Face It

The challenges of aging in today's culture

Beauty That's Here to Stay

Women age 50 and older get it right at the 2013 Golden Globes!

Did anyone notice how stunning the over-50 crowd looked at the 2013 Golden Globes?

Even with Meryl Streep out with the flu (yes, she is no longer the only gracefully aging woman in Hollywood!) there were many others — Helen Mirren, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Glenn Close, Jessica Lange, Kathryn Bigelow and Julianne Moore — to name just a few. And whatever people thought of Jodie Foster's speech, no one would argue she glowed as she declared, "I am 50!" These women not only looked great, but they looked great for their age.

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And I'm not referring to their glamorous clothes or chic hairstyles (no doubt a lot goes into being 'camera-ready' for this or any award ceremony), but rather it was their confidence and vitality that caught my eye. More importantly, it was the noteworthy absence of those distorted, frozen faces that we have become so accustomed to seeing among celebrities. For that alone, they deserve an award!

Refreshingly, everyday women appear to be following suit. Your average midlife female — once so anxious about looking old or too discouraged to care — is coming to grips with aging in a youth-obsessed culture. Something fundamental is shifting; anti-aging seems out, while looking great for one's age is in. Here are some reasons that explain this welcome trend:

  1. Makeup is getting better and more appropriate: After consulting with a number of cosmetic companies, I have a window into what is going on behind the scenes. There is good news; labs are researching how to meet the specific needs of the aging woman. There is no longer a 'one size fits all' approach to makeup, hair and skincare. At Estée Lauder, for example, chemists are working on developing products that are more suitable to a mid-lifer's biology. Natural ingredients are being added to provide moisture, elasticity and sun protection. More attention is paid to chemicals that may be detrimental. Even the designs and packaging have the mid-lifer in mind. With such a large Boomer population, the demands of increasingly discriminating women with enormous purchasing power are finally being heard.
  2. Cosmetic procedures are improving. Major plastic surgery that once created radical, visible changes in women's faces appears to be giving way to more subtle ones. Doctors I spoke to have begun to recognize that women want to look better, without looking 'done.' Dermatologist Dr. Doris Day says, "a conservative, personalized and natural non-surgical approach is best when it comes to cosmetic procedures." We are seeing fewer women with cat eyes, puffy lips or overly-taught faces. Plastic surgery disasters may still get media attention, but they just aren't as commonplace as they once were. Cosmetic procedures are now performed gradually, with a 'less is more' attitude. And while the demand for non-invasive ones — especially botox, fillers and lasers — continues to rise, it seems women (and doctors) are exercising better judgment using them.
  3. Women are taking better care of themselves: As we become increasingly aware of how long we may live (the average American woman's life expectancy is now 80.1 years) so does the desire to look and feel good as we age. Efforts to prevent premature aging appear to have had an impact on women's overall cosmetic/health routines. More girls begin using sunscreen at an early age. More young women are cleansing and moisturizing their skin regularly as they enter adolescence. Dermatologists have been added to the list of doctors women visit annually, not only to check for sun damage, but for routine skin care. Exercise, something once avoided except at gym class, has become built into young girls' regular activities. Gyms, tracks, tennis and basketball courts are now filled with teens working out. For many, these regimines continue into adulthood, making it easier for women to appear robust and vital throughout their lives. It is no longer uncommon to find 70- and 80-year-olds in daily fitness classes, on bikes and treadmills alongside their younger counterparts.          
  4. Authenticity is catching on: Women seem to be finally recognizing that it is not only impossible to turn back the clock, but that to do so does not necessarily bring happiness. Many view 'anti-aging' — and all the potions, pills and procedures that promise it — as a ruse fueled by the fears of vulnerable women and a culture that capitalizes on them. Even those who once thought, "if I only could afford it, I'd go under the knife," are thinking twice about it all, wondering if their money, time and effort may be better spent on more important needs for their future. Finally, women are realizing that aging is not a disease and changes in their appearance do not have to 'fixed.' In fact, suggestions to that end — whether implied by men, advertisers or even doctors — have become insulting to most women today. Instead of promoting "50 is the new 15," more women are owning their true age (as Jodie Foster did on TV last week), unwilling to wipe away the years of experience that have made them who they are. Being authentic and beautiful has caught on.

 

Which is all to say, rather than fighting the aging process, more women seem to be coming to terms with it. They are redefining what it means to be beautiful — at age 50, 60 and beyond — and are wearing that new definition proudly on their faces. What a relief. What a positive outlook for future generations of women to come. It's about time!

What do you think midlife women are feeling and thinking about their appearance these days?

Join me in a panel discussion about "Healthy Aging; Inside and Out" with dermatologist, Dr. Doris Day and gynecologist, Dr. Rebecca Brightman at 6:30 PM on February 12th at the 92nd Street Y in N.Y.C.

 

Vivian Diller, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in New York City. She serves as a media expert on various psychological topics and as a consultant to companies promoting health, beauty and cosmetic products. Her book, "Face It: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change" (2010), edited by Michele Willens, is a psychological guide to help women deal with the emotions brought on by their changing appearances. For more information, please visit my website at www.VivianDiller.com; and continue the conversation on Twitter @ DrVDiller.

 

Follow Vivian Diller, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrVDiller

 

 

Vivian Diller, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in New York City and co-author of Face It: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change.

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