Monday, June 30, 2008

Redhead's Aging Skin -- Answers

Plastic Surgery May Contribute to Ageism

My previous post described some of this redhead's perceptions of beautiful skin and my personal experience with aging skin issues. I raised the question of whether or not to seek various treatments and surgery to alter my aging appearance.

Discussion of aging skin reminds me of those youthful ages when we all aspired to tans and sometimes took extraordinary means to obtain one. The ideal golden-bronze look was never to be mine, a shade usually only those with darker hair and skin colorings achieved. These were the days before sunscreen lotions were in use and the medical term, melanoma, wasn't as prevalent in our vocabularies.

I did use one of the tanning lotions of the day, in an effort to protect my skin, enabling me to enjoy as much time in the sun and water as my friends. Some of them used baby oil, and one in particular mixed iodine in her baby oil, then baked herself daily in the sun's rays. Eventually she suffered severe sunstroke from which for a while, they thought she might not recover. When she did, her future required she stay out of the sun ever after.

Despite my care, I did experience one or two unpleasant burns during my early years. I'm convinced some of the cellular skin changes I've experienced in recent years are likely attributable to those sun assaults. Fortunately, melanoma has not been diagnosed for me, but even one, two, or more pre-cancerous skin cell conditions are not desired either. Frankly, I'm amazed I don't yet have more wrinkles than I do, between my sun exposure and the aging process, but they may well be just biding their time before surfacing. One day I will awaken, look in the mirror, much as with those corner-of-the-mouth furrows, and see another new me.

Given the onslaught of anti-aging articles, advertisements promoting miracle treatments, and eternal youth commentary to which we are subjected today, I guess I'm supposed to be alarmed and even repulsed enough by the sight of my own aging face I should want to avail myself of some of those products and treatments at all costs. Probably, I should be rushing to my dermatologist, or plastic surgeon, begging to have my youthful looks reinstated. I know with such interventions I can receive temporary relief from these furrows and beginning wrinkle crinkles affecting my facial appearance. The secret word there, of course, is that whatever is done is "temporary." I can also have the magic Botox administered, because I've previously been the recipient of such promotion brochures and seen TV infomercials promising to rejuvenate me.

I also see posted pictures and signs on the topic every time I'm in the dermatologist's office. Furthermore, when I phone the office if they need to put my call on hold, I am repeatedly subjected to a verbal description of all the cosmetic services provided. The recorded informative message sounds quite similar to an advertising pitch. I have wondered if callers are deliberately put on hold just so they'd have to listen to the recording? What's the difference between providing information and advertising/promoting a service?

The message in our culture seems to be to disguise or alter the appearance of any body features we don't like, or changes that occur with aging. The not always so subtle thought being conveyed is that feature and body alteration is necessary and may be especially so for the aging individual's emotional well-being. The marketers having successfully seduced so many women with this notion, have increasingly assaulted men with the same ideas, as more and more are told to suction off those pounds and darken the gray from their hair. I wonder, too, about those teens whose body features are physically altered before they've even matured?

The implication can also be drawn that men and women who don't utilize all means available to seek a more youthful appearance can fault only themselves for being victimized by ageism. Possibly, an inability to accept our own natural aging process, then our pursuing some of these perpetual youth seeking purported remedies and treatments help create some ageist attitudes. Such desperate actions may actually contribute to the very age discrimination we resent.

Right now I could have just a little tuck on each side of my face to eliminate my furrows, start constant creme applications at the corners of each eye to erase those squinty laugh lines, and seek tucks for those slight upper eye lid droops. Eventually I'll likely need regular creme applications or botox injections if those faint forehead creases become full-fledged wrinkles.

I know, too, there are those professionals in various medical specialties more than anxious for me to contribute to their income by having me seek their professional help to rid myself of such unsightly wrinkles. I know, also, that the "fix" is, at best not permanent, and I must keep returning periodically, at no small fee, to rid myself temporarily of these natural body changes. Advertisements run rampant with all these wrinkle cremes that work miracles, if only I will buy their product, for now and the rest of my life.

Several months ago an article I read in a prominent West Coast newspaper included interviews with a group of women who said they regretfully were having to forego their frequent visits for facial nips, tucks and surgeries due to the state of the economy. They good-naturedly reported they could no longer afford this self-indulgent luxury to which they regularly treated themselves. These many months later with other product costs increasing and the price of gasoline going sky high to support the fortunes of those whose dynasty is built on oil income, I expect these ladies may be having to give up even more. I hope for their sakes they are able to content themselves with their appearance.

Maybe if more individuals have those ladies experience, some specialty doctors providing services for purely cosmetic reasons might experience a decline in their practice. They might have to devote themselves to providing medical services and treatments to patients with true health ailments. Some other thoughts such as these that another blogger once suggested made sense to me, too. Consider what might happen if we lessened the demand for some of those medical people devoting their skills, time, and energy to purely cosmetic beautification surgery at all ages, including for those who are simply aging. Maybe some of those now-unneeded specialists might gravitate to other needed medical specialties, and general practice, thus contributing to the lessening of a physician shortage.

This could be just one more small item that could help reduce overall health care costs a smidgen for which there is certainly a need. My experience of budgeting often requires many small expense cutbacks if expenditure reduction is to be accomplished and this might help a wee bit. I do not hear proposals for long-needed pharmaceutical company cost overhauls by our Presidential candidates where we might reap some really significant savings. The plans they propose offer some changes, but we're forced to continue dealing with the health insurance plans we have. Costs will not be lessened and there are not even provisions to see that all citizens receive health care. Meanwhile, everyone continues to age with or without health care coverage.

When I continue to think about my own aging appearance, however tempting it may be to preserve a more youthful look for just a little longer, do I really want to subject myself to cosmetic surgical mutilation, anesthetic risks in such a futile temporary pursuit of a false appearance? Observing those who have pursued such body changes, their appearance confirms ultimately nature prevails, since aging continues. Eventually, too many who have subjected themselves to seeking the eternally youthful appearance often begin to look like some grotesque caricature of themselves.

I know even these treatments and cremes enhanced by the most radical body alterations will not be enough to deter my body's aging. Would I wonder then, why on earth I didn't spend my money on something more important in my life -- for myself, or others? More importantly, why would I take even the slightest of health risks, much less spend my time on such frivolous pursuits with so much of importance left to be achieved in this world, so many more pleasures to experience before I depart?


  1. "I have wondered if callers are deliberately put on hold just so they'd have to listen to the recording."

    I'm convinced of that! It happens here too.

    I had seen various actresses who've had plastic surgery, and there's always something on their bodies that still looks old. Skin on the hands, for example, or the feet and ankles. I say, why bother?

  2. I guess if I really analyze it, I would prefer to spend money on things that make my inner body more healthy.

    It doesn't take much to hit home how important a healthy body is to enjoying getting older.

    Retiring with scads of money means nothing if you are not able to enjoy it.

    My recent care-taking duties for my mom has made me hyper-aware to the fact that I need to pay more attention to things like strength exercises and overall muscle tone and flexibility.

    So, forego the wrinkle tuck, and invest in a home gym, I'd say.

    PS: I am still addicted to make-up , however. ;-)

  3. I have found certain products that are good for my skin when I remember to use them. I never had to use a moisturizer until somewhere in my 50s because my skin was naturally oily. When I did, I tried expensive ones as well as those you buy in the drugstore and found experimenting leads to ones that work for me but might not for others.

    I do have a product i like right now which would be good for anybody, I think. It's a little tool from Neutrogena which uses small,disposable pads and gives a good exfoliating treatment similar to microdermabrasions but not as total-- while being a lot cheaper. I like how it makes my skin and me feel after using it which is a plus. I feel like mentioned above-- mainly do what is healthy and secondly what might improve the skin to give it better tone or whatever. Everybody has to experiment for themselves.

    I have found generally products by Olay, Loreal and Neutrogena do about as good as what you can pay three times the price for. I try things, use them for awhile and switch. I have had fotofacials (they are costly and mildly uncomfortable but no scars or sores to heal) and still will get one now and then. They take off those age spots that women like me who are out in the sun a lot tend to get even when wearing a hat.

  4. kenju: I've noticed those kind of skin contrasts, too. Aging will out.

    pattie: You've sure zeroed in on some of what really matters. That home gym is a good idea, and just plain getting out and walking regularly. Need to really make myself develop this habit.

    Yeah, caregiving certainly influences our thinking about life. Hope all is going well with your Mom.

    rain: Sounds like you've come up with some interesting products. I always preferred L'Oreal lipsticks and still use them, when I wear lipstick. A few years ago was given some sample age spot cremes and a prescription so I could get more, but decided I wanted to use my time in ways other than applying the creme as age spots didn't bother me.

    In the final analysis I think we all need to do what makes us most content with ourselves as you seem to be doing. Some of my attitudes have changed over the years, but have always had an underlying focus on naturalism.

  5. Actually those sun damaged spots are good to remove as they are damaged skin that, according to what I was told, can lead to further problems. A trip to the dermatologist for another question and his use of liquid nitrogen got rid of my first one. I don't know if creams remove them but I do know fotofacials do. My husband had a large one right below his eye and one treatment removed it. Someone who wasn't out in the sun too much won't likely have them anyway or not a disfiguring level. I try to watch my skin for things that are precursors of something worse coming as I have had one other thing that could have turned to cancer if I hadn't had it cut out (maybe not too, they often aren't sure). It's not easy though to be sure what is okay and what is a warning. The wisest people stayed out of the sun in their younger years or wore hats all the time but my lifestyle and emotional need to be outdoors has led to skin that shows it. (They call them age spots or liver spots but they really are skin damage.)

    What I dislike about getting old is that I have to question my own skin to ask if something is normal or be concerned about. But I realize that some young people get skin cancer also. Just with my olive skin, I didn't until recently. My mother in law had very nice skin clear into her 90s and she used Oil of Olay as her main moisturizer but she also wasn't outdoors a lot. It's the sun as much as age that does the damage.

  6. Rain: You provided some good information. Thanks. Definitely, great care in the sun must be taken by all. I've found it wise to see a dermatologist on an annual basis or so, or if any suspicious skin spots develop, including some of what you describe here -- especially ever since I had a few biopsies, with one a small sltly more serious pre-C requiring the knife.

    Lest there be any doubt, I encourage everyone to provide good health care for their skin, to seek a dermatologist as needed. My doctor is primarily dedicated to just such care. I really like her, and she was excellent with my husband, also. She doesn't push me to have what I consider cosmetic-only procedures, or use a lot of products that are available for sale there. I still get annoyed with the recorded message when I'm on hold, but she's more than worth my tolerating that annoyance.

    I'm really quite pleased with my skin condition overall. Have used only the original Keri lotion for the past thirty years.

    My mother who had dark hair also had lovely smooth facial skin through her almost 90 years and used only Jergens lotion.

    I can't help thinking about all the people whose insurance or lack of insurance altogether may keep them from having the good care we're talking about here.

  7. I've used Avon moisturizer and have found it works great on my skin. I do have those little aging wrinkles around my eyes and mouth but no wrinkles on cheeks and at 85...I'm happy about that. I have one "age spot" but have found Fade Cream made by AMBI and distributed by Johnson & Johnson, really helps make it less noticeable.

    It seems my hands definitely let people know I am an "oldie"....I've found nothing that keeps the veins from being so prominent....

  8. I am tardy in reading this post but must comment on skin cancer.

    I, too, have a red head's complexion and I also baked and burned my skin trying to achieve that glorious Copper Girl tan. All I did every summer in the thin atmosphere of Colorado Springs was get terrible burns. I am paying for it now.

    Those pre-cancerous lesions are called Keratosis and I have dozens removed about 3 times a year. The Keratosis show up on my body as well as my arms and face.

    I have also had a dozen malignant spots removed. So far I have been lucky; no melanoma. I really did a number on my skin when I was young and foolish.