surgeon who gives me “Jawtox” (Botox in the jaw muscles for my TMJ- it’s magic for those that suffer, I’m telling you) and asked him about shooting a little of that juice in between my eyebrows.  He quickly obliged, and I almost immediately started freaking out. I spent the next ten days scared to look in the mirror (yet checking it constantly) as my muscles atrophied and my ability to move my eyebrows together failed.   I HATED it. I was paranoid my face would freeze crooked and never go back,  and it felt like I had dried Elmer’s glue on my forehead all day. But boy, did I look better. I felt totally strange to me, but yet no one seemed to notice.  Not even my Mom, who knows when you’ve moved a salt shaker two inches to the left.  I slowly forgot about it, but I swore up and down I would never, ever do it again.

Until it wore off and the wrinkle came back.  And now apparently I need fillers too!  Or do I?

This week Celine released a new ad campaign featuring the inimitable Joan Didion at 80.  Sporting big, glamorous sunglasses, a smart black sweater and a sharply cut bob- Joan rocks her 80 years in all it’s glory. And you know what, she looks as cool as any 30 year old Hollywood “it” girl out there in my book.  The moment I saw it I thought it was so freakin’ awesome. Just like how I love that Linda Rodin is celebrated as the incredibly chic and beautiful woman she is.  These ladies embrace their grays, their wrinkles and look fabulous. Acceptance is far more beautiful than fighting tooth and nail to delay something inevitable.  After all, isn’t aging a gift not everyone gets to experience?  Isn’t there something beautiful about celebrating that instead of cursing it?

That said, as women, I think we need to respect what it is that makes each of us feel comfortable and happy in our own skin.  If a little work here and there makes YOU feel better, then fabulous! Go for it!  If letting your grey take over instead of coloring your hair makes your life less stressful, good for you! Bravo! I would never say to never to a little help, who knows, when I’m 50 I may feel better with a little help from hyaluronic acid, and if so, FINE! When everyone was making a big deal about Renee Zellwegger’s “new face” recently it made me so sad- whatever she has/ hasn’t done is up to her and if she’s happy then that’s all that matters. And if she feels horrible about it, why are we all making the poor woman feel worse? It’s all a personal choice.

That said, I do think it’s wonderful and encouraging to see giant fashion houses like Celine celebrate not only the beauty of older women, but also smart women.  Women with opinions, stories and lots of incredible life experiences.  It’s such a lovely example to set not only for young girls, but also 35 year old women who feel the pressure to look 25. Experiencing life fully and wholly with all it’s up and downs, frowns and smiles is a beautiful thing.  Youth is wonderful, but so is experience. And the best beauty product in the world is confidence, a sense of peace and a big smile.

Looking at that ad above makes me think twice about the doctor’s advice. Why not just get more fabulous sunglasses and spend my time focusing on the beauty of life and not my face?

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99 comments

  1. And it’s going to take more smart, beautiful women like you, aging gracefully, to keep us headed in the right direction!

  2. Erin Gates,
    You need a new dermatologist. Not that yours may not be adept and capable, but because that is not what you sought when you went in for an annual skin cancer check. I work in healthcare with all sorts of doctors and specialists all day (and am one myself). Your dermatologist should be addressing what you’re there for, not selling you on products and making implications by doing so. I’ve seen two dermatologists for my skin checks over recent years. They talk about use of moisturizers, sunscreen, sunscreen, oh, and sunscreen. You should have rightly been offended. Europeans tend to view age and beauty differently than Americans, and I think the Celine ad campaign does a great job of pointing that out. How Parisian of you…… :)

  3. I’m hopeful that the tide will turn toward acceptance of aging naturally versus the ‘Hollywood look’ that’s so prevalent now.
    That said, I’m now 55 and use Botox for the frown lines between my eyes, and have used it for about six years. It’s the one thing that just really bothers me, for whatever reason. I can accept the jowls forming, no matter how fit I am, and the inevitable age spots. And do not get me started on chin hairs–UGH–but those frown lines just get to me.
    So, to each his or her own. Was I this critical at age 35? Oh, hell no. Even at 45. But the older I get, even though I embrace the aging process, for the most part, I find that if there is something that can be done that makes me feel, and look, better, then why not.
    Also, as a caveat–I tried whole forehead Botox once and HATED it! The demented lifted eyebrow look was too much for me. By doing just the vertical lines I can avoid that look.

  4. Erin I am soon to be 65 and I have a saying, “aging is a natural process of life, but I refuse to become OLD , that is a state of mind.” I say age gracefully and be the best you can be at any age. I am not a fan of botox or surgery for myself, but I am an advoacte for taking care of yourself and your skin. I know you use La Mer and it is by far the best face cream I have ever used. However since I am retired the price is a bit too much for me. You are exactly the age I remember my first noticing that my skin was aging and I started wearing foundation for the first time. It sounds as if you are on course of the normal aging process. Just take care of YOU and do what makes YOU feel better as long as it is safe.

  5. Wait, you can use botox for TMJ? Why didn’t I know this! Can you write a post about that? Did you doctor recommend that option? I grind my teeth (“like crazy” according to my dentist) but he has never once recommended this. I would love to learn more!

    Also, from all your pictures and things you seem wrinkle free to me Erin! You have a great complexion. That doctor was totally trying to sell you on that stuff and it sounds like he does that to a lot of people. I know that’s not why you shared that tidbit but it just sounds like he gets a kickback, really believes in the fillers and/or is a salesman of sorts not just a good Derm.

    I second the person who said to look in for a new Dermatologist if possible or just eschew those fillers that you don’t want/need.

    Thank you for the “Jawbox” info!

  6. Your dermatologist has maybe been hitting the prescription pad a little too hard. I met you in person in DC and you are absolutely NOT a candidate for anything other than another cocktail. I know doctors are just giving patients what they want when it comes to plastic surgery, but they shouldn’t exploit women’s vulnerabilities. You look fab – don’t change a thing.

  7. I can’t believe that your dr said you should get botox. I (and this is my personal opinion), I think botox is poison. That has no place in your body for cosmetic reasons. As you said, it helps for TMJ, and there is a form of botox which has been working wonders for migraine suffers. All great reasons for botox. But for cosmetic reasons?

    No, I don’t think it should have a place in the world so that people can ‘look younger’. We are the age we are. I’m 37, and I’m staring 40 in the face with happiness. I’ve always looked younger than my age – I was still carded into my 30’s – but I have no need to pump my body with chemicals just to look younger. If I didn’t take care of myself in my younger years – and who didn’t use baby oil to sunbathe on occasion in the 80’s? – then that’s something I have to pay for as I age. But I’m owning every wrinkle, and feeling pretty dang good about it. I really think society needs to stop saying we have to look 29 at all times. We aren’t all 29 (and we aren’t all a size 2, and we don’t all have perfect hair, etc), as much as we’d like to be.

  8. I am 56 years old, and was recently introduced to an all natural/organic skin care system by my 34 year old daughter-in-law called Real Raw Beauty. It is incredible! I have used all of the very expensive lines and have NEVER been as pleased and satisfied as I am with this. And, it is very cost effective!
    Erin, you are beautiful! Embrace the changes that are naturally occurring to your face and get a new dermatologist!!!

  9. First of all- you are gorgeous!! But I, too, am 35 and have completely accepted the fact that my forehead looks a lot more happy with a little Botox relaxing those furrows I create when I think. And I also look at it as preventative… When we are 60, we won’t have had the opportunity to create deep expression lines and that’s an opportunity that I won’t mind missing!
    On to the JAWtox. I suffer from terrible TMJ as well and have been considering doing this but am fearful it will change the shape of my lower face like so many of the before and afters I have seen. While I wouldn’t mind a little cosmetic slimming (my massager muscles are overdeveloped from the TMJ and clenching), I don’t want it to totally change my jaw or make me look all droopy. So —my question is– what has been your experience with this? Did you feel it altered your look? Or did you just get great TMJ relief?
    I would appreciate any advice as I don’t know anyone who has done it and would love a first hand account from someone I trust!
    Thank you!! And boo on filler. We’ve got at least 5 more years before we need that ;)

      1. So I’ve only done it twice because my TMJ has gotten a lot better from doing it! I was terrified the first time, and there were some freaky moments (you almost always have to go back for touch ups because the muscle is so big and strong they can miss spots and then when you chew little sections stick out and it looks bizarre!) I probably need it again (my last injection was three years ago). I saw no difference in my face shape. Just relief from the daily headaches, jaw pain and tooth damage. try it!!!

  10. Check out today’s post on Passages des Perles. I’m guessing she’s in her 60s and I loved her take on this! Mind, Mobility and Mojo….my new motto!

  11. This is one of my favorite posts yet, Erin! Well said. I just read that Saint Laurent is going to be using Joni Mitchell in an upcoming campaign too! I haven’t tried any botox or fillers. I always felt totally comfortable with aging. Then, the negative self-talk on aging almost creeps in unexpectedly. Aging is such a journey and challenge. I just have to keep it real. It is interesting that just as we age physically, we also evolve (*hopefully*) mentally. I appreciate the part of growing older where you just stop caring what people think. This also provides a certain freedom from all the cultural notions about aging. Finally, I admire women who model how to age gracefully so people like Joan Didion mean a whole lot in that equation.

  12. Erin, I think the doctor was in a “selling” mode. But, I will tell you that I had a face lift at about 47, when I saw the way my neck looked with the hairdresser’s cape fastened around me. I’m so happy I did it then. Early. And, now I don’t look my real age at all. But not at 35 !!

  13. You are exactly right! It’s so hard to look in the mirror and see these lines showing up, one here and then OH NO! another one there BUT all of those lines have a story…tears, happiness, joy, laughter. Thank you for reminding us that those lines are beautiful too.

  14. I feel like you have two conflicting messages here. You talk about accepting the effects of age, but that it’s OK to fight against it using Botox/fillers. I think if you accept getting older then you accept what age does to your face. I belong to a yoga studio in town and I’m the youngest of the group (29). All of the older women (40-60 yr) in my class are beautiful and none of them had Botox. Although, it’s not a popular concept in rural Ohio. Also, I had a dermatologist check me for skin cancer and that dermatologist did not suggest Botox or fillers. If he or she did I would not be happy with his or her unsolicited advice and I would not go back. I realize the results of fillers/botox/plastic sugery is a matter of personal preference. Personally, when I see pictures of someone who’s had any of it done I think “they looked better in the before picture”. I think the best thing you can do to stay younger is to eat healthy, exercise, and use sunblock. Life is short; don’t spend it nitpicking at your face and body. I do agree with your thought that people should respect others choices.

  15. Anyone with TMJ should see a physical therapist who specializes in myofascial pain. I saw someone for six weeks who literally changed my life with his adjustments and my exercises at home. I can’t recommend it enough!!!

  16. Completely, 100% agree – thank you THANK YOU for posting this. Fuck the fillers – you are fabulous girl! Amazing hair, amazing smile, and a dashing husband to add to a hugely successful career. You enjoy that trip to Jamaica, and find a new dermatologist when you get back!

    xo
    Becky

  17. I echo the sentiments of earlier comments. A friend recently passed away after a long illness at age 34. She left behind a husband, young children and many dear friends. She did not want to die. She would have given anything to have a furrow in her brow or lines around her lips- because that would have meant that she could hug her husband again, watch her daughters get married or hold her grandbabies in her arms. Getting old is not a curse. Celebrate your lines and spots because they mean you are here. Please don’t lose sight of that.

    1. Thanks for that perspective. Gratitude for the time spent should be a bigger part of this conversation.

  18. At 35 I started botox in my forehead-it is the best “make-up” Ive ever purchased….better than any bronzer, foundation, or blending….and then decided on filler around my mouth-again best “makeup” ever …..what we choose to do as woman-is awesome-do what you see fit-now I say freeze me!!!! love it #helpswithdepressiontoo #botoxhelpswithvisualdeficitswithMS BONUS

  19. As a 65 year old woman, who as decided to do what Diane Keaton supports, age authentically, thank you, thank you, thank you! I appreciate your perspective, especially since you’re 35! I don’t worry too much about what others think, I do what I can to look my best…short of injections or plastic surgery. I feel good, and being a red head, that did more sunbathing than I should have, I embrace that I’m a grandma and look pretty much my age.
    Karen

  20. Erin, you are beautiful! You don’t need fillers or Botox. Have you heard of Rodan+Fields? They have a GREAT regimen called REDEFINE. It’s for the appearance of lines, pores and loss of firmness. It is fabulous! Contact me and I’d be happy to help.

  21. So well written. As I will be blowing out candles AGAIN next week, I have had all the same thoughts churning in my head. I am with you bigger more fabulous sunglasses, but if ‘fillers’ make someone else happy who am I to judge?
    Kelly

  22. Here’s my two cents. I’m 66 years old. My husband passed away in Feb, 2011. I weighed 160. After that, grief dropped me to 120. I’ve stayed there. However, losing 40 lb wasn’t all pretty. I did lose the fatty thing under my chin that wobbled when I talked. My upper arms, which were never muscular, are crepe-y. My legs are not firm. I have lots of gray hair around my face. I wear tanks and camis. I wear shorts. I do not color my hair. Should I wear the clothes I do, should I color my hair? Probably. Most women who look like me do. But I just don’t care. This is who I am. If someone is put off seeing my arms flap in the breeze – it’s their problem. I could work out much more than I do. I hate working out; I hate sweating. So, while I’m not 100% happy with my appearance, considering I’m 66 years old, and can still wear tanks and shorts, don’t need orthopedic shoes (thank God cuz I’m a flip flop girl), I am happy. I take care of myself, I like the gray because I always wanted lighter hair, and I’m living life to please myself – not anyone else. So rejoice in who you are and don’t try to make yourself into someone to make others happy to look at you.

  23. I’m just a couple years older than you and I LOVE MY LINES. I have overcome some obstacles that caused the worry lines and I’m proud of that. While I am definite a bigger consumer of high end skincare products than I was ten years ago, I am happy to have people look at me and see evidence of my experiences on my face.

    I feel sorry for anyone who chases younger skin to the point that they are shooting up with fillers. No matter how much they protest, it reeks of insecurity.

  24. The comment from Kelly says it all – getting older truly is a gift that not everyone receives.
    I have not had any fillers or botox myself, and I sure could use them. But I feel that if it helps to feel good about yourself then you should go for it…. However, the comment from Andrea that says she thinks botox is poison is absolutely right – have no doubts ladies – it is poison – a neurotoxin that is made from bacterial toxin botulin – the same bacteria that causes botulism.

  25. I made the mistake about 7 years and tears ago of getting botox for what I thought would open up my eyes a little more. Little did I know that this harmless jab set off a terrible immune response in my body. I was sick for over 4 years until things finally settled down.. long long story. It is one of the possible side effects they don’t tell you about. Glad you’re staying real Erin.

  26. My friends and I talk a lot about this. We are all in our mid-40s and we’re constantly pointing out the things we hate about the way we are aging. The truth? Most of it is in our heads. I think my smile lines are huge — everyone else insists they have no idea what I’m talking about. And vice versa. We’re our own worst critics. I started thinking, if they don’t notice, why should I? I’ve always told my children that scars are memories you get to wear, and each one tells a story. I’ve decided my wrinkles are the same way. The crinkly skin beneath my eyes means I smile a lot; I furrow my brows when I think. These things tell my story. And now, I can’t imagine erasing all that, although I still do not love that smile line on the left side of my mouth. Oh well. Here’s to aging gracefully and wearing your story proudly.

  27. I agree wholeheartedly that whatever feels good for you is good. Life is hard enough without being hard on each other’s choices. I’m 37 and a little jittery about what working mom with two toddlers is doing to my face, and have just accepted that I’m going to have to dye my increasingly gray hair, but I think the rest is going to have to do its thing. That attitude, however, could change at any moment – ha!

  28. I didn’t read all the comments, so this may be repetitive.

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE chic looking older women. Nothing more glamorous than a life well lived. BUT, there’s something about those middle years between young woman and old woman that are particularly hard to deal with.

    I did botox 2x. The first time, I felt like u did, I FUCKING HATED it. I couldn’t move my eyebrows AT ALL, and I tend to use them a lot to emote- which is why i have wrinkles there in the first place.

    The second time I did it with a different doctor, it cost 1/4 the price and he used so little that I could still move my eyebrows and every part of my face, but that wrinkle was gone. It lasted only a few months as opposed to a year like the first time, but I loved it. Didn’t even feel it.

    So maybe u just need less?

    Anyway, Im just not ready to embrace looking old. I need a little more time! ha.

  29. Oh also want to say, botox doesn’t actually make anyone look “Younger” I think it can actually make people look older.

    BUT, when my mom does it, lets say, I never notice exactly what it is she did, but she just looks like she went on vacation or had a greats night rest. And I ask “Did u just get a facial or something?” Doesn’t make her look like she 30 again. Just a more chill looking 50-something!

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