Aging: The Good, The Bad, The Grays

It would appear that aging happens in cycles. You start seeing a change—grays sprouting, a butt cheek falling—you fixate, then it kind of stops or slows, or maybe you just get used to it.

I remember being in my early twenties and noticing (nay, freaking out) about the first signs of marionette lines forming around my mouth. My young, vain self was very concerned about these! Now I don’t even notice them—they’re just a part of my face, a natural crease that comes from smiling. How could that be bad?

As I approach my 35th birthday this coming month, aging is more on my mind. Here’s the good I see about getting older: I’m mostly delighted with life and way more at ease with my looks. My skin is generally good and I’m a lot less stressed, though I do get the occasional what’s-the-point-of-it-all bug. I spend a lot of time with people who are a lot younger than me, and I have no envy for their youthful glow or the malaise that can come with it. For the most part, getting older is… an improvement.

The bad? My metabolism is slow as hell compared to what it once was and so is my recovery time from any bad behavior. There are definitely some new expression lines and, most noticeable to me these days, an small army of grays not-so-slowly taking siege of my scalp.

What does it mean to age gracefully? Linda Rodin (pictured above) comes to mind. A stylist, model (in her later life), and founder of the beautiful clean oil line Olio Lusso, Linda says that she never thought of dyeing her hair when it went gray at 35 (there’s that number again!). For a little aging inspiration I invite you to watch this video of her chatting about her life.

There are many gems but on aging, and anti-aging treatments, she says (around 4:45 in): “I don’t believe in anything other than what makes you comfortable… But I never fought my age.” She goes on to talk about some treatments she does, her motto being that you should do what you want, as long as you don’t end up looking distorted.

The question I have for you is this: What aspects of aging do you see as charming, or at the very least bearable? And which do you actively try to fight?

For now, I’m letting my grays do their thing. But you guys will be the first to know if I change my mind!

Aging sucks, right? Gray hairs, wrinkles, sagging skin, and all the gifts of girlhood gone in the blink of a birthday candle. Certainly according the the beauty business it’s enemy number one. Flip through a magazine and you’ll see just how much money goes into researching—or is that branding?—the latest and greatest anti-aging ingredients. And while few turn up sound science, and others are downright sketchy, women pay out the nose for these products because we seem to have accepted that this is our fate: to fight aging, well, until the death.

Obviously we all want to look our best. But on a recent drive back from Vegas—a strange place indeed—I got to thinking about aging, and why it is that I’m not really buying how bad it is anymore for our looks. And it’s not for lack of vanity: I can obsess over five pounds and that cyst on my chin with the best of them. But in my twenties, it was this idea of aging that really got to me: Every tiny new crease came under the looking glass, every new hair in an unwanted place was bemoaned. And it’s not that any of this has magically stopped, but I definitely don’t dramatize these changes like before.

Then it clicked. The reason I don’t obsess about aging with the same fervor as I once did is because I don’t buy, or buy into, the anti-aging products. My word… Natural beauty, you really are the gift that keeps on giving!

So I slather on the best creams and oils I can find, say a few prayers to the skin gods, try to stress less, eat sardines, and hope for the best knowing that I’m doing my best. And it turns out, if you’re not too worried about wrinkles and gray hair  (I’m still a little worried obvs) getting older is kind of awesome. Here are six things I like about it. (Siobhan will do a similar list some time soon!)

And we would love to hear yours! (Note when I say aging, that may mean changes you’ve noticed from 20 to 25 or the things that you’ve learned now that you’re 60.)

1. Your skin is more consistent. Except in more extreme cases like the one I described here, according to our experience and the testimonials of other women, your skin does balance out with time.

2. You’re more comfortable in your body. Putting aside those five pounds or the cellulite on your thigh, living longer in our bodies often helps make us more at ease in them too. We realize sometimes the weird quirks make us interesting, we finally understand that the stuff we’re so unhappy with are things the lovers in our lives rarely notice.

3. You dress your body better too. And luckily these days fashion is all about dressing to the beat of your own drum anyways. Don’t look great in skinny jeans? Me neither! As we get older we’re more inclined to find the uniform that makes us happy, rather than trying to mold our bodies to the latest trends.

4. Unhealthy habits are easier to kick. Personally, my older body is a lot more sensitive than my ten-years-ago one. Case in point: After a few days in Vegas, my lungs nearly collapsed when I exercised, which apparently is what happens when you spend four days in second-hand smoke and scented air. This kind of sensitivity generally makes me less drawn to unhealthy foods, excessive drinking, smoking, and other bad habits I used to relish.

5. You don’t sweat the small stuff as much. With time we realize that even the crappiest of moments do usually shift. People get forgiven, arguments get resolved, bad hair days give way to good hair days. Such is the cycle of life.

6. You’re rewarded for your hard work (on yourself). Siobhan and I talk about this A LOT. If you are willing to put in the work, face your issues, look at what you’re holding onto from the past, you will be rewarded. How? Depends on each person, but maybe you’ll be less reactive, generally more content grateful, and less anxious. Maybe you’ll smile more which, as the photo above exhibits, is a very beautiful thing.

Other reasons getting older isn’t as bad as they claim: Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Susan Sarandon and French women. OK, let’s hear what you think!

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Whoa whoa whoa. We already told you about how Botox might be blunting people’s emotions because our facial expressions are a big part of how we experience our feelings (which anyone who has ugly-baby-cried can tell you). But now we are learning that maybe it’s making you less of an empath too.

New research is showing that Botox can impair your ability to read other people’s feelings.

Yikes. From the L.A. Times:

Women who received Botox injections in their face were less accurate than those who had their facial lines plumped with an injectable cosmetic filler. The research contributes new evidence to a key theory about communication between humans: that we unconsciously use facial mimicry to help discern and interpret the emotions of others.

Makes sense. Part of how we read and then empathize with other people’s feelings is what’s known as mirroring—an unconscious thing we all do (well, those of use with souls, anyway) when someone shares something with us, or looks sad. Without the ability to mirror, you also lose some of the ability to accurately assess their feelings.

Kind of spooky, no? I asked a friend who’s had Botox if this rang true and she said she was horrified but she was sure her Botox wasn’t making her a bad friend.

Would you do Botox? Have you already done it? And if you have, please tell us if this rings true to you, based on your own experience!

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The quick answer? If you’re a rodent it can.

Studies around exercise must be some of  the most well-funded out there. In the last few months, we’ve reported on several: From how exercise may  prevent the common cold to why it’s more effective in the morning. Other recent research has focused on bone density and weight management for women after menopause, and now the New York Times is reporting that it may play a very significant role in slowing the signs of aging. Or, excuse me, stopping them altogether. From the article:

Indeed, in heartening new research published last week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace.

Of course we’ve long-discussed the anti-aging, beauty-amplifying benefits of breaking a sweat—but every sign? Come again, now. According to the article, here’s how the research was conducted:

In the experiment, Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues used lab rodents that carry a genetic mutation affecting how well their bodies repair malfunctioning mitochondria, which are tiny organelles within cells. Mitochondria combine oxygen and nutrients to create fuel for the cells — they are microscopic power generators.

This malfunctioning mitochondria would ensure that the subjects age prematurely. And that’s exactly what they did: By the time they hit their 8-month birthdays, which in this study represented about 60 human years, they were decrepid and dying. None of them reached their first birthdays. That is, except the ones that exercised.

Those rodents, who got to run on the wheel for 45 minutes, three times a week, had none of the signs of aging—despite possessing the same predisposition for early aging as the other poor things. Their fur was shiny and didn’t turn gray, their little hearts thumped on beat, their muscle and brain mass remained healthy, and they exhibited amazing coordination. In short, they stayed young—and they all celebrated their first birthdays.

While these epic effects aren’t fully understood (more funding to come!), the results are astounding. Our first three burning questions: 1. Could exercise really put hair dye out of business? 2. How applicable are these results to us bigger mammals? 3. Will a study like this change your exercise habits?

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We love it when scientists get feisty. Here, in an article in the Daily Mail, is what Oxford University protein biochemist Dr Blanca Sengerova has to say about anti-wrinkle creams that claim to contain collagen:

“It really frustrates me when I see adverts [adverts!] for anti-wrinkle creams containing collagen. Although collagen is structurally important for the integrity of our skin, the protein molecule is far too large to pass through the barrier posed by the skin.”

It frustrates us too, and is a good reminder to all of us that while lots of stuff can readily penetrate the skin, not everything can—and certainly not collagen in a cream.

That said, we totally understand the things people will buy (as in “purchase” and as inbelieve”) in the frantic pursuit of skin that is unblemished by age. But the fact is, the science of magical anti-agers just doesn’t add up.

Here’s what a cosmetics-industry rep said to the DM: “Manufacturers are very careful about the exact wording of the claims they make, but here is a risk of customers forming the wrong impression from some packaging and advertising.”

To which I say: Cosmetics industry reps are very careful about the exact wording of the claims they make. It almost sounds like he’s saying companies are being misleading, but actually he’s saying you’re an idiot for “forming the wrong impression” based on outrageous, promisey label claims. You silly goose.

But it got me thinking. What anti-agers do you think actually work?

I’ll go first. In my opinion the best anti-agers are a big fat smile, a healthy diet, lots of sleep, lots of water, and some healthy plant oils applied topically to keep the skin radiant, lines and all. Bonus if they contain antioxidants, of course. Your turn.

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