Every time I look in the mirror I seem to see some new feature emerge from my face. This morning it was a "smile" line that sits just below my mouth. This will surprise few who know me as generally I am usually described as bubbly, friendly or just plain smiley!
This may seem perfectly harmless but it got me wondering, in this world obsessed with staying youthful-looking and flawless, should I be breaking out the anti-wrinkle cream? In asking myself this I realised that I have, from here on out, a decision to make not only about the way I age but if I even choose to age at all.
First let's establish that anti-aging products are a preventative measure, aimed at people from their teens all the way up to their fifties, not solely my age-group but women of all ages. Anti-aging creams are becoming more and more scientific and effective. We are now more educated than ever on the effects of UV damage on our skin and the different levels of toxicity in our environments. These are useful developments in how we understand health and wellbeing but then my question is, as long as I'm healthy, do I need to be concerned with the physical lines on our faces?
It seems to me that nowadays there are two ways to age. To give them context lets use two polarising examples: Joan Rivers and Helen Mirren. One school seeks perfection through surgery and the other through growing old gracefully (I'll let you guess which is which). Though both require intervention that isn't found in nature, Helen Mirren is the face of L'Oreal Paris Revitalift, a highly publicised brand of anti-aging products.
The science it seems is there in some cases, with the Guardian reporting in 2009 on the success of Boots No7 anti-aging range winning multiple awards and their ad campaigns focusing on "natural" beauty though natural in this context meaning preventing the signs of aging (lines, wrinkles, sallow skin) but without resorting to procedures such as Botox or cosmetic surgery. "Miracle" ingredients such as Matrixyl are now emerging, with their primary purpose being to prevent the signs of aging.
Lines at one point were a mark of a person's character. Now it seems that we are developing a cultural landscape of blank faces, with no real markers of a life well-lived. Historically, at different times having untanned skin has been both a marker of upper and lower stature. In Medieval times, when porcelain skin was fashionable, peasants were looked down upon for their tanned skin, as it denoted a lifetime of work outdoors. Try telling that to youths today, where in some social spheres not having a tan is considered highly unfashionable, these days it's the darker the better!
Having worked in the media industries I can bear witness to the pressure to look flawless 100% of the time which can feel oppressive. With women competing not only with their peers but with younger women and with the ever apparent Hollywood love interest age-gap (see: Colin Firth opposite Emma Stone, Joaquin Phoenix opposite Emma Stone, Sean Penn opposite Emma Stone, basically any recent Emma Stone film!) it seems unfair and unrealistic to criticise women (and men) for giving in to the constant barrage of images and articles telling them they have to look a certain way and how to achieve it given that the message being sent by Hollywood and the media is that women have to look young or be considered past it.
I know that none of this information is new, my observation is merely, what impact does all of this have on me as a normal 25-year-old and my peers and what message is it sending to younger generations? For now, all I can say is I'm happy to take the safety blanket that anti-aging products represent but that maybe down the line we should all take a long, hard look in the mirror and make sure that the face that we see is one that represents us as individuals and one that we're comfortable with, lines and all.