Sunday, July 12, 2009

In Pursuit of Youth

Dorian Gray had it good. He stayed young and golden while his portrait aged, tucked away in an attic. The rest of us unfortunately must contend ourselves with the very REAL fact that age we must or perhaps not...

Almost every skin care brand in the market today touts some kind of anti-aging benefit. From erasing wrinkles to providing non-sugerical facial lifts. All from a jar of cream or a tube of serum and at pretty affordable prices too. Do these products really work? will mature women regain the elasticity of their sagging skin, will laughs lines disappear? will younger women retain their youthful looks with prodigious use of anti-aging products?

I am a cynic, I don't buy the whole anti-aging ballyhoo. I am all for skin care ranges for mature skin, considering that the needs of our skin changes as we mature. However I do not believe that the promise of youth lies in a bottle or a facial mask packed with anti-oxidant properties. The most these products can do is to alleviate the process somewhat and allow for graceful aging. What it won't do is keep you looking young.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe nothing beats a good daily skin care regime and a healthy lifestyle. All the expensive face serums in the world will not work miracles if you fail to do something as basic as removing your make-up and cleansing your face before going to bed.

Despite cynics like me, anti-aging skin care is here to stay. I doubt many women out there will take the risk of not using any of these products at all, whether they see results or not. It is like buying insurance, better to buy than not, or in this case better to use than not.

This is an industry that sells hope and a generous dose of fear, just look at all the 'before' photos. But hope and fear is a potent mix for inducing action in women, often seen as likelier slaves to vanity than men.

The other day I was at the Guardian pharmacy in Mid-valley when I happened to pass by a counter selling a new anti-aging product range, to my utter surprise the sales girl approached me with a brochure saying: " Miss why don't you try this product, can help remove your wrinkles." Naturally I was irritated, I am 32 this year and I don't have wrinkles, in fact it would be quite unnatural for me to have wrinkles at this age. Anyway I decided to humour the sales girl and asked her: " Ok where are my wrinkles? she pointed to the line that almost everybody has between the edge of the nose and upper lip and said the cream in question would give me a natural face lift.

When I countered by asking: " Are you telling me that I should use a cream to remove the natural lines on my face which are not caused by age?" she became very irritated and fished out a photograph of a woman with an incredibly bad complexion who was smiling from ear to ear. She pointed at the lines caused by the expression of smiling and said: " See these lines? this product will help you remove lines like this and give your face a lift!" What so now product manufacturers are inventing solutions to change the natural form of the human face?

I don't plan to use the product in question, so I cannot confirm if it will indeed give you a marble smooth face even when you are laughing or smiling. But taking a look around me, I noticed that many young women, some of them looked barely 25, were snapping up boxes of the cream in question. Now if it were mature women who were picking up the product, it would not have been surprising. But these girls looked so young, are people that afraid of growing old and looking it?

Plastic surgery is the recourse of those who have the cash and no patience for creams and serums. A nip and a tuck to keep age at bay. But as the skin continues to age, more nip and tucks would be needed. Too many nip and tucks unfortunately creates a rather grotesque looking being. A couple of Hollywood celebs and 'Mak Datin' types come to mind.

I am all for looking good but I certainly draw the line at looking unnatural. By unnatural I mean looking frozen in time. It's scary to come across someone 20 years later and find that they still look 25. And that is if they are lucky and have a good plastic surgeon. Imagine the ones who don't!

What was once considered a natural part of life is now seen as something that can be done away with. But to what extent and at what cost? Maybe its just my middle class mentality, but I strongly believe that plastic surgery should only be resorted to for reconstructive purposes in accident cases or if a person has a deformity which can rectified.

The casual attitude taken by some people towards plastic surgery for beautification purposes still never fails to amaze me. My mum was once talking to a doctor about her eye bags, and the doctor urged her to go to a certain plastic surgeon who could get it removed. Mum was a bit startled of course, the most she was expecting was a recommendation for a good cream really.

I am not about to start a society encouraging people to stop colouring their hair when it turns white, or wear granny clothes the moment they hit 50. I have a huge amount of admiration for those who take pride in taking care of themselves, from practicing a healthy diet to having a good skin care regime, and taking a certain amount of pride in their appearance. People who fall into this category age gracefully, so gracefully that you hardly even notice. I am lucky to be acquainted with several such persons and count them as my inspiration in facing the aging process.